Interview with Blogger Richard SilversteinBy Amna Gilani • Oct 30th, 2012 • Category: Interviews • 5 Comments
Would you please tell us something about you and your site?
I am an American Jew who has been interested in the Israeli-Arab conflict going back to the 1967 War. I studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for two years and speak and read Hebrew fluently. When I first began studying the conflict I believed that a two state solution was the only possible way to resolve the conflict. But it is increasingly apparent that Israel will not accept a Palestinian state and that will mean the only other viable option may be a single state incorporating Israel’s Jews and the Palestinians living inside and beyond the Green Line.
My blog is called Tikun Olam, which is a phrase from Jewish tradition meaning “to repair the world.” The goal of my blog has always been to support a just resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, one that respects the national rights of both Israel and Palestine. But unlike many Jewish bloggers, I’m keenly aware of the deep injustice done to the Palestinian people during the Nakba and many decades of Occupation.
Though I support Israel, I do not support any of its policies that maintain the Occupation. Nor do I support its leaders who perpetuate this unjust system.
I started writing my blog in 2003, just as the Iraq War began. But only since 2007 have I focused on Israeli national security issues, which includes threats to Israeli democracy. I often publish material that is secret, censored or under judicial gag order inside Israel because I believe that such restraints are threats to democracy.
The prevailing values of my blog are democracy, free speech, free press, and religious tolerance.
I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?
In 2007, an Israeli woman had been arrested by the Israeli army and this news was under gag by order of the Israeli Shin Bet. No one inside Israel knew where she’d gone. Someone from Israel found an obscure reference to her on a website and told me she’d been arrested. I confirmed this and so revealed that Anat Kamm had been secretly disappeared. Eventually, she agreed to a plea deal that sent her to prison for four years despite the fact that she was a whistleblower exposing potential Israeli war crimes. She had given an Israeli journalist top secret IDF documents that proved the army was violating Supreme Court rulings and murdering Palestinian suspects who were unarmed.
If you had to describe life as a blogger in a Twitter message (140
characters) what would you say?
I comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, speaking truth to power along the way.
What do you think sets Your site apart from others?
I know Hebrew and find information not available outside Israel and often not available inside Israel.
If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?
My commitment to justice and making a better world.
What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?
Happiest: my wedding
Gloomiest: ending a relationship (not my marriage thank goodness!)
If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for - what would your top 3 choices be?
Paris, Turkey, Gaza/Israel
What is your favorite book and why?
Wallace Stegner’s “Crossing to Safety.” He is one of the greatest novelists of the American west.
How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?
Unless you’re writing a blog oriented to a commercial market or you develop a huge following for a political or personal blog, you probably can’t make much money at blogging.
What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?
Bloggers are the still small voice in society that speaks truths others prefer not to hear. We are the canaries in the coal mine.
Who are your top five favourite bloggers?
Idan Landau (Israel)
Eyal Niv (Israel)
Jesus General (U.S.)
Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?
My posts about Anat Kamm drew most notice. I also broke the story of a Gaza civil engineer kidnapped by the Mossad in Ukraine & imprisoned in Israel. This story led to a 30 minute BBC radio documentary.
Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?
Yes, a U.S. blogger named Billmon who has stopped writing his blog. He was a political blogger and satirist and one of the greatest bloggers I’ve ever read.
What is the future of blogging?
Blogs are ubiquitous and will become more so. They will play an ever more important role in journalism as mainstream media loses its way and financial footing.
You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?
Before I blogged I had a number of hobbies that I could spend time doing like hiking and gardening. Now, my blog has taken over much of that space. It’s a mixed blessing, but my blogging feels like it fills a critical role in the world. My hobbies were my own and personal.
What are your future plans?
I am helping raise three young children with my wife (and a puppy). I will continue writing hard-hitting blog journalism and keep trying to stop the Middle East from devolving into war and mayhem.
Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?
I hope you will understand that while Pakistan and the U.S. are divided in a number of ways, that there are Americans, even American Jews, who are highly critical of the Obama administration’s counter-terror policy. There are Americans who believe the U.S. government policy toward the Muslim world is misguided and damaging. Also, I’d like Pakistanis to know that there are Jews who would like Israel to play a role in the Middle East, but one that is contrained and humble compared to the role it now plays.