A Moral Dilemma and Lesson

Category: Weekly Columns

Life often gives us web-sites that carry my column had a very radical anti-Israel agenda. At first, I didn’t even realize how marginal and fanatical of a moral dilemma it was. Since my focus is not on politics, I just didn’t vet this web-site sufficiently, given my naïveté, when I first began distributing my column.

The fact that the editor was extraordinarily gracious and accommodating further lured me into not even considering that his site’s politics may be against my beliefs.  Plus, his web site had a large following, which at the early stages of my writing career was very exciting.

But, I recently learned that their site was promoting an agenda that was angry, hateful, dishonest, distorted, and frankly so on the fringe as to be dismissed by any normal person of the left or right.  I often don’t agree with our mainstream media and believe today’s journalism often has an agenda, but most of our news outlets don’t spew hatred, just possibly a different opinion than I might share.  And, that is what makes America great–that we can have different opinions and they’re not censored.

At first, when I read this article, filled with lies and hate about Israel, I thought it was a mistake. It was in the category of holocaust denial and it was that hate-filled. I wrote the editor and incredulously asked how such an article could appear on his web-site. The response equally shocked to me as he not only defended the article, but also elaborated on his hate for Israel, citing more distortions and fanatical lies.  The irony was that he expressed those feelings in the same oddly supportive and friendly manner in which we’d always communicated.  But, this time, the content was horrifying.

I then decided to do some homework and wrote to several friends that I trust who would know more about these issues, including a rabbi friend who lives in Israel.  Rabbi Mann is an American who made “aliyah” (that means moving to Israel) many years ago, met his (American) wife there, and had about a dozen children, as many religious people of all faiths tend to do.  He is a scholar and every one of his children is accomplished, well educated, and inspiring.  And, by now, even though he’s a few years younger than I, he’s a grandfather many times over.

He, too, responded in a moderate tone but was explicitly clear that the writer of the article was a known and blatant anti-semite, that the outlet was also well known as fringe and radical, disseminating facts that are boldfaced lies.

I got the same feedback from the other friends/experts that I contacted.  What to do was evident – no more moral dilemma here – but I still thought I’d give the editor a chance to “see the light.”

I also wanted to discuss this situation with Will and David and get their take on what their dad should do.  To me, it was an opportunity to find out if the values I’ve taught them had actually made it to their own belief systems.

I wrote the editor again and suggested that he publish a contrary point of view, from a reliable expert, that might be more even-handed about the Middle East.  I offered several specific suggestions. His reply ignored my request and continued his largely irrational, angry, and fanatical views.

That evening, I presented the situation to my sons.  Before I could finish the details, they were both adamant that I drop that web-site, regardless of the loss of readers/audience.  My decision had already been made but I felt great pride that they had indeed digested and were sharing my values and view of the world. They recognized right and wrong, regardless of the personal price it cost. The passion and clarity my sons displayed on this issue was worth the pain of discovering it in the first place.

My wife was in complete agreement so we were fully united as a family unit in making this moral choice.  I wrote a polite e-mail to the editor asking that all my material be removed from his web-site, as I wouldn’t be associated, implicitly or explicitly, with a venue representing those radical views.  Thankfully, he graciously complied, expressing regret at my decision and leaving the door open should I change my mind.  I won’t.

For me, this was a great lesson in doing the right thing vs. self-interest and in taking a bad situation and turning it into a teaching moment for my family. It reinforced that I have a wonderful network of friends to turn to and a great family that supports my work.