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Wikipedia, the encyclopedia created by volunteers, has quickly become a modern institution. It is one of the cornerstones of the Internet information revolution. It is fast becoming the number one source of information or disinformation on the Web for many topics. Whatever you search for that is related to reference materials, you will probably find that the Wikipedia article is probably listed at or near the top of the pages retrieved by the search engine. Wikipedia articles are visited by myriads of young people. This is a huge and impressionable audience that needs to see the truth.

Wikipedia articles have authority, even though they may be created by anonymous amateurs of dubious ability and objectivity. Wikipedia is respected as "objective" because of the widely publicized editorial criteria, but the criteria are not always enforced. Wikipedia articles about subjects related to Israel and the Middle East are sometimes biased and ignore many of Wikipedia's own criteria for accuracy, objectivity and scholarship. In addition to studied omissions and dubious assertions, articles may include external links that are "link spam" for anti-Zionist Web sites and hate sites. Link spam is harmful because it promotes the search engine ranking of the linked Web sites, bringing them more visitors. Wikipedia pages are given a great deal of weight by search engines. Listings in Wikipedia are a big help to relatively unknown Web sites.

The problems are not necessarily the fault of Wikipedia's volunteer editorial staff. The task of documenting just about everything and everyone in the world and ensuring the information is correct is never ending.

Wikipedia is under constant assault by an army of spammers and wreckers of various persuasions. The partisans of the Palestinian cause have targeted all the articles about Israel and related topics.
An alert reader pointed out:

the site wikiscanner.virgil.gr allows one to see who is editing Wikipedia and where they are from. If you type in Jerusalem, you get interesting results. For example:

An edit from Amman, Jordan, as well as a separate edit from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia changed the line "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel" to "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine."...

Several edits from Amman removed the Hebrew translation from the infobox on the city, while leaving the Arabic...

An edit from Damascus, Syria changed the line "Jerusalem is Israel's capital" to "Jerusalem is historically Palestine's capital, but is Israel's capital now"

An edit from Abu Dhabi changed the lines "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. All the branches of its government are located in Jerusalem." to "Jerusalem is occupied by a cancer called Israel. All branches of this disease government are located in Jerusalem."

An edit from Kuwait City changed "... Jerusalem is Israel's largest city" to "...Jerusalem is Occupied Palestine's largest city (temporarily that is, until it is returned to the Palestinians once the State of Israel ceases to exist."

Most of these obvious propaganda efforts are removed by editors in their unending battle with vandals. However, there is nonetheless a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle bias in various articles, waiting for editing. This is more damaging than blatant propaganda, because the bias is subtle and harder to recognize. It is harder to see what it is not there and should be, or to detect shadings and imbalance.

Here are a few examples of questionable materials. Please note that Wikipedia articles change all the time as people edit them - these examples are true as of February 1, 2008. They were not due to momentary changes, and Wikipedia has a complete record of revisions:
An article about the Imam al Mahdi scouting movement gushes

"Activities include camping, community service projects such as helping the disabled and cleaning places of worship, computing, fishing, team sports, boxing, reading classes, learning administrative skills, learning about Islam and protecting the environment."

Sounds great! And the camp is cheap too.

You might want to think twice about sending your kids there though. Here's a picture of Imam al-Mahdi Scouts having fun in all those wholesome activities.

Imam el Mahdi Scouts Hezbollah youth terrorist group


Imam al-Mahdi Scouts is the scouting organization of the Hezbollah in Lebanon. An article that is cited by the Wikipedia article reports

"According to information appearing on the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts calendar, more than 120 of the movementís members died as shaheeds in Hezbollah actions, including suicide bombers ( istishhadiyyun )."

The Wikipedia article ignores this information entirely, and doesn't even bother to explain why it dismisses it. Here's another photo of one of these fine young scouts ready to go fishing and camping.

Imam el Mahdi Scouts Hezbollah youth terrorist group


With his flak jacket and AK-47 scouting knife, this scout is certainly prepared! The motto on the headband reads "Oh Jerusalem , I am coming."

The Wikipedia article about the UN partition plan for Palestine, claims:

The British were committed to supporting the establishment in Palestine after a draft declaration was written by Lionel Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild and Chaim Weizmann....

The "draft declaration" refers to the draft of the Balfour declaration. That draft had been submitted at the request of Lord Balfour. The draft itself did not commit Britain to anything and went through many revisions. The published Balfour Declaration prepared by the British war cabinet was very different from the draft. The article fails to note that the United States government favored the national home as well, and that it became international law with the acceptance of the League of Nations mandate.
The article states:

While some Arab leaders opposed the right of the Zionists to establish a state in the region, others criticized the amount and quality of land given to Israel.

The phrase "the right of the Zionists to establish a state in the region" implies that, for example, Arab leaders would not have objected to a Jewish state established by the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta. It is incorrect and a propaganda phrase. What the Arab leaders opposed was the right of Jthe Jewish people to have a state, to implement the right of self determination guaranteed in international law and called for by a 2/3 majority of the UN General Assembly. Was there any public statement by an Arab leader in 1947 accepting a Jewish state of any size or under any conditions, Zionist or otherwise, regardless of size? There might have been, but it is doubtful that any leader could make such a statement and stay in office. Even King Abdullah of Jordan proposed that a Jewish homeland would be part of TransJordan. Arab countries later rejected even a proposal by Count Bernadotte that would allow a Jewish enclave in an Arab state. Therefore the assertion that " others criticized the amount and quality of land given to Israel" is on shaky grounds. There are no references to back up this statement.

The article states:

Soon After [the announcement of the partition resolution - A.I.], the Jews launched numerous similar attacks, including massacring the entire village of Deir Yassin.

In Deir Yassin, about 110 people were killed out of a population of 800 or more. The attack took place five months after the partition decision, not "soon after." It occurred following Arab massacres in Kfar Etzion and the massacre of the Yehiam convoy. "The Jews" as a group did not carry out that attack - the Irgun and Lehi did, and the Zionist organization dissociated itself from it.
All of the above statements are not referred to any sources, even though Wikipedia rules insist on citing sources.

The Wikipedia article on the Arab Liberation Army fails to mention that this was a genocidal group that was formed with the express intention of ridding Palestine of the Jews, or that it was led by a Nazi trained officer (Fawzi el Qauwkji)- Almost the entire article is based on material from pro-Syrian blogger and author Joshua Landis.

The article on Shefaram at Shefa-'Amr is listed under its Arabic name rather than under its official Israeli name. It gratuitously, and not very accurately notes, "Shefa-'Amr was one of the few Arab communities in Israel to have the status of a city ever since the establishment of the state; other communities, even when their populations came to be numbered in the tens of thousands, had the administrative status of local council or village and had to conduct prolonged struggles to be officially recognized as cities." This article, ironically, is listed as part of the Wikipedia Israel Project.

George Habash . founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine died recently. The Wikipedia article about Habash, describes the architect of the Entebbe terror attack and many others as a sort of philosopher and politician. The article includes extensive, inaccurate information about alleged Israeli misdeeds in the War of Independence that is of only tangential relevance.

Wikipedia's article about Operation Hiram doesn't explain that the Arab Liberation Army had cut off travel between Jewish towns, and makes unfounded allegations of "massacres" without citing sources or giving different points of view.

Perhaps unwittingly, Wikipedia has become part of the campaign to rewrite history so that it reflects a Palestinian Arab "narrative," rather than facts. Bias, intended or otherwise, in a source like Wikipedia is generally subtler but potentially far more harmful than bias in hate Web sites. Wikipedia has a much larger audience than extremist hate sites run by kooks, and Wikipedia has a reputation for integrity - it is considered a credible source, jokes and satires to the contrary notwithstanding. Ensuring that this resource has correct and complete information is obviously an infinitely large task.

Wikipedia has several interest groups for volunteer editors who want to help build Wikipedia and correct errors. Notably, there is a Wikipedia Israel Project and a Wikipedia Palestine Project. We all have to try harder to make Wikipedia better.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000487.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 1 Comment

Hi. I write for Globes and would like to write something about Wiki.

Laura Goldman, Friday, February 8th

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