Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wikipedia editing courses launched by Zionist groups.

The Israelis have a word for it: Hasbara. It means public diplomacy or explanation. Others regard it as simply propaganda.

Well, now some Israelis are turning their attention to Wikipedia to make sure their version of events is heard.

Since the earliest days of the worldwide web, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has seen its rhetorical counterpart fought out on the talkboards and chatrooms of the internet.

Now two Israeli groups seeking to gain the upper hand in the online debate have launched a course in "Zionist editing" for Wikipedia, the online reference site.

Yesha Council, representing the Jewish settler movement, and the rightwing Israel Sheli (My I srael) movement, ran their first workshop this week in Jerusalem, teaching participants how to rewrite and revise some of the most hotly disputed pages of the online reference site.

"We don't want to change Wikipedia or turn it into a propaganda arm," says Naftali Bennett, director of the Yesha Council. "We just want to show the other side. People think that Israelis are mean, evil people who only want to hurt Arabs all day."

And what are the issues where Naftali Bennett feels that the Israeli position is being misunderstood?
Take the page on Israel, for a start: "The map of Israel is portrayed without the Golan heights or Judea and Samaria," said Bennett, referring to the annexed Syrian territory and the West Bank area occupied by Israel in 1967.
Now, I would regard the exclusion of the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza from any map of Israel to be a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but, as we all know, few subjects elicit as much passion as this one. Indeed, the very reason that these groups are launching a course in Zionist editing is to avoid following the fate of others who have argued too passionately on Wikipedia.
In 2008, members of the hawkish pro-Israel watchdog Camera who secretly planned to edit Wikipedia were banned from the site by administrators.
Now there is a new approach being taught.

The idea, says Shaked and her colleauges, is not to storm in, cause havoc and get booted out – the Wikipedia editing community is sensitive, consensus-based and it takes time to build trust.

"We learned what not to do: don't jump into deep waters immediately, don't be argumentative, realise that there is a semi-democratic community out there, realise how not to get yourself banned," says Yisrael Medad, one of the course participants, from Shiloh.

Is that Shiloh in the occupied West Bank? "No," he sighs, patiently. "That's Shiloh in the Binyamin region across the Green Line, or in territories described as disputed."

When you find yourself using phrases like "territories described as disputed" then you really are out on a limb. How can there be even an honest discussion when one refuses to acknowledge international law or even that certain territories are occupied, not disputed?

Click here for full article.

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