Techwatch: The other side of Wikipedia
Jul. 22, 2008
David Shamah , THE JERUSALEM POST
As most of us have come to realize, it's too late for Wikipedia, as far as Israel is concerned. The "Npov" crowd (an acronym for the supposedly Neutral Point of View of Wikipedia editors) have basically installed themselves in the positions of editorial authority that control the site.
Wikipedia editors gave CAMERA a hard time for trying to do something (how dare they!) about the consistent anti-Israel opinions on the Wikipedia site (http://tinyurl.com/55v9l9). And then there was my own exchange with a "defender of Wikipedia's editorial freedom" (http://digital.newzgeek.com/Wiki-Gone-Wild.html), whose Wiki user page has been seen in the past sporting a Hizbullah flag, witnesses tell me, even while he emphatically states "I will /*not*/ apologize for working strenuously to fix Wikipedia's severe neutrality problems when it comes to Israel."
So, for someone looking for the truth about Israel, Wikpedia is pretty much a dead end - it seems to carry only the "truth" as approved by the international Arab propaganda machine. But other Wiki projects prove that it's Wikipedia that's out of step - and that it's possible to conduct a publicly editable Wiki web site without having to hand it over lock, stock and barrel to people with a very clear agenda about Israel.
According to http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiNode, there are nine other sites that are sponsored by the Wikimedia Foundation (the hosts of Wikipedia) that attempt to process and deliver information about various topics. In other words, they're like Wikipedia, except for specialized areas. And after a perusal of their offerings, it's refreshing to be able to report that out of the ten Wiki Foundatiom projects, it's only Wikipedia that is sown with anti-Israel seeds; the other sites, dedicated to travel, news, photos, etc., seem quite free of anti-Israel bias.
I probably even shouldn't be writing about these sites, lest the Wikipedia crowd, hungry for new thrills, rush in and ruin what are currently perfectly acceptable sites for Israel lovers. But I list the sites not to alert them, but to further impress upon those upset over Wikipedia's sad loss of objectivity that it doesn't have to be this way - proving for once and for all which side is running an "organized campaign" to insert its opinions in places where historical facts should reign supreme.
For example, take the Israel page on the WikiNews site (http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Israel). Reuters and AP could learn a lesson or two from this site on how to write an objective article that deals in fact, not opinion. In the May 23 incident in which Israeli planes confronted an unidentified aircraft that turned out to be Tony Blair's plane, Reuters wrote "Israeli fighter jets scrambled to intercept a plane carrying Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair this week after his pilots failed to identify themselves," the emphasis being on intercepting the plane carrying the 'peace envoy.' I could spend a whole article just analyzing that sentence, in fact!
Compare that to the WikiNews version: "Israel scrambled two fighter jets to intercept a suspicious aircraft that was failing to respond to air traffic control (ATC) and had moved into attack positions, only to discover that it was carrying International Middle East peace envoy and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair." A lot more factual - and accurate description of what actually happened. Ditto for the other news features listed at the site (which does not seem to be attracting too many people, based on the number and frequency of articles appearing there.)
Perhaps even more impressive is WikiTravel (http://wikitravel.org), which does have lots of traffic and has a page dedicated to Israel as well. As a site meant for the international backpacker set (that's the impression I get), WikiTravel is refreshingly more objective on Israel than some of the other sites geared to this crowd. It's a pleasure to see "Jerusalem" listed as Israel's capital without an "asterisk" next to the name. For the city description of Jerusalem, the site says that it is "the political and spiritual capital of Israel, as well as city sacred for millennia to three religions: Jews (the site of the Temple), Christians (the scene of Christ's Passion), and Muslims (site of the al-Aqsa Mosque)." Nary a word about "occupation," "illegal settlements," and all the other jargon that really has nothing to do with what a travelogue is supposed to be discussing.
Naturally, there is a section on "Disputed territories." And while I don't dispute Israel's rights in Judea and Samaria, I can understand how others would - after all, Israel didn't annex these areas, like Jerusalem and the Golan. The Israel site describes "the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem," and directs users to a "Palestinian Territories" site for more information, but takes pains to point out that anything written "is not a political endorsement of claims by either side in the dispute over the sovereignty of these territories."
That's a fair statement for a travel information site, and one you would probably never find in Wikipedia.
On the Palestinian Territories page, there is as fair and honest description of how those territories came to be as I have ever seen on the Internet: "The current Palestinian Territories are a sub-division of pre-1948, British Mandatory Palestine. United Nations-projected Arab-held areas of the former Mandate were greatly reduced after the 1948-1949 Israel War of Independence, when the embryonic state of Israel was first attacked by its Arab neighbors, then successfully defeated their armies, leading to a re-drawing of the internationally-recognized borders of Israel."
That statement's got the timeline - and cause and effect - just right. I've got other examples from these and other Wiki-sister sites, but space limits me. Now that the "good" side of the Wiki family has been "outed," let's hope that the biggest Wiki of all - Wikipedia - takes an example and sets itself right.