jueves, 5 de abril de 2007

The Blogging War

Sorprendente. Encuentro un artículo del Jerusalem Post, publicado en agosto del 2002.... ¿tan pronto? Aborda y analiza lo que llama "la guerra de los blogs" entre palestinos e israelís. Diría que las cosas han cambiado desde entonces...

The blogging war

Politically-oriented, personal Web-journals - dubbed 'blogs' - have become part of the battle being fought over the Internet between supporters of Israel and of the Palestinians.

Arjan El Fassed, 28, is a Dutch-Palestinian resident of Ar-Ram, a Ramallah suburb, who has recently published op-ed pieces in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Newsday. "TalG" is the online name of a 30-something resident of Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood who has been quoted in recent articles in the Christian Science Monitor, as well as numerous Web sites.

Their politics couldn't be more different. El Fassed is a staunch supporter of Palestinian rights and critical of Israeli policies. TalG is a one-man pro-Israel hasbara committee, who regularly points out Palestinian terror attacks and political extremism.

What they have in common is they are both "bloggers," writers of online diaries known as "blogs." They, like thousands worldwide, and hundreds in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, are changing the terms of media and policy debates through their handmade, personalized blogs.

Blogs come in all shapes, sizes, quality and political bent. The best ones are having an impact on global public opinion. "Blogging is changing the media world and could, I think, foment a revolution in how journalism functions in our culture," former New Republic magazine editor Andrew Sullivan wrote in Wired magazine this year. He said the personal touch of bloggers is more in tune with current sensibilities than the impersonal, corporate voices of mainstream media. "Readers increasingly doubt the authority of The Washington Post or National Review," wrote Sullivan, who has his own highly successful blog. "They know that behind the curtain are fallible writers and editors who are no more inherently trustworthy than a lone blogger who has earned a reader's respect."

Not everyone is making such sweeping assertions of the power - or potential power - of blogs. But thousands are pouring their hearts into these efforts. What drives most bloggers - and what makes them interesting reading - is the passion and human face behind them.

Not every blogger in Israel has a political slant to his or her writing. Yaniv Radunsky, 29, of Petah Tikva, who manages an online list of Israeli blogs, says most of the ones on his site are journals or diary entries. "There are some about the matzav (situation)," he says. "But the majority are personal, where people talk about their life and what they are doing."

An entertaining example of that is a blog run by Liron, who worked on the IDF Web site when she was in the army. Her blog catalogues past and upcoming events in her life, including the date of her army discharge (August 11) and the date she got her lip pierced (August 11). In advance of that event, she wrote of her fears of going forward, despite her pierced ears and eyebrow. "I'm still very frightened, and I'm trying to figure out the root of it," she wrote. "It's not a pain issue I still know that when I step into Danny's studio tomorrow, my blood pressure is going to go haywire and the blood will drain from my face (which creates a less-than-bloody procedure - yay!). Here goes nothing; I'll update everyone tomorrow night. Wish me luck?"

Such personal writing can be riveting in a voyeuristic, opening-the-locked-diary-on-your-sibling's-desk kind of way. BUT THE world of bloggers and journal writers are in fact far apart in intention and impact. Journal writers like Liron primarily want to explore their own personalities. Bloggers generally have a political or economic agenda. TalG, perhaps the most widely cited English-language Israeli blogger, says he used to post items on online bulletin boards. "I thought there was value in a first-person perspective," he says. "Back in March, I think that people abroad were much less aware what the wave of Palestinian bombings was doing to the country. I wrote about things like calling my wife after hearing about a pigua (terror attack) on the radio, or going out to eat in a restaurant that kept the door locked." As the so-called "warblogs" started to pay attention to the Middle East in early 2002, he says, "I just said to myself, 'Hey I could do this.'"

Since then, his site has begun to receive thousands of page views a month and is now the first Israel-based link on many other blogs and mainstream news organization Web sites. Gil Shterzer, 23, an economics major at Tel Aviv University from Hod Hasharon, says he was inspired by TalG to start his own pro-Israel blog. "I am sometimes amazed by the biased news coverage of the situation over here by the world media, biased in favor of the Palestinians, of course," he says. "I don't intend to be a news site. I'll write my personal opinions and feelings over here, opinions and feelings that I believe are popular in Israel these days."

Rinat Malkes, 23, a recent immigrant from Rio de Janeiro, is a budding journalist who says she began a personal log about the pros and cons of giving up her life and job in Brazil to make aliya. But with encouragement from her friends in Brazil, she began writing in both Portuguese and English on the political situation as she found it. "I also wanted to do something on the hasbara issue, due to all the situation in Israel," she says. Malkes says her site now receives 100 visitors a day, 10-15 e-mails a week and dozens of comments on her site. Similarly for el Fassed, keeping an online diary became a way of correcting perceived shortcomings in the mainstream media. "Weblogging has given Palestinians their own media tools," he says. "Now we don't have to rely on mainstream media.

To Palestinians who have so long been deprived of the opportunity to narrate what it is like to live under the world's last military occupation, the citizens' diaries in the form of blogging are a logical outcome." El Fassed says his efforts are part of the do-it-yourself ethic of blogging. "When Israeli authorities prevented foreign media access to various cities, towns and villages on the West Bank, what they failed to recognize is that the media is no longer limited to those with press passes," he says. "In the age of the Internet, anyone can become a journalist." As with the journal writers, El Fassed also finds the act of writing for the public a form of therapy. "I need to find a way to get it out of my system," he says.

Despite the mainstream media access El Fassed has gained, as well as the publicity and audience drawn by bloggers such as TalG, it is not clear yet whether Israeli and Palestinian blogging has had a significant impact on the domestic debate. Shterzer questions whether he is reaching anyone who is undecided about the conflict or is only "convincing the already convinced."

What conversation is occurring between Israeli and Palestinian bloggers so far seems to be mutual shouting, rather than dialogue. Malkes says she receives significant quantities of mail from Palestinians. "It's always criticizing me, of course," she said. El Fassed said he is not even sure dialogue is a goal of blogging, at least for him and the other Palestinians writing political blogs. "It comes down to the permission to narrate one's experiences, thoughts, and expressions," he says. "Basically, it is a way to communicate to the outside world."

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