Guest post by Nathan West*
My friends all know that I am a Linux fan. My sons even call me Linux Man. Recently, I built a computer with one of my sons as part of a family project. When it came time to choose an operating system, we decided that the computer should “dual boot,” meaning that there would be more than one usable operating system on the computer.
Naturally, one operating system used is Linux; however, there are many Linux operating systems. We chose Linux Mint, which is the world’s third or fourth most popular operating system. Not to lose the story in Linux detail, after installing Mint, I became curious about the Mint organization. That led me to the name Clement Lefebrve who is Mint’s “project leader.” So, I decided to Google his name. Google suggested, among other things, that I search “Clement Lefebrve Israel.”
To my surprise, I found that he holds extremely strong, negative views about Israel; really, really strong, negative views. In fact, I discovered that Lefebrve wrote back in 2009, on the Mint website no less, that he does not “want any money or help coming from Israel or people who support the action of their current government.” And, if you do not agree with his views, he states, and I emphasize: “I kindly ask you not to use Linux Mint and not to donate money to it. … This is very important to me.”
Lefebrve’s post is pretty strong medicine and it made me wonder whether I should simply uninstall Mint. However, while installing an operating system is not difficult, many days of work are involved in moving files and programs from one computer to another. So, I wanted a rationalization which would permit me to retain Mint.
I found two. First, Mint is, in fact, a souped-up version of the Ubuntu operating system (which has an Israeli website, among others), which, in turn, is borrowed in substantial part from the Debian operating system (which has more than one Israeli website). According to one source: “While I may be oversimplifying my view of Linux Mint, it doesn’t add a whole lot to the original Ubuntu release aside from a very customized desktop.” So, why remove an operating system when Mr. Lefebrve is author of only a small number of Mint programs and, even then, as part of a team of people, of whom, no doubt, there are likely many who disagree with Lefebrve?
“Yes. I know this was confusing because of the wording I used in my initial post and that was a mistake. I have no issue with people disagreeing with me. My real aversion is to see horrible things happening and to think that I can be working in harmony or doing business with people directly involved in them. If you disagree with me that’s fair enough, everybody have their own opinions. Now of course if you’re directly involved in cruel actions and terrorism (either on one side or another), you do what you want but I’m not sure I want to receive your money, your help or anything of the sort. That’s only fair and the difference here is that I don’t only see terrorism on the Palestinian side, I see it used by the Israeli army as well.”
There was also a stir on the Mint user forums, in connection with which Lefebrve wrote: “I’m proud of my opinions and I apologized for posting them on the wrong blog.” So, perhaps what he told Brother Fikes was just a bit disingenuous but, as always, I want to believe because I really do not want to remove Mint from my computer.
In the end, I decided upon a compromise: I would continue to use Mint but would do my very best – just as Mr. Lefebrve prefers – not to contribute any money to Lefebrve or Mint. Obviously, I was not going to write a check to Mint. But, I learned that Mint receives money when I use the default search engine on Mint, DuckDuckGo, and if I download music through the Banshee MP3 store that is part of the Banshee Music player, which is the built-in music player on Mint. I do not download music from Banshee, so that there is no concern there and it is easy to substitute Google for DuckDuckGo as the built-in search engine for Firefox.
So, here are my before and after pictures of the desktop for my new computer, with Firefox displaying DuckDuckGo first and then with Google in place of DuckDuckGo. Nothing to it, you see, and you can then use Linux Mint without contributing to Mr. Lefebrve and remain true to your conscience.
Of course, Mr. Lefebrve is entitled to his opinions. He has the right to side with the Arabs in their war against Israel. He has the right to single out Israel, from all of the world’s disputes, exaggerate its sins and ignore those closer to home – he was born in France but lives in Ireland. And, whether or not his statements make him an antisemite is between him and his conscience. I shall never know – although I do suspect that lurking in the hearts of most Europeans who are obsessed with Israel’s sins is a hatred of Jews. Either way, he is not going to get my money; and he does not have the right to my money, even if I use Linux Mint.
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*Nathan West is the pen name of an attorney who wishes to keep his identity private.