I have written before about my evolution as a blogger. But that was mostly a history of the media I used. Not the activism I practiced.
I guess it started in 1987, when I got my first letter to the editor published complaining how a cartoon used antisemitic imagery in its portrayal of then PM Yitzchak Shamir.
In the following years I had letters published in the Baltimore Sun and other publications.
Sometime after 9/11, I got a sense that highly paid columnists, PhD, government officials and other anointed could write the most absurd nonsense and started to e-mail articles that represented reality better than what I was used to seeing in the New York Times or Washington Post (with some exceptions).
I also became aware that you didn’t have to be a highly paid columnist, PhD or government official to get to make unsupported assertions. Regular folks could do that too.
The medium through which they did that was called a blog and I e-mailed one of the earliest practitioners of blogging if what I did could be considered e-mail blogging. She answered that she supposed it could. (I thought I preserved the exchange, but can’t find it right now, so that’s from memory.) As you probably can guess my source was none other than Meryl. And no, bloggers like Meryl, weren’t known for making unsupported assertions, they backed up their assertions with links to sources, not appeals to their own brilliance or supposed expertise.
And so I was drawn to the world of blogging. After some years Meryl invited me to post announcements of Haveil Havalim – the Jewish blogging carnival – at her blog, one of her efforts to promote pro-Israel blogging. Eventually I was invited to join as a regular blogger, a role I enjoyed – getting much wider exposure than I got at my own blog – until my retirement from blogging.
But for me and many others Meryl was a pioneer and inspiration, someone who showed us what pro-Israel blogging could be.
On April 15, 2002, there was a pro-Israel rally on the Mall in Washington DC. It was the height of the so-called “Aqsa intifada,” (or, if you prefer, the Oslo War.) I remember a sign at the rally to the effect of “Israel has 9/11 24/7.” That was the desperate feeling at the time. Every few days, it seemed, brought word of another horrific attack.
The Bush administration, which despite its mistakes, was fundamentally pro-Israel. But in an act of political deafness, sent Paul Wolfowitz to speak to the crowd. The problem wasn’t Wolfowitz but what he said. As the AP started its report:
A top administration official was interrupted and booed Monday when he told thousands of people gathered at the Capitol for a pro-Israel rally that Palestinians as well as Israelis have been victims of Mideast violence.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was drowned out by chants of “no more Arafat” and booed as he told a packed crowd of thousands that “innocent Palestinians are suffering and dying as well. It is critical that we recognize and acknowledge that fact.”
Forget about the blatant bias of the AP in that article. At a time when Israel was defending itself against the most brutal terror war in its history, for Wolfowitz to mention the Palestinians at a pro-Israel was really dense, and as noted, the crowd reacted. Nothing wrong with sympathizing with innocent victims, but to attribute them to Israel self-defense was outrageous.
Andrew Sullivan, about 6 and a half years before he was completely unhinged, thought that was rather ungrateful of the crowd. Meryl pointed out the obvious:
It isn’t just the way the “boos” were blown out of proportion, or the way they were taken so out of context, and made to look as if the crowd cared nothing for the death of innocents. What bothers me most is that the impression is wrong. American Jews care greatly that innocents–on both sides–are dying. But the rally was the Israel Solidarity Rally–not the Israeli and Innocent Palestinian Civilians Solidarity Rally. We went to Washington to make our points–not listen to theirs. We went to hear speakers talk of the innocent Israeli civilians who are dying–murdered by Palestinian “martyrs”–whose comrades hide in the midst of innocent Palestinian civilians.
That was my earliest clear memory of Meryl’s work, and she’s been doing the same for ten years now: showing us how to fight pervasive anti-Israel bias in the media and the chattering classes.
May she go from strength to strength over the next 10!