Thursday, April 09, 2015

A Hack at the Times of Israel

A piece supposedly penned by an Australian Jewish leader which called for mass murder of Palestinians supposedly justified by Talmudic laws has been pulled by the Times of Israel, and the putative author has announced that "I didn't write that shit!" He is contending that the TOI website was hacked to put up the inflammatory piece under his name.

I'm assuming for sake of argument that this was a hack. Obviously it might not -- this would hardly be the first time someone penned something awful then yelled "hacks!" to get out of trouble -- but given the supposed authors' prior work (which is not remotely similar to this column) and his non-religious background that makes a discourse on Talmudic ethics unlikely ("I am a secular atheist ffs."), most people seem to be in agreement that he was not in fact the actual author.

That said, folks are wondering if TOI has a quality control issue. This is the second time that the TOI has been embroiled in a "call for genocide" controversy; the first involved a program whereby certain contributors could post their columns without any editorial oversight. This one is different since apparently the author, wasn't, but some are contending it still raises questions because presumably somebody on the TOI staff had to approve the column before it was posted (this was the reform that was imposed after the last controversy). I would point out, though, that whether that's true depends on the nature of the hack -- it is possible that somebody just impersonated Bornstein to gain access to his credentials, but it is also possible that a hacker was able to unilaterally put up a post without any actual staffer's permission.

All of that being said -- what a terrible, terrible thing to do. Outside of actual violence, it's difficult to imagine something more awful. Not only did the perpetrator damage -- perhaps irreversibly -- an innocent man's reputation. Not only did they give the impression that views such as this were mainstream in Jewish institutions. But they brought more hate into the world. The world is a terrible place, often, and often it is because people do tragically believe awful things about their fellow humans. We have enough of that in reality to not bring in extra just to prove a point. It is a terrible thing that was done here, and I hope the perpetrator is caught. And I hope that there are legal remedies against them, because they deserve to be punished severely for all the people who they hurt.

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