Anti-Israel protest outside Second Life synagogue -- photo by Crap Mariner
This was the scene yesterday morning outside a popular synagogue in Second Life, protesters waving the Turkish flag, in response to the killings by Israeli commandos of passengers on a pro-Palestinian relief flotilla bound for Gaza. (Most of the flotilla ships were Turkish in origin, as were most of the dead.)
The photo is by Crap Mariner, a Jewish Resident whose real life sister is also in Second Life (known in SL as Beth Odets), and runs the synagogue, which is actually not political or even Israeli by description. In Mariner's eyes, this makes the Sunday protest a form of intolerance violating Second Life's Community Standards against behavior which demeans a Resident for their ethnicity or religion. "When one protests a synagogue, Holocaust museum, Jewish community center, delicatessen, or other strictly apolitical Jewish building or gathering-place," Mariner argues, "you are not protesting the nation of Israel." This is not the first time a Jewish site in Second Life has been impacted by real world current events; last year, for instance, after Israel attacked Hamas in Gaza, SL Israel was besieged by protesters.
Hours later, I visited a nearby Jewish education center in Second Life, which was the site of another protest, this one with activists waving Palestinian flags and signs describing Israel as a terrorist state.
One flag-waving protester piped up to compare the Israeli army to the Nazi SS; another compared Gaza to the infamous Nazi-controlled Warsaw Ghetto. But Israel's defenders were also there, so a freeform debate ensued, mainly conducted through voice chat, by people around the world -- one protester resembled an aging hippie, and reported being from San Francisco. Others were from Europe, several Residents were from Israel, another from Lebanon, and they continually shouted each other down or randomly interjected. Unlike Mr. Mariner, however, I wasn't able to take any screenshots. The protest space was so crowded and the lag so severe, the avatars there were only displayed as blobs of gray, so you couldn't recognize their human features, and they remained undifferentiated abstractions faced off against each other, failing to reach any clarity. Then again, that problem is not confined to Second Life.