Update (6/6/2019): Benay Blend, writing on Mondoweiss about my Quora case: “Other Jewish writers and readers on Quora felt they could more easily bring me back into the fold, whereas many, especially Israeli Jews, who are strongly represented there, consider Palestinians as Other, never to be admitted into chosen ranks. At one point, one of the administrators for a Space called “Strength in Unity,” a space devoted to Palestinian/Jewish dialogue (and really one of the clearest examples of “normalization” I have ever come across), tried to convince me that our Jewish rituals are all linked to Israeli landscapes, so it would be good for me to switch my love of the New Mexican desert, where I live, over to my “homeland” which she felt should be Israel. When that didn’t work, I’m pretty sure she reported me as violating the Be Nice, Be Respectful policy.”
To: Tatiana Esteves, Writer Relations, Quora
From: Rima Najjar, Banned Quora Writer, Palestine
Your decision to ban me undermines the ability of Quora to provide readers with factual, informative content on Palestine.
It is clear to me, and to many others on Quora, that this ban, while on the surface seems to be concerned with civility, is more about “how I engage in Quora” in terms of my political point of view.
Your decision blurs the distinction between pejorative content and factual statements — in other words statements that are capable of being proven true or false. Whether or not Zionists writing about Palestine on Quora have “bad intent, are lying or having a fake identity” is capable of being proven true or false. Whenever I point that out, I do not make unsupported pejorative statements but rather reasoned arguments with citations. Similarly, your statement, “if you write a lot of content that is anti-Zionist [i.e., anti-racist] and then call out people for being Zionists [racists], then you’re using this term in pejorative way with the intent to derogatorily label that person”.
Zionism is a specific ideology that has defined parameters, as I explain in my answer “Who is a Zionist?”(https://www.quora.com/Who-is-a-Zionist/answer/Rima-Najjar)? “A Zionist is a person of any religion whose beliefs, for whatever reason, center on the idea of the ingathering of Jews from around the world in one place, specifically Palestine. A Zionist believes Palestine belongs to Jews worldwide, rather than to its indigenous people regardless of their religion or ethnicity.”
Describing someone as a Zionist is therefore not name-calling but rather referencing that ideology. The fact that I have negative feelings about the ideology because of its effect on the human rights of Palestinians does not render my use of the term pejorative if the label is accurate — in other words, if what the person is saying is consistent with that defined ideology. Conversely, if someone were to describe me as an anti-Zionist, that term would not be derogatory even if that person has negative feelings towards anti-Zionism, because the label would be accurate. Similarly, if a Zionist writes a lot of content that is anti-Palestinian but then “calls someone out” for being “Palestinian,” by your logic they are using the term in a pejorative way and should be banned. But whether or not someone is Palestinian is a question of fact.
Quora does not use neutral criteria to determine what is or is not pejorative. Instead, content is continually flagged and collapsed “by mistake” based on what does and does not make Zionists feel uncomfortable, which amounts to censorship. The way Quora functions is that it depends on Quorans to report content that violates BNBR rules. When it comes to the topic of Palestine/Israel, the situation right now is that there are organized efforts at malicious reporting and not enough people on the Palestinian side to keep up with reporting the vicious misinformation and violations of BNBR rules being churned out daily.
As for your statement that I accused someone of assuming a fake identity, I concede that this was a violation of the BNBR policy but contend that the policy is unreasonable when the writer is able to cite reasons for the accusation rather than simply using the accusation as an ad hominem attack. I came to the conclusion that “Sana Khoury” was either brainwashed by the hasbara environment on Quora or is not who she claimed to be — a 16-year old Christian Palestinian from Beit Sahour — based on a careful analysis of what she posted on her account on Quora. My public statements about her identity explained my reasoning and provided her the opportunity to respond.
What is most troubling to me about this ban is that by preventing me from making accurate statements simply because there is a subjective negative association with them undermines Quora’s ability to maintain factual content. Since Quora makes its impact through google searches, an impact derived from the question/answer format itself and because now Quora has ads, answers are pushed to the top of a google search. If Quora is going to present itself as presenting objectively verifiable facts in response to questions, it should not ban people simply because they question the sincerity of users or use accurate descriptive terms while engaging with them. What is insidious about it is the false official position that the application of Quora civility rules is not itself politicized.
And finally, I’d like to say that it is disappointing to me that despite your position as a “Writer Relations” administrator, the first time I hear from you is when you are communicating to me about my having been banned, despite my hundreds of informative and popular questions and answers which filled a void on Quora, and despite my numerous attempts to engage with Quora and with you specifically about BNBR rules and moderation decisions.
Update (5/5/2019): Banned from Quora “because they are pro-Palestine”
P.S. I document much of what I say above in my blog/journal post, “Most Viewed Writers” on the topic “Palestinians” in Quora are almost exclusively Zionist and rabidly anti-Palestinian and on Writing on Quora while Palestinian.
Also see the following stories:
- On the Hijacking of “Palestine Today”: The Drive for “Normalization” on Quora
- Why are TruthFinder and Malwarebytes sponsoring Israeli Propaganda on Quora?
- Censorship on Quora: A Palestine Case Study
Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank. She contributes stories/opinion to PalestineChronicle.com and other publications.