My Experience with Quora’s Collapse Detectives

… there were several revealing “analyses” to the “problem” with my answer trotted out on Collapse Detectives.  I have chosen two conversations to post below. The first one is typical of rhetorical tactics/pseudo-logic we often note among Israel apologists (notice the condescending and also accusatory tone Graeme Shimmin uses, even as he is invoking Quora’s “civility” policy as guidance for me). The second exchange with Altuğ Gür I believe stems from sincere confusion about anti-Semitism, Israel as a Jewish State, and the nature of political Zionism.

See what you think…

A few days ago, an answer I wrote to a question (How does Israel justify being a democracy when it blocks websites? ) asked by Radi Annab on Quora was “collapsed” by Quora Moderation.  That means it becomes invisible to the community.

Answers on Quora are collapsed when they are reported as breaking Quora “Be Nice, Be Polite” policy or any other policy.  There is a strong perception among many readers that Quora’s Zionist members aggressively and maliciously report and collapse answers criticizing Israel and Zionism (often on the basis of “anti-Semitism”), and engage in familiar hasbara dirty tricks like causing questions to be deleted and erasing relevant topics (in order to limit circulation) or merging one question with another by way of hiding certain answers they don’t like.  If a writer is found to be in repeated violation of Quora policies, he or she is banned, as I was recently and then reinstated.

After I was reinstated on Quora and my answer to Radi Annab’s question was collapsed, I received constructive feedback from another writer on Quora, René Alix, who believed that Quora Moderation is not biased in its practices against Palestinian Arabs or anyone; that much of the activity there is automated and mechanical.  He explained how, for example, one could train the bot to “revert” relevant topics associated with a question it does not recognize as relevant (the bot does not seem to understand that a question about Israel more often than not is also about Palestine and Zionism and cannot be answered properly without reference to these two topics).

Because Quora Moderation does not explain why it collapses answers beyond a general reference to “a policy violation”,  René Alix recommended that I check with a Quora blog called Collapse Detectives, where one might be able to get informed analyses and guesses from other Quora members regarding the collapse of an answer.  In the past, several of my collapsed answers were uncollapsed by the moderators with an apology that the collapse was “a mistake”.  I never quite understood how these “mistakes” occurred in the first place, and so my suspicion of biased activity on the part of the moderators had simply intensified.

This time, taking René Alix’s excellent advice, I submitted a question to Collapse Detectives regarding my latest collapsed answer to: How does Israel justify being a democracy when it blocks websites?

I got two useful tips there – one was that Quora had a policy against posting images with text.  I had posted a cartoon by the Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff  that included the words “No Criticism Allowed”; and the other suggested I focus my answer, so that it is directly responsive to the question.  I went ahead and deleted the cartoon and added the following brief introduction to the answer to help focus it:  “Israel can no more justify being a democracy by blocking websites than China or Saudi Arabia can. It justifies its action in different ways as described below.”  Quora Moderation responded to my appeal positively after I made those changes and uncollapsed the answer.

However, there were several revealing “analyses” to the “problem” with my answer trotted out on Collapse Detectives.  I have chosen two conversations to post below. The first one is typical of rhetorical tactics/pseudo-logic we often note among Israel apologists (notice the condescending and also accusatory tone Graeme Shimmin uses, even as he is invoking Quora’s “civility” policy as guidance for me).  The second exchange with Altuğ Gür I believe stems from sincere confusion on his part about anti-Semitism, Israel as a Jewish State, and the nature of political Zionism.  The reason I write on Quora, in the first place, is to clarify these issues for the reader.

See what you think:

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Thanks, Kieran. What is confusing to me about this policy is exactly that. I am commenting on the practices of the Israeli government and their effect on Palestinians. Can you take a look at my answer and give me an example of a phrasing that breaks the BNBR policy and explain why?

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

Here’s a few: “misinformation”, “criminal”, “typical Zionist tactic”, “hate-mongering”, “Apartheid regime”, “spew hatred”, “illigitimacy”, “brainwashing”, “dogma”, “Zionist myths”.

Note that it doesn’t matter if those descriptions are correct – the BNBR policy is not about whether things are correct, it’s about talking to people in polite language.

Here’s a trick: imagine you are discussing the question in a university with a group of professors. Write as you would talk to them, not as if you are addressing a political meeting.

The people telling you that the answer doesn’t answer the question are right BTW. The question is “How does the Israeli government justify…” As far as I can see this answer don’t answer that question.

You can listen to the people here who are trying to help you or not, but if you don’t you answers will continue to be collapsed and eventually you’ll be banned.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Sounds like you have not read my answer. There is a difference between using strong language gratuitously and using it to reflect a substantiated reality when the situation warrants it, and Quora is far from an academic forum; in fact it encourages a personal point of view.

There is also a difference between being rude to people and the use of “civility” to chill speech on Israel and its unconscionable practices toward the Palestinian people.

But I take your point about “not answering the question”. I understood it as rhetorical, in that Israel’s action disproves its claim to democracy. I have added the following introductory sentence to the answer: “Israel can no more justify being a democracy by blocking websites than China or Saudi Arabia can. It justifies its action in different ways as described below.”

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

Try and listen to what the people who are trying to help you are saying. There is literally no point in arguing with me. I don’t make the rules or have any influence on them whatsoever.

You can complain all you like that the rules shouldn’t be what they are, but again you are wasting your time doing so. The rules have been what they are ever since Quora started and they are not going to change. If you don’t like that then your only option is to stop using Quora.

If you refuse to moderate your tone you will be banned. Again there is no point in arguing with me about this – it won’t be me who bans you, and I will have no say in it, I’m simply try to help you understand what the situation is.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Graeme, I have already been banned once and don’t wish to be banned again, which is why I am trying to understand the rules that malicious reporting by people who do not like what I have to say about Israel, Palestine and Zionism use to allow moderators to collapse my answer. I will not, however, compromise the integrity of the content of my answers. I go out of my way to substantiate what I say. You think, for example, that “Apartheid” is not appropriate language to use in connection with Israel (just to take one of the examples you cite above). I doubt Quora policy is meant for me to be polite toward Israel and to shy away from accurate and substantiated descriptions of its practices. If that were the case, then I myself would not wish to write for Quora.

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

You obviously don’t want to be helped to follow the rules, so there’s nothing more we can do.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

 That answer will not be uncollapsed due to the changes you’ve made.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

Try to read the sentence below very slowly and carefully so you finally understand:

It is not up to me which answers are collapsed or who is banned.

Okay? Do you get that now?

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Yes, I get that, thank you, Graeme. What I am saying is that Quora policy is not designed to eliminate answers concerning Palestine, Israel, Zionism that do not tow the line in accordance with Israeli official hasbara. Do you know otherwise for sure?

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

I know for sure that it isn’t designed to make people ‘tow the line’ on Israel or any other topic. The policy is politically neutral. You can read it for yourself here: What is Quora’s “Be Nice, Be Respectful” policy?

Your arguments that BNBR policy is wrong or shouldn’t apply have been presented hundreds of times before and have failed hundreds of times. In fact they are so common that we play a game called “BNBR bingo” with them.

Have a look at the list I wrote here: What exceptions to the ‘Be Nice Be Respectful’ policy are there? Ask yourself if the arguments you are making about how you don’t have to follow the BNBR rule or it shouldn’t apply to you are on that list. If they are then they will not work.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Graeme, I am all for following BNBR rules, which is why I am trying to understand them.

I am not arguing that BRNB policy is wrong; I am arguing that your interpretation that I am breaking policy by using strong but well-substantiated language to describe Israel’s actions is wrong.

It looks like we both agree that BNBR policy is meant to be neutral even when it comes to Israel, Palestine and Zionism.
My experience of several collapsed answers “by mistake” that were uncollapsed goes to show that (I have written over a 100 answers on these topics).

The one answer that seemed to contradict this about the policy was a moderation decision that appeared to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. This was ironic, because I was writing about that very issue in the world outside Quora, and discussing how a top barrister has slammed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the UK as lacking clarity in its references, rendering it useless as a legal tool.

I write “seemed” and “appeared” because I don’t know for sure, as no reason is usually given, hence my trying to gain insight from experienced Quora people o this forum.

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

Well, good luck with it. I don’t think there’s anything else I can do to help.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

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Altuğ Gür

The way I see it, your answer contains disparaging statements against Jews. Most probably it is the reason it violates BNBR policy.

I’d recommend readjusting the tone of your answer (as well as shortening it a bit, as it goes all over the political landscape while trying to answer the question, in my opinion) so that it doesn’t discriminate against a person, race, members of a religion or nationality.

It is one thing to criticize Israeli government, which is perfectly fine, and something else to generalize an entire nationality.

For example, try “Israeli government’s colonialistic approach…” instead of “Jewish colonialism…” and then reread your statement. Does it sound like the truth? If not, simply remove it, as it does not reflect the objective truth but rather a statement of a personal belief.

Hope this helps.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Altuğ Gür, I just saw your comment (the answer has been uncollapsed based on two changes I made – removing the image and adding a short introductory statement to the answer to help focus it.) But thank you for your sincere observations.

Regarding your comments re: “disparaging statements against Jews”, allow me to share with you why, from a Palestinian point of view, references to Jews in a negative light do not stem from an animus against Jews (i.e.-anti-Semitism), but are rather a necessary part of the discourse imposed on us by the creation of the Jewish state in the heart of Palestine against the will of Palestinian Arabs (Muslims and Christian) – the vast majority inhabitants in Palestine, even after intensive Zionist Jewish colonization of and immigration to Palestine.

As I wrote (on Quora, later published here and several other places):
‘”The Jews are our misfortune” was the Nazi pronouncement emanating from virulent anti-Semitism that led to disastrous consequences, but the phrase is literally and objectively true in Palestine, where the Zionist Jewish entity is ensconced, actively practicing a brutal settler-colonial regime. Palestinian resistance against Israel is neither driven by anti-Semitism nor by “Islamic” terror.’

Israel’s Illegitimate Tactics Against Palestinian Armed Resistance vs. Legitimate Global Security Concerns

Why Israel has a law that gives police the power to block certain websites from Israelis

In blocking websites that expose its illegitimacy, the Israeli Government is also continuing a long tradition of brainwashing its own Jewish population with Zionist dogma and myth, in the same way it mobilized to “educate” American Jews after 1967, when Zionist myths began to unravel …

The new Israeli law giving police power to block websites that purportedly publish “criminal” or “offensive” content follows a similar blockade of various websites in Palestine by the 13-year president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas — all in the name of “law and order”, “peace” and “fighting terrorism”.

The equation is simple and has long been propagated by Israel through its hasbara apparatus: Palestinian armed resistance to Israel’s oppression equals terror. Hasbara misinformation against Palestine and Palestinians on the Internet is legitimate paid work in Israel; Palestinian outlets speaking for the Palestinian struggle for liberation are illegitimate (criminal) forms of expression and activity:

Since before the “war on terrorism” in the West even began, the very concept of terrorism has been reduced by Israeli propagandists into an arena whereby Palestinian armed resistance by individuals or Hamas or any other militant Palestinian group is automatically regarded as terror. In a catch-22, non-violent Palestinian resistance, on the other hand, is dubbed as “incitement to terror”. [Source: Israel’s Illegitimate Tactics Against Palestinian Armed Resistance vs. Legitimate Global Security Concerns]

Israel is taking advantage of a world-wide political development concerning freedom of expression that is meant to combat terrorism. Turning the tables around in a typical Zionist tactic of portraying itself as victim, Israel is exploiting this global dilemma in how to balance freedom of expression in legitimate arenas with hate-mongering — especially the kind reflecting intolerance and populism that might foment acts of violence and terrorist “cell formation”.

But there is a big difference between websites that educate on Israel, share facts that expose Israel’s Apartheid regime in Palestine and influence opinions to stand up for Palestinian rights and liberation on the one hand, and websites that spew hatred with the objective of inciting terrorism and wanton destruction on the other.

In blocking websites that expose its illegitimacy, the Israeli Government is also continuing a long tradition of brainwashing its own Jewish population with Zionist dogma and myth, in the same way it mobilized to “educate” American Jews after 1967, when Zionist myths began to unravel “as a result of Palestinian history books published in English, such as Nafez Nazzal and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod’s work, as well as an increasingly visible Palestinian armed resistance movement.” [Source: On American Zionist Education: An excerpt from ‘The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans’]

Since the failure of the so-called two-state “solution” (or Oslo Accords) to the problem of partitioning Mandate Palestine in 1948 and the creation of a Jewish state on a territory of Palestine, there has been a significant shift in how Israel is perceived worldwide, especially in connection with its claim to being the only democracy in the Arab world.

As Ilan Pappe explains in Ten Myths About Israel, Israel was never a democracy before or after 1967, when it occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem:

Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East. In fact, it’s not a democracy at all. … The myth that a democratic Israel ran into trouble in 1967 but still remained a democracy is propagated even by some notable Palestinian and pro-Palestinian scholars — but it has no historical foundation. … Systematic cruelty does not only show its face in a major event like a massacre. The worst atrocities can also be found in the regime’s daily, mundane presence. … The litmus test of any democracy is the level of tolerance it is willing to extend towards the minorities living in it. In this respect, Israel falls far short of being a true democracy… Israeli Land Policy Is Not Democratic. …The Occupation Is Not Democratic… Destroying Palestinians’ Houses Is Not Democratic. … Crushing Palestinian Resistance Is Not Democratic. …Imprisoning Palestinians Without Trial Is Not Democratic. … What we must challenge here, therefore, is not only Israel’s claim to be maintaining an enlightened occupation but also its pretense to being a democracy. Such behavior towards millions of people under its rule gives the lie to such political chicanery. [Source: No, Israel Is Not a Democracy]

Having been founded by settler-colonial European and East European Zionist Jews, whose political vision was very much shaped by the Western civilization from where they originated (including the practice of European sovereignty, domination and subjugation over non-Western peoples), Israel has always boasted of being a Western-style democracy.

Israel has also angled to be compared favorably with the Arab world’s democratic deficit, directly and indirectly implying that the obstacle to democratic change in the Arab world was to be found, not in the region’s historical institutional framework, but rather in “Arab culture” — i.e., Islam itself. [For a discussion of this latter hypothesis, see Eric Chaney’s article, Democratic Change in the Arab World, Past and Present: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2012a_Chaney.pdf]

Mandate Palestine today is under Israeli sovereignty — all of it. It is true that the Palestinian Authority has administrative control of the West Bank and Hamas has a similar control in the besieged Gaza Strip since 2006, when it won the legislative elections and then was prevented from governing.

But such control is severely limited and contingent on Mahmoud Abbas’s continued cooperation with Israel’s “security needs” over and above the much more urgent needs of the Palestinian people to realize their rights, especially self-determination and dignity.

Unfortunately, the United States and its foreign policy allies vis-à-vis Israel, the European Union and Great Britain, have long enabled Israel’s brutal policies against the Palestinian people. Under the Oslo Accords (1993) and the Paris Protocol (1994), aid to the Palestinian territories was “militarized” to complement (not fight against) the vast US military aid given to Israel to secure its own territory in Palestine.

In other words, aid to Palestinian Arabs ignored the human reality of a people struggling to survive for seventy years — first their ethnic cleansing and denial of return to their own land and homes and then occupation, annexation of East Jerusalem, siege of the Gaza Strip, and uninterrupted and continuing Jewish colonization meant to complete their dispossession.

Today over 12 million people live in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip — primarily Jews and Palestinian Arabs, both Christian and Muslim. As estimated in 2014 by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), there are 6.08 Palestinian Arabs currently living in the Palestinian territories, including Israel (worldwide, Palestinians number an estimated 12.37 million).

Each one of these people, and not only Jews, is entitled to full human rights, “including religious liberty; freedoms of expression and association; equal opportunity regardless of ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, etc.; and due process of law.” That includes access to information on the Internet.

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Note: This post was first published as an answer (and then collapsed by malicious reporting) on Quora to the question: How does Israel justify being a democracy when it blocks websites?