HATE: The Reason I Quit Spamfighting
Friday, July 21, 1990 16:30 PM Israel Standard Time (IST, (UTC+02:00).
I found myself in a dingy hotel, lousy aircon, but a great view. A great view of the beach across the street. What caught my eye was this weird thing happening… people were setting up row upon row of chairs — all facing the water. I couldn’t figure out to what end.
A few hours later, they filled with people from all walks of life, coming, after shabbos dinner, to watch the sunset, the beautiful Israel-only sunset. Music began to play at the nearby Apacha club at the foot of Allenby Street, and the youngest of the sun worshippers wandered off to dance, and party into the night. It was idyllic, and nice.
The day after, I left, returning to my home in Montréal, Canada.
The next week, on Friday night, July 28, 1990, at 21:00 IST, 17 lay dead on the sand, 74 injured, and 11 of those critically so. All of the dead were 18–20 years old.
Someone had placed a home-made pipebomb near a lifeguard tower, and blew up children. Kids. Teens.
Afterwards, Israelis attacked Arabs on the beach, beat Arab workers in beachfront hotels, and stoned cars owned by Arabs. Seven Arabs were injured, seven Israelis were arrested.
I felt the bloodlust one naturally does. Hatred for the people responsible for defiling this innocent, lovely moment. As an avowed pacifist, one who is 100% against the death penalty, this is not a common thought for me to hold. But yet, there it was. I hated the bomber, and wanted this person dead.
Time passed, and I found more hate. I began to hate the people who would motivate a person to take such a horrible action. I hated the circumstance. I hated the decades-long deadlock in Israel/Palestine. Most importantly, I then began to hate hate.
Hating on Hate
Three remarkable takes I’ve read about hate come to mind as I write this.
The first, Nobel Laureate Eli Weisel’s interview with Bill Moyers entitled Facing The Hate — it has been so long since I’ve watched it, I initially remembered it being a book. It is exceptional, an introspective dig into the concept of hatred.
BILL MOYERS: I'm Bill Moyers. My guest in this hour is Elie Wiesel. I never think of the man without the word "witness…billmoyers.com
The second, a sublime book by a Palestinian man living in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, a fertility doctor named Izzeldin Abuelaish (who, as it turns out, now lives in Canada and is a Professor of Public Health at the University of Toronto).
An Israeli shell launched two days before a cease-fire went into effect blasted through his home and killed his three youn daughters and his niece. In response, Dr. Abuelaish wrote the book I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey. He explains his process of refusing to be drawn into the fuel of all fires in the Middle East. He is a remarkable human being.
Lastly, after three Dallas police officers were gunned down while working at a Black Lives Matter protest, President Barak Obama attended their funeral, and spoke as elqouently as he ever has, about hate, and prejudice. He owned his own prejudice.
If we’re honest, perhaps we’ve heard prejudice in our own heads and felt it in our own hearts. We know that… Although most of us do our best to guard against it and teach our children better, none of us is entirely innocent. No institution is entirely immune, and that includes our police departments. We know this… if we cannot even talk about these things, if we cannot talk honestly and openly, not just in the comfort of our own circles, but with those who look different than us or bring a different perspective, then we will never break this dangerous cycle
A Pastiche of People
On a subsequent trip to Israel in 2001, I had occasion to create a photo essay. I stood on a busy corner near the Jaffe Gate in Jerusalem’s old city and took a photo every minute. The resulting images display a cultural diversity that is core to the unique character of that place. Oh yeah! Almost forgot. Three days later, a bomb went off on the spot where I was standing.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what does any of this have to do with spamfighting?
In July 2001, I left Concordia University after a 15-year career managing the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall. During that time, Ihad occasion to fall into anti-abuse work at its most nascent, and ended up writing the world’s first (and worst) distributed spam filter. I had notions that I could somehow make a living fighting Internet abuse.
The road was not a straight path, and not without lulls in my professional action, but eventually it began to work, and both professionally, and personally as the executive director of The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, CAUCE.org I attained a fair measure of success.
I was honoured with the first lifetime achievement award given by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group, MAAWG.org the industry association for such things, I helped get a spam law passed in Canada, and my career is arguably at an all-time high. But, in the midst of all of this, I had had an idea … an idea that sat, still, quiet, waiting for its moment to be realized. A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to testify to a Parliamentary committee reviewing the law. It went swimming well. On the train-ride home I realized I’d hit a career high. I posted to facebook saying as such, followed by the hashtag #TimeToRetire? By the time I got home, I knew it was time. For, you see, I had begun toying with this nagging notion, this niggling though that wouldn’t leave, and one that I know I would regret not having followed through upon, for better or worse. My post to my colleagues was, in part, as follows:
I’m not done yet, at least not at tilting at windmills!
Here’s what I’m kicking off:
I am starting a foundation with my friend Elizabeth Bromstein to foster collaborative artistic ventures between Palestinians and Israelis
Our new venture, AWingAndAPrayer.org is going to demand my full attention and I want to have the time, and no distractions to give it my all. I want to get back to basics — helping individual people, and trying to create a place in which peace can grow and take hold.
It is with no small amount of trepidation and apprehension that I quit this place … but tempered with all the excitement that comes with starting something new & cool, and with a profound amount of appreciation to you all for having afforded me so much, towards the success I now enjoy.
I’ve amassed a remarkable set of skills and contacts over the course of my life and work, now i want apply these resources to an idealistic, naive project with impossible barriers, and but one metric of success. If we can dissuade one Palestinian from planting a pipe bomb, or one Israeli from launching a shell, we’ll have changed the world in betterment. We believe positivity and a path forward, are key to a sole end. There are hundreds of reasons not to do this, and but one simple, precious and immutable goal:
I’ll leave you with one last thing, yet another Canadian nexus — a video by Montreal’s Pop/EDM duo Chromeo — comprised of an Arab and a Jew, who make it work.