After Trump Move, Jerusalem Battle Now Plays Out on Wikipedia

Dramatic change in U.S. policy finds its way onto Wikipedia, where Jerusalem is Israel’s capital in English and Hebrew, but the Palestinians' capital in Arabic

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Trump signs a proclamation to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the White House, December 6, 2017.
Trump signs a proclamation to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the White House, December 6, 2017.Credit: Evan Vucci / AP
Omer Benjakob
Omer Benjakob

Hours after President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Wikipedia quickly followed suit. Unsurprisingly, though, things soon grew heated on the pages of the online encyclopedia edited by the public.

The main Wikipedia article for Israel presently lists Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Editors have also begun adding the different nations that have followed the United States in recognizing the city as Israel’s capital – including a lively debate on whether Finland and the Czech Republic have changed their stance (the former did not, the latter did).

The shift in U.S. policy also found its way onto Wikipedia’s homepage, as part of its “In the News” section. This led to a surge in traffic to an article called “Positions on Jerusalem,” and a heated debate.

Wikipedia's "Positions on Jerusalem" page.Credit: Screengrab

“This is unacceptable. Remove Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This is not based on facts. If one country suddenly decides to make Jerusalem another country’s capital doesn’t mean it is acceptable,” one user fumed at the changes made to the article.

“The U.S. are not in charge of the world. They can’t make a capital out of a country that doesn’t belong to them or Israel. It’s occupied territory. This is not based on facts. This statement has to be removed. The U.S. doesn’t have the right to call Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is biased,” the user added.

Unlike most articles on Wikipedia, the page relating to Israel and the Palestinians is under a special “locked” status that prevents anonymous users from making edits. Indeed, the Jerusalem article has now been placed under a special arbitration status, pending a consensus on the issue of Jerusalem among the Wikipedia community.

However, even serious editors who were attempting to stay out of politics were dragged into the debate.

Saqib, a prominent editor from Pakistan, amended the article on “Positions on Jerusalem” to say: “Following the recognition statement by the United States, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed interests to relocate embassy of the Philippines from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Saqib was also the editor who first suggested that the article be placed on Wikipedia’s front page due to its timely nature.

However, he told Haaretz, he had quickly received threatening messages calling him “an agent of Americans and Jews.” He stressed that most people contribute to Wikipedia not for political purposes but to report facts.

Nonetheless, despite Wikipedia’s best efforts to report the facts, the question of what a fact is seems to vary from language to language.

Though the English and Hebrew versions of Wikipedia say Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, the Arabic page for Jerusalem says Israel claims it as its capital, but that the city is located in occupied Palestine.

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