Following the announcement of our new comments policy, there’s been considerable criticism of Adam Horowitz and me for a lack of transparency in banning decisions. We never explained commenter bannings in the past, but given the celebrity of Richard Witty and Jeffrey Blankfort, both of whom I consider friends, we owe readers an explanation. Adam and I discussed it yesterday, and I apologize that it’s taken this long.
We preserved Witty’s presence here over the years because he was a stand-in for American Zionist opinion and there was value in having his voice. But in the end the moderators agreed that Richard had become a troll, pulling the conversation away from the thread, repeating arguments, causing moderators too much work.
As for Jeff Blankfort, Jeff has long provided some of the keenest analysis of the Israel lobby and how it works. I've relied on him for guidance in this area—just as Occupy AIPAC will feature Jeff as a speaker at the gathering this weekend, a session I look forward to attending. One thing we disagreed on and that became an issue here was the claim of collective American "Jewish responsibility” for support for Israel-- when in fact there are many Jews who are not Zionists, including Adam and me and Jeff Blankfort, too. Also Jeff sought to have a discussion of the Jewish historical role in the rise of the Nazis in Germany here. As we have made clear, this is not a subject we want any part of. It generally leads to anti-semitism and Holocaust denial, which we won't tolerate on the site, and unquestionably hurts our ability to reach out.
We have big (and transgressive) goals on this site: to change the discourse on Israel and Palestine so as to change the politics of the conflict (and stop a war with Iran). We don’t have the energy for distractions. I continue to rely on Jeff’s thinking about the workings of the lobby. I hope to feature his work here in the future, if and when he’s open to it.