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Feb 16, 2011

Against Bans, Harassment And Threats

The following is a joint statement being put out by a number of bloggers, myself included. if you agree with the sentiments expressed, feel free to copy it to your blog or website.

A little over a month ago, a number of rabbis signed onto a ban that forbade advertising on
or otherwise working with the website VosIzNeias. This ban singled out one website without
addressing other websites or public forums like newspapers or magazines. The singling out of
a solitary website raises many questions, particularly when newspapers in the same community
regularly publish arguably libelous stories and online discussion forums for the community are
essentially unbounded by civility. Additionally, VosIzNeias has publicly stated that it has already
raised its standards and is willing to do even more with rabbinic guidance, provided the same
guidelines are applied to its competitors.

Bans of this nature are generally brought into fruition by activists and this one is attributed to
a specific activist who seems to have business and political interests in this ban. He ignored
VosIzNeias’ request to meet with the rabbis in order to explore ways to satisfy their concerns.
With this ban, the activist is threatening the commercial viability of the VosIzNeias business.

We have now received reports of continued harassment by this activist, who is threatening to
publicly denounce people, companies and charitable organizations who continue to cooperate
with the website. He has also reportedly threatened to remove the kosher certification of
companies that fail to adhere to the ban. However, on being contacted, the activist behind
the ban denied all knowledge of this harassment and attributed it to someone acting without
authorization. We are, therefore, making no formal accusation as to who is conducting this
campaign of harassment.

To the best of our understanding, this activity is illegal. One individual told us he reported that
harassment to the police.

Harassing good people with threats is illegal and inexcusable. We call on rabbis and people of
good faith to denounce this behavior, and we encourage victims to respond to this activist as
follows:

If he calls or e-mails you or your organization, thank him for bringing the ban to your attention
and say that you will decide how to proceed after consulting with your rabbi or other advisor.
And because of rumors that there is harassment involved in this matter, you regret having to tell
him that if he contacts you or anyone else in your organization again, you will have to report him
to the police.

We have a copy of an e-mail forwarded to us by people involved, which includes a pseudonym
and phone number, and we have been told of intimidating phone calls. Note that at this time we
are withholding this activist's identity. If he continues harassing people, we will have to be less
discrete.

Signed,

Rafi G./Life in Israel and other bloggers

10 comments:

  1. I second the motion.
    Kol HaKavod, Rafi.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree with your post except for the silly reporting to the police. Reporting people to the police for sending you an email demanding you join a ban is nuts. There is a tendency among some anglos to run to the police and report every incident - it only makes your future complaints taken less seriously. Like the boy who cried wolf. If someone threatens your life that is one thing or if someone threatens to set fire to your house yes that is a bona fide threat but for cryin out loud get real. Sending emails is not considered by law enforcement (in either the US or Israel) as constituting harassment worthy of criminal prosecution. Just ignore the emails.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gav that sentence started "if you get such a phone call...."

    And it sounds like those standing up against this ban are concerned that the "activist" is resorting to a type of blackmail.

    ReplyDelete
  4. “VosIzNeias has publicly stated that it has already raised its standards and is willing to do even more with rabbinic guidance, provided the same guidelines are applied to its competitors.”

    Where have they said this? (And, precisely, what was their statement?)

    “Bans of this nature are generally brought into fruition by activists”

    Incorrect.

    “and this one is attributed to a specific activist who seems to have business and political interests in this ban.”

    What evidence, if any other than supposition, do you have that this individual organized this and it is therefore “attributed” to him? And why isn’t he being named, if you are so sure it is him?

    “He ignored VosIzNeias’ request to meet with the rabbis in order to explore ways to satisfy their concerns.”

    VIN doesn’t need this guy to “meet with the rabbis”. The rabbis are easily accessible by phone and in person. Nor is he the gabbai for the rabbis. This is a fig-leaf.

    “We have now received reports of continued harassment by this activist, who is threatening to publicly denounce people, companies and charitable organizations who continue to cooperate with the website. He has also reportedly threatened to remove the kosher certification of companies that fail to adhere to the ban. However, on being contacted, the activist behind the ban denied all knowledge of this harassment and attributed it to someone acting without authorization. We are, therefore, making no formal accusation as to who is conducting this campaign of harassment.”

    So why are you tying this “activist” to this campaign, as you admit you have no evidence he is responsible, other than unnamed “reports” that he has denied.

    “To the best of our understanding, this activity is illegal. One individual told us he reported that harassment to the police.”

    Consult a lawyer rather than spewing “the best of our understanding” of a legal issue. The last I checked there is a First Amendment in this country. Organizing a boycott is a protected activity. (Just ask Al Sharpton if he was ever prosecuted for threatening advertisers on Rush Limbaugh or when Jesse Jackson threatens advertisers in his attempts to shake down media companies to get them to hire more blacks.)

    You signed this Michael, I would expect you have answer to these questions. Unless, of course, you signed it without knowing all the details.

    I’m glad this boycott is taking its intended bite, as this communique clearly demonstrates.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I dont know who Michael is, but I'll assume you mean me.

    Some of the websites that published this decided to post additional info, some of which might answer your questions. Check otu Dov Bear and Frum Follies, for example. I decided to stick with the joint statement, because the idea was to have power in numbers. That is so even though I felt the joint statement did not go far enough or do enough. Some of the people involved did not want to name names yet, mostly for legal concerns, and because they are trying to work things out in private. As well, many of thos involved are afraid to let their names get out and are not yet willing to speak up publicly.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Joseph posted the same comment on hirhurim. Perhaps he is posting it on as many sites as possible. I wonder why?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I believe Joseph posted on my blog first, hence addressing it to Michael. He apparently isn't original enough to address it to each individual.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I apologize, I meant Rafi not Michael. (It was late.) Yes, I posted the same comment on several websites, but then again those websites all posted the same post.

    Rafi, you've only answered one of the questions I asked (about the name) -- and the least important at that -- and missed all the rest.

    ReplyDelete
  9. How does he have the power to remove a company's kosher certification?

    ReplyDelete

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