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Pro-Israeli Group Manipulating Wikipedia

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"Exploring The Powerful Issues & Emotions of The Middle East" 
  Reaching out to 51,228 Viewpoint readers around the globe

Editor's Note:

The Middle East conflict rages online as well as in the 
territories. Here is an expose on how pro-Israeli groups 
are re-writing history and waging a propaganda exercise 
using Wikipedia. 

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Exposed - Pro-Israeli Group Manipulating Wikipedia

A pro-Israel pressure group is orchestrating a secret, 
long-term campaign to infiltrate the popular online 
encyclopedia Wikipedia to rewrite Palestinian history, 
pass off crude propaganda as fact, and take over Wikipedia 
administrative structures to ensure these changes go either 
undetected or unchallenged. 

A series of emails by members and associates of the pro-
Israel group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East 
Reporting in America), provided to The Electronic Intifada 
(EI), indicate the group is engaged in what one activist 
termed a "war" on Wikipedia. 

A 13 March action alert signed by Gilead Ini, a "Senior 
Research Analyst" at CAMERA, calls for "volunteers who 
can work as 'editors' to ensure" that Israel-related 
articles on Wikipedia are "free of bias and error, and 
include necessary facts and context." However, subsequent 
communications indicate that the group not only wanted to 
keep the effort secret from the media, the public, and 
Wikipedia administrators, but that the material they 
intended to introduce included discredited claims that 
could smear Palestinians and Muslims and conceal Israel's 
true history. 

With over two million articles in English on every topic 
imaginable, Wikipedia has become a primary reference 
source for Internet users around the world and a model 
for collaboratively produced projects. Openness and good 
faith are among Wikipedia's core principles. Any person 
in the world can write or edit articles, but Wikipedia 
has strict guidelines and procedures for accountability 
intended to ensure quality control and prevent vandalism, 
plagiarism or distortion. It is because of these safeguards 
that articles on key elements of the Palestine-Israel 
conflict have generally remained well-referenced, useful 
and objective. The CAMERA plan detailed in the e-mails 
obtained by EI appears intended to circumvent these 

In the past, CAMERA has gained notoriety for its tactic of 
accusing virtually anyone who does not toe a right-wing 
pro-Israel line of bias. The group has even accused editors 
and reporters of the Israeli daily Haaretz of being 
"extreme" and participating in "radical anti-Israel 
activity." Jeffrey Dvorkin, the former ombudsman of 
National Public Radio (NPR), frequently criticized by 
CAMERA for an alleged pro-Palestinian bias, wrote on 
the web publication Salon in February 2008 that "as a 
consequence of its campaign against NPR, CAMERA acted as 
the enabler for some seriously disturbed people," citing 
persistent telephone threats he received in the wake of 
CAMERA campaigns. 

Need for stealth and secrecy

Throughout the documents EI obtained, CAMERA operatives 
stress the need for stealth and secrecy. In his initial 
action alert, Ini requests that recipients "not forward 
it to members of the news media." In a 17 March follow-up 
email sent to volunteers, Ini explains that he wants to 
make the orchestrated effort appear to be the work of 
unaffiliated individuals. Thus he advises that "There is 
no need to advertise the fact that we have these group 

Anticipating possible objections to CAMERA's scheme, Ini 
conjectures that "Anti-Israel editors will seize on any-
thing to try to discredit people who attempt to challenge 
their problematic assertions, and will be all too happy 
to pretend, and announce, that a 'Zionist' cabal (the same 
one that controls the banks and Hollywood?) is trying to 
hijack Wikipedia." 

But stealth and misrepresentation are presented as the keys 
to success. Ini suggests that after volunteers sign up as 
editors for Wikipedia they should "avoid editing Israel-
related articles for a short period of time." This strategy 
is intended to "avoid the appearance of being one-topic 
editors," thus attracting unwanted attention. 

Ini counsels that volunteers "might also want to avoid, 
for obvious reasons, picking a user name that marks you 
as pro-Israel, or that lets people know your real name." 
To further conceal the identity of CAMERA-organized 
editors, Ini warns, "don't forget to always log in before 
making [edits]. If you make changes while not logged in, 
Wikipedia will record your computer's IP address" -- a 
number that allows identification of the location of a 
computer connected to the Internet. 

A veteran Wikipedia editor, known as "Zeq," who according 
to the emails is colluding with CAMERA, also provided 
advice to CAMERA volunteers on how they could disguise 
their agenda. In a 20 March email often in misspelled 
English, Zeq writes, "You don't want to be precived [sic] 
as a 'CAMERA' defender' on wikipedia [sic] that is for 
sure." One strategy to avoid that is to "edit articles 
at random, make friends not enemies -- we will need them 
later on. This is a marathon not a sprint." 

Zeq also identifies, in a 25 March email, another Wikipedia 
editor, "Jayjg," whom he views as an effective and 
independent pro-Israel advocate. Zeq instructs CAMERA 
operatives to work with and learn from Jayjg, but not to 
reveal the existence of their group even to him fearing 
"it would place him in a bind" since "[h]e is very loyal 
to the wikipedia [sic] system" and might object to CAMERA's 
underhanded tactics. 

"Uninvolved administrators" 

The emphasis on secrecy is apparently not only to aid the 
undetected editing of articles, but also to facilitate 
CAMERA's takeover of key administrator positions in 

For Zeq a key goal is to have CAMERA operatives elected 
as administrators -- senior editors who can override the 
decisions of others when controversies arise. When disputes 
arise about hotly contested topics, such as Israel and 
Palestine, often only an "uninvolved administrator" -- one 
who is considered neutral because he or she has not edited 
or written articles on the topic -- can arbitrate. 

Hence, Zeq advises in a 21 March email that "One or more 
of you who want to take this route should stay away from 
any Israel realted [sic] articles for one month until 
they [sic] interact in a positive way with 100 wikipedia 
[sic] editors who would be used later to vote you as an 

Once these CAMERA operatives have successfully infiltrated 
as "neutral" editors, they could then exercise their 
privileges to assert their own political agenda. 

In addition, Zeq suggests making deliberately provocative 
edits to Palestine-related articles. He hopes that editors 
he assumes are Palestinian will delete these changes, and 
then CAMERA operatives could report them to administrators 
so they could be sanctioned and have their editing 
privileges suspended. 

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Passing propaganda as fact

Gilead Ini's 17 March email provides specific advice on 
how to pass off pro-Israel propaganda or opinion as fact 
meeting Wikipedia's strict guidelines:

"So, for example, imagine that you get rid of or modify 
a problematic sentence in an article alleging that 
'Palestinian [sic] become suicide bombers to respond to 
Israel's oppressive policies.' You should, in parallel 
leave a comment on that article's discussion page (either 
after or before making the change). Avoid defending 
the edit by arguing that 'Israel's policies aren't 
'oppression,' they are defensive. And anyway Palestinians 
obviously become suicide bombers for other reasons for 
example hate education!' Instead, describe how this sentence
violates Wikipedia's policies and guidelines. One of the 
core principles is that assertions should adhere to a 
Neutral Point of View, usually abbreviated NPOV. (The 
opposite of NPOV is POV, or Point of View, which is 
basically another way of saying subjective statement, or 
opinion.) So it would be best to note on the discussion 
page that 'This sentence violates Wikipedia's NPOV policy, 
since the description of Israel's policies as 'oppressive' 
is an opinion. In addition, it is often noted by Middle 
East experts that one of the reasons Palestinians decide 
to become suicide bombers is hate education and 
glorification of martyrdom in Palestinian society...'" 

In fact, there have been numerous studies debunking claims 
about Palestinian "hate education," or "glorification of 
martyrdom" causing suicide bombings (such as Dying to Win 
by University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape) 
though this claim remains a favorite canard of pro-Israel 
activists seeking to distract attention from the effects 
of Israel's occupation and other well-documented and 
systematic human rights abuses in fueling violence. 

Zeq specifically names articles targeted for this kind of 
treatment including those on the 1948 Palestinian Exodus, 
Causes of the 1948 Palestinian exodus, Hamas, Hizballah, 
Arab citizens of Israel, anti-Zionism, al-Nakba, the 
Palestinian people, and the Palestinian right of return. 

Interestingly the CAMERA editors also target the article 
on the early Islamic period concept of Dhimmi, a protected 
status for non-Muslims which historically allowed Jews to 
thrive in Muslim-ruled lands while other Jews were being 
persecuted in Christian Europe. Pro-Israel activists have 
often tried to portray the concept of Dhimmi as akin to 
the Nuremberg laws in order to denigrate Muslim culture 
and justify ahistorical Zionist claims that Jews could 
never live safely in majority Muslim countries. 

Also among the emails is a discussion about how to alter 
the article on the massacre of Palestinian civilians in 
the village of Deir Yassin by Zionist militiamen on 9 April 
1948. Unable to debunk the facts of the massacre outright, 
the CAMERA activists hunt for quotes from "reputable 
historians" who can cast doubt on it. Their strategy is 
not dissimilar from those who attempt to present evolution, 
or global climate change as "controversial" regardless of 
the weight of the scientific evidence, simply because the 
facts do not accord with their belief system. 

Zeq has already made extensive edits to the Wikipedia 
article on Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist 
murdered by an Israeli soldier in the occupied Gaza Strip 
on 16 March 2003. As a result of these and other edits 
Zeq has himself been a controversial figure among Wikipedia 
editors, suggesting his own stealth tactics may not be 

"We will go to war"

Zeq, however, counsels CAMERA operatives to be patient and 
lie low until they build up their strength. "We will go 
to war after we have build our army, equiped it trained 
[sic]," he wrote on 9 April. "So please if you want to 
win this war help us build ou[r] army. let's not just rush 
in and achieve nothing, or abit more than nothing [sic]." 



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