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  • Writer's pictureJeff Neuman

A Sad End to the Year: ICANN has abandoned its Jewish Community

"Silence is complicity." These are the words United States President Joe Biden used on Monday, December 18, 2023 at the first-ever White House Hanukah Menorah lighting ceremony. He called "on Americans to get off the sidelines and join the fight against rising anti-Semitism in the United States."


The President of the United States is keenly aware, as is the global Jewish community, that antisemitism in the United States (and globally) has increased to the greatest number of incidents in over 40 years (since the Anti-Defamation League first started keeping these statistics).


It is with great sadness that I am writing this to officially declare that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN"), the global regulator for Internet domain names and IP Addresses, is complicit in Anti-Semitism.





In letters sent to ICANN on November 3rd, November 8th, and again on December 10th, I drew ICANN's attention to the deplorable antisemitic comments by Talal Abu Ghazzaleh, the founder and chairman of the Jordan-based organization, Talal Abu Ghazzaleh Organization. In these awful comments Mr. Abu Ghazzaleh claimed "The Jews do not have any ideology. All they care about is money and interests" and then in asking for forgiveness for Hitler asked ""why didn’t he finish the job and kill all the Jews?" The comments are black and white antisemitic period.


In these letters to ICANN I reminded ICANN that TAG was a vendor to ICANN that was bestowed the honor by ICANN to host an instance of the L-Root in Amman, Jordan. And, I asked that ICANN terminate its vendor relationship with the antisemitic organization, remove the instance of the L-Root, and move it to a non-antisemitic organization in the region. ICANN's vendor not only violated ICANN's Expected Standards of Behavior, but also ICANN Management Root Server (IMRS) Principles as documented in RSSAC 037.  One of those principles is that "RSOs must operate with integrity and an ethos demonstrating a commitment to the common good of the Internet."


ICANN's silence has been deafening and clear. Since receiving the first letter fifty-three (53) days ago, ICANN has not only not responded substantively to the request, but they have not even issued any form of statement that the comments by their own vendor were deplorable nor that they did not represent the views of ICANN, its staff, board or its community. In this day and age, what kind of organization would not even issue this type of statement.


This silence was so disappointing to me that on December 13th I wrote a personal note to ICANN's CEO, General Counsel and Chair of the Board attempting to make one last very personal plea. Until now, the text of that letter was kept private. I hoped to not publish that letter and they would have responded to a deeply personal note, but I was wrong.


In that letter (printed in full at the end), I specifically reminded them that the first thing they should do is condemn the statement of their vendor and that:


"there are many institutions under scrutiny here for preventing students and employees from making antisemitic statements.  There were recent Senate hearings in the US for Colleges that failed to take action to keep their students safe.  But ALL of those institutions responded immediately by condemning the actions of the students and the statement.  Even if they didn't take action (a whole other issue), they wasted zero time and immediately issued statements of condemnation and that they were not representative of those institutions."


And then got personal:


I am not out to get ICANN Org or you all. I am one of ICANN's biggest supporters.  I have spent the past 25+ years trying to defend ICANN and its model.  I have served on I don't know how many committees, spending thousands of hours trying to develop policy in support of bettering the Internet and the ICANN model. But as a Jewish person with family members killed in the Holocaust, and now with other family members currently fighting in Israel, I am personally disappointed, hurt and most of all, I feel like I (and the other Jewish participants) have been abandoned by the very institution we have been trying to protect.... 

 

Please do the right thing and not let us feel like we have been abandoned.


2023 is now coming to a close and ICANN has closed its doors for the reminder of the year. Despite issuing many congratulatory newsletter about how much good ICANN has done for the Internet over the year and celebrating its minor successes, ICANN did even not issue a condemnation statement. 53 days of being complicit. 53 days of silence.


ICANN has officially abandoned its Jewish Community.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Full Text of Personal Note to ICANN's Chair, CEO and General Counsel:


[Private and Personal]

Sally, Tripti and John,


I understand that this may be a difficult issue (with respect to decommissioning an instance of the Root Server), even though it is the morally right thing to do.  What I am struggling personally with is the fact that it has now been 40+ days and ICANN has not even issued any kind of statement on the deplorable comments made by the principal officer of one of its vendors.


As you may be aware, there are many institutions under scrutiny here for preventing students and employees from making antisemitic statements.  There were recent Senate hearings in the US for Colleges that failed to take action to keep their students safe.  But ALL of those institutions responded immediately by condemning the actions of the students and the statement.  Even if they didnt take action (a whole other issue), they wasted zero time and immediately issued statements of condemnation and that they were not representative of those institutions.


But ICANN has now gone 40+ days without a substantive statement on anything.  If I were your advisor on this issue (which I am not), the very least I would have done in the first week was issue a statement immediately to the effect of:


 "ICANN Org condemns the antisemitic statements made by Talal.....  ICANN believes these comments were wholly inappropriate and do not in any way reflect the values of the ICANN Org or the Community.  Such statements are a violation of our Expected Standards of Behavior and the ICANN Management Root Server (IMRS) Principles as documented in RSSAC037.  One of those principles is that "RSOs must operate with integrity and an ethos demonstrating a commitment to the common good of the Internet."  And then it could state that we are exploring our options with respect to the potential removal of the L-Root instance."


I am not out to get ICANN Org or you all. I am one of ICANN's biggest supporters.  I have spent the past 25+ years trying to defend ICANN and its model.  I have served on I don't know how many committees, spending thousands of hours trying to develop policy in support of bettering the Internet and the ICANN model. But as a Jewish person with family members killed in the Holocaust, and now with other family members currently fighting in Israel, I am personally disappointed, hurt and most of all, I feel like I (and the other Jewish participants) have been abandoned by the very institution we have been trying to protect.  


This whole situation, and having my children be the victims of antisemitic harassment in their own schools, and vandalism of our synagogues, has been one of the toughest things I have had to deal with as a Jewish person and as a father.


Please do the right thing and not let us feel like we have been abandoned.


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