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Why Retweets Are Not Endorsements:

Retweets represent the readers, not the author. They are a great opportunity for the author to interact with diverse readers. 

In 2012, my blog posts for the Green Prophet were routinely tweeted by Israeli consulates around the world and by the state of Israel’s official Twitter account, as well as many other public offices (I stopped counting after 35). These posts include my investigative writings about changing relations between Israel and African countries, Israeli technology, and more.

The government press office even tweeted a column about my personal experiences in Tel Aviv during Operation Pillar Defense. 

At first, I was scared people would accuse me of deliberately writing Zionist propaganda. I never set out to make Israel look good or bad. My goal is always to report the facts, and in the case of the column, my own experiences. 

I think the fear I felt is unique to journalists in Israel.  If the state of Italy or Spain retweeted me, I would be excited even though their governments are flawed. The online conversation about Israel, Palestine and the people who live here, tends to be unusually harsh. 

Now I’ve learned that a journalist can’t afford thin skin. If I do my job right, someone somewhere will dislike what I publish. I can’t let my fear of what other people might say define my writings about Israel. 

Today, I enjoy watching what readers say on Twitter. There’s nothing like hearing that a reader felt inspired or engaged by your article. I often learn about fascinating writers, innovators and activists this way, people across the ocean doing amazing things. There are some sharp readers out there on social media. I learn so much from engaging with the audience directly. 

Many Jewish blogs and online news organizations, including Ynet (here’s the article in English), wrote about my Op-Ed for Your Middle East, which was retweeted by Queen Noor of Jordan. They were excited that Queen Noor would read an article about peace and war written by an Israeli.

Retweets are not endorsements. However, they do represent audience, who is reading your work. Digital media creates new channels where diverse readers can access the same information and interact across borders. 

This summer we launch the first Online News Association group in the Middle East, ONA Jerusalem. It is a peer-led group dedicated to high quality, ethical journalism and innovation. It’s open to diverse journalists and digital professionals in the region, regardless of their nationality, religion or affiliation. Check out this Storify for more photos and tweets from first event at the Jerusalem Press Club. We’re excited to explore the possibilities.

Contact jerusalem@journalists.org to get involved. 

Hispanic Heritage Month: The Power of Books


Photo by Zeke Perez

There is nothing more painful than reading one’s own writing a year later. The typos have grown obvious and maddening in your absence. Once brilliant sentences now seem long and sleepy. You crave to reach with a pencil, into the internet, and tweak that word or this comma. Reading your own past mistakes is always cringe-inducing. 

I once wrote an Op-Ed about the importance of teaching Chicano literature, and other diverse narratives, in American public schools. It ended with a statement that promoting literacy is a great way to combat violence. Looking back, my argument feels pasted together and aimless, scrambling towards the end. Luckily, a Harvard professor came along and wrote the same idea with more data and fancy phrases. Steven Pinker’s book about the history and biology of violence claims literacy is one of the greatest peacemaking forces in human history

So in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month 2013, I’d like to acknowledge the bad-ass literary warrior Librotraficante

Read more

The interwoven stories of legal battles reveal how art influences international law, politics, and both collective and intimate memories. They raise concerns about the elitism that surrounds contemporary art and the voyeurism of media coverage. And they wrestle with the question: What is justice?

“What is the meaning of cultural property when patrimony is an arm of genocide,” O’Conner writes. “What is the value of a painting that has come to evoke the theft of six million lives?”

Leigh Cuen reviews The Lady in Gold, Anne-Marie O’Connor’s book about the legacy of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (via therumpus)

The hostel in Perugia was once the Borgias mansion, home to one of the most infamous families of the Italian renaissance. Lucrezia Borgias had a personal feud with a noted Umbrian mystic, Columba of Rieti, and their deviant history is replete with legends of magic and miracles. Today the hostel is also home to the multilingual library of a local Catholic holy man, which has recently opened to the public…

Recycled sculptures with books from “Game of Cultures” by DARIO TIRONI & KOJI YOSHIDA at the Galleria Angelica, connected to Angelica Library in Rome. The library was established in 1604 and was recently listed by Flavorwire as one of the world’s most beautiful libraries…

Read more in my column "Libraries, Galleries and Hostels in Italy."

Strolling through Florentin, the street art splattered across the buildings contain some of the most salient political art in Tel Aviv. These public works feature scathing criticism of the Israeli government and religious establishment. They reveal frustrations and disappointments with Zionism, sometimes even despair.

One of my favorites is a stencil image of Theodor Herzl, his prominent beard and direct gaze. This profile floats above a twist on his famous Zionist saying: “If you want it, it is not a myth.” That quote is the “I have a dream” of Israel; every child knows it. But beneath the painted image of Herzl in Florentin the Hebrew words read: “If you don’t want it, you don’t get it.”

This piece appeared after the failure of 2011’s tent protests and the return to a status quo in Israel, without peace negotiations or social justice.

Just a few streets away, a monkey with sad eyes holds a skull in his unclenched palm. He gazes out at the viewer asking the timeless question: “To be, or not to be?” But the way his lips part softly, as if is about to release an exhausted sigh, implies that he has no hope the answer will bring him a solution. 

There are also pieces of street art in Florentin which reference the Jewish people’s history of suffering racism, reframing these same slogans and images to address Israel’s current situation. Painted on an old stone house, below a line of prose written in braille, is a small figure which plays on the seminal Holocaust image of a young boy from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. His small hands are raised in the air, “Don’t deport me” painted beneath him.

Other pieces also refer to the Israeli government with Nazi imagery. After the military operation in Gaza in 2012, new images appeared on the streets of Florentin. They criticized the IDF [Israeli military] in particular. Deep inside Florentin’s urban labyrinth is a spray-painted outline of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man with long earlocks, reading from a prayer book and facing Tel Aviv. His back is to Jerusalem, the sacred capital of Israel, cornerstone of both Judaism and Zionist aspirations. This subtle twist in the image alludes to the cultural divide between the two cities.

Israel’s street art reveals the vast disparity between government actions and the sentiment of Israeli young people in Tel Aviv. And it’s quite a beautiful way to read. The poem featured above was written by a street artist named Nitzan. To read more about her art, check out my article at the Green Prophet.

Images by Omri Dotan & Leigh