By ROBERT MACKEY
Updated | Monday | 10:14 a.m. This week in Jerusalem, two Israeli groups hoping to smite their online enemies, both domestic and foreign, began a course in the “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia entries.
At the opening seminar, attended by about 80 activists, one of the organizers, Naftali Bennett, said that the aim of the course is to make sure that information in the online encyclopedia reflects the worldview of Zionist groups. For example, he said, “if someone searches [for] ‘the Gaza flotilla,’ we want to be there; to influence what is written there, how it’s written and to ensure that it is balanced and Zionist in nature.”
Mr. Bennet is the director of the Yesha Council, which represents Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank. Another of the course’s organizers, Ayelet Shaked of the My Israel movement, told Arutz Sheva, an Israeli news organization based in the West Bank, that the use of the word “occupied” in Wikipedia entries discussing Palestinian territory conquered by Israel in 1967 was just the kind of problem she hoped a new team of editors could help fix.
Ms. Shaked told The Guardian that the new editors were needed for entries related to Israel since, “People in the U.S. and Europe never hear about Israel’s side, with all the correct arguments and explanations.”
One of the participants in the seminar, Miriam Schwab, said in an Arutz Sheva video report from the seminar roon, “I’ve personally tried to edit things in Wikipedia that were against Israel, small things, and my changes were erased or undone and I didn’t understand why.”
She added, “In general, it’s so important for us to be online working to defend ourselves and to prove to the world and to ourselves that we are just and we are right.”
The editors are expected to work on Wikipedia entries in both Hebrew and English since, as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted, “For years now, Wikipedia has been a fierce battleground between the Israeli right and left.” In a report on the editing course, the newspaper explained:
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.Update: In a follow-up post on this subject, we look at some of the reader reaction to this post, including comments from Miriam Schwab, an Israeli blogger who took part in the editing training.
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.