The Right's Latest Weapon: 'Zionist Editing' on Wikipedia

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

For years now, Wikipedia has been a fierce battleground between the Israeli right and left. One key battle was over the entry for Bil'in and whether the weekly struggle at that village near the security fence should be described as violent.

Youths trying to extinguish a fire near the Jewish West bank settlement of Har Bracha on Monday July 26, 2010.Credit: Moti Milrod

Another battle was over the description of the Ariel University Center. Was it "the largest public college in Israel"? Or should an institution in Ariel not be considered as being in Israel? So a compromise was reached: "the largest Israeli public college."

Now the Yesha Council of settlements and another right-wing group, Israel Sheli, are embarking on a Wikipedia battle: Zionist editing on the Web-based encyclopedia. The first course was held yesterday in Jerusalem.

"The idea is not to make Wikipedia rightist but for it to include our point of view," said Naftali Bennett, the director of the Yesha Council.

"The Internet is not managed well enough, and Israel's position there is appalling. Take for example the Turkish flotilla [to Gaza]. During the first hours we were nowhere to be found. In those first hours millions of people typed the words Gaza-bound flotilla and read what was written on Wikipedia."

The course was designed to teach how to register for, contribute to and edit for Wikipedia.

The organizers' aim was twofold: to affect Israeli public opinion by having people who share their ideological viewpoint take part in writing and editing for the Hebrew version, and to write in English so Israel's image can be bolstered abroad.

The Yesha Council also announced a prize for the "Best Zionist Editor" - the person who over the next four years incorporates the most "Zionist" changes in the encyclopedia. That lucky encyclopedist will receive a trip in a hot-air balloon over Israel.

Some 50 people took part in the course, nearly all of them religious and many from settlements. Ruthie Avraham, who lives in Beit El and works in media, said she already knew the subject of the first Wikipedia entry she planned to write about.

"The entry on Jewish family," she said. "The first sentence will be that the Jewish family is the ultimate response to the Western crisis of isolation and lack of affection."

According to Einat Bornstein, another participant in the course, "I came here to have an impact. I think people are afraid to write rightist responses."

She didn't hesitate when asked about the first entry she intends to contribute to: Hanin Zuabi, the Arab MK who took part in the flotilla. "And also about the Turkish flotilla and the settlements and the settlement enterprise."