By David Collier
Tell people that Wiki is a problem when it comes to antisemitism or historical revisionism and they will most likely brush you off. You will hear stock responses that range from ‘everyone knows that about Wikipedia‘ or ‘I only use it as a guide‘ to the more expertly constructed excuse that ‘most people understand it isn’t 100% accurate, but it is a good starting point to gather further sources‘. Sometimes they’ll acknowledge Wiki is a minor problem but claim it ‘does its best’ in the circumstances and suggest it has far too many benefits to give up.
I think these attitudes grossly understate the danger Wiki poses and the damage it has already done. Far too many people are still making donations to a platform that has long since turned from ‘doing its best’ into a manipulated monster that breeds ill-will towards Jewish people.
To those that say Wiki isn’t a serious problem
BBC watch, Honest Reporting, UK Media Watch, Camera – these are all organisations set up to tackle misinformation – in the understanding that bias or non-factual articles in newspapers influence readers. CIF Watch was originally set up just to monitor the Guardian. How many readers did the Guardian have?
Wiki is the 13th most visited website in the world. If you search for a term online, the most visited website in the world, Google, will *almost always* put the Wiki entry in top spot. Whether we like to admit it or not – Wiki is probably one of the greatest influencers in the world. Everyone knows media outlets such as the Sun and Daily Mail contain some inaccuracy – but would anyone in their right mind suggest that they do not influence people? What is written in Wikipedia matters. You can dismiss it all you like, but I promise you, more people in the west will have their opinion shaped today by the words of Wiki than any other source on the planet.
Read what Wikipedia says about itself:
“Wikipedia is not a reliable source for academic writing or research. Wikipedia is increasingly used by people in the academic community, from freshman students to distinguished professorship, as an easily accessible tertiary source for information about anything and everything, and as a quick “ready reference”, to get a sense of a concept or idea.”
As one of the most popular websites on the planet, Wiki is therefore a builder and protector of paradigms. Even amongst those who won’t use it as a primary source, there is a growing habit of turning to it as a collector of further resource material. This holds true for academia too. Thus – if you are in its pages – you are part of the conversation – if not – you are left outside of the normative paradigm.
The damage it can do
Bad references, or sources on the issue of the Titanic, may be a catalyst for sloppy articles elsewhere, but they probably won’t lead to anyone financing terrorist groups or joining racist movements. But when it comes to issues that matter – Wiki is a clear and present danger. Given what can be found on its pages, Twitter and Facebook should carry a disputed warning on any Wiki article linked to their platforms.
Wikipedia possesses its own Overton window, but this fluctuates according to subject matter. How bad can it be? Here are some examples of the massive brainwashing / disinformation campaign that is taking place:
The skewing of history – the example of Nebi Musa
The Nebi Musa riot was an anti-Jewish riot, perpetrated by Arabs that took place in April 1920 in Jerusalem.
Wikipedia’s Nebi Musa page reads like an apology for public violence and murder. At no point in the page is it clearly stated this was an anti-Jewish riot. It is unlikely that anyone reading the page will understand what happened on that day. Rather than talk about the violence and murders, Wiki spends time focusing on ‘Zionist provocation’. One of the key sources even goes as far as suggesting one provocation included a group of ‘Zionists’ who were ‘listening to speeches.’ The entire thing is based on nothing but deflection and assumption. In the introduction paragraph, there is this explanation for the outburst of violence.
“The trigger which turned the procession into a riot is not known with certainty – some evidence exists suggesting Jewish provocation, but it is also possible, though unreported, that Arab activities also contributed.”
Which is basically just rumour mongering without any support. The source for that quote is Ulrike Freitag– a professor of Islamic Studies. Freitag who has the Israel hostile SOAS University on her CV, has publicly supported the BDS campaign.
Anyone reading Wiki’s entry as a landing page for further investigation will be injected with ahistorical, anti-Zionist poppycock before they begin proper study. If all they wanted was a brief outline, they will be given only a false anti-Zionist position. As these events are the building blocks of the 100-year-old conflict, this type of brainwashing is extremely damaging.
How does it happen? In the original page from 2012, the word ‘provocation’ is nowhere to be seen. The original introduction clearly tells of ‘a serious outbreak of violence against the city’s Jews’. That all changed on July 5 2016. A single user removed the mention of an attack against the city Jews *as well* as inserting the allegation about Jewish ‘provocation.’ The user, ‘Onceinawhile‘, has been active on Wiki since 2010.
The first actions of ‘Onceinawhile‘ were on the Jerusalem page – where the user inserted a graphic that minimises the Jewish timeline in Jerusalem – by hiding it under Babylonian and Persian control. Within months he had opened a Wiki page titled ‘Criticism of the Israeli government’. Shortly after this he tried to have Christian and Muslim usage of the ‘Star of David’ incorporated into the history of the Star of David Wiki page.
Other early edits include adding ‘Israel’ to the Wiki page on ethnocracy – placing it first on the list. A page which hadn’t previously included Israel at all suddenly posits that it is the ‘key example’ of the term. Going through his highly active stream soon highlights that this is a pro-Palestinian activist, which then raises the question of whether the deletion of the mention of violence against Jews on the Nebi Musa page was accidental or deliberate. This is a great example of the way Wiki is being manipulated by those who are clearly biased against Israel.
Or is someone really going to argue that the person who this year created the Wiki page on West Bank Bantustans, just accidently deleted comments about anti-Jewish riots on the Nebi Musa page?
A few other edits –
In the page on the 1929 Palestine ‘riots’ (if this was the other way around – the page would definitely be titled ‘massacre’). ‘Onceinawhile‘ repeats the Nebi Musa exercise. He firstly changes the phrase “assembled at the wall” to the more aggressive “marched to the wall”. The given source is Segev’s ‘One Palestine Complete‘. In the chapter Segev only uses the term ‘congregated’ (p309) – so it is unclear where the more aggressive ‘marched’ description comes from. Then ‘Onceinawhile’ inserts an inane paragraph from the ‘Shaw Report’ – deflecting attention to the possibility that there were ‘undesirable elements’ in the Jewish crowd. ‘Maybe’ and ‘perhaps’ doesn’t make a fact. Then he inserts several lines about Jewish provocations / attacks on Arabs and misrepresents the Shaw Commission source as he does so. Later the same year he returns to the page to insert extracts from the Shaw Commission report that put the major blame on the earlier Jewish demonstration. There is no context given that these British reports were inherently anti-Jewish in sentiment. The user is grabbing at any archive material or source that furthers the agenda.
He edited the page of the 1834 Safed looting to add an entire section – copying in (rather than just giving a source) an almost biblical account from a Rabbi written 16 years after the event. It is an account that is clearly exaggerated about the magnanimous way that the Jews were treated following the attack. This is the constant direction of the edits – on one hand belittling what happened to the Jews or amplifying Jewish provocations and on the other using any source available that paints the Arab side in a better light. In other words – propaganda.
Attempted to smudge the issue of Jesus’s Jewish identity. Little gives away there is an unhealthy agenda at work here more than this entry.
In 1660 Jews suffered attacks in both Tiberias and Zefat. The user complained that because the towns are near to each other – and it was part of the same event, the two pages should be merged (thus reducing the footprint of attacks on Jews). You can use the same argument about any battle or any war which affects neighbouring towns. It is an absurd argument.
Toned down the title of the page for Alexandrian Pogroms to Alexandrian Riots. The user stated that Google books prefers one to the other – even though scholars use both. It should be noted that this, the 1834 Safed looting and the 1660 attacks have nothing to do with Israel and the Palestinians. All of these edits are aimed at reducing the footprint of historical Jewish suffering – just as the attack on the identity of Jesus reduces the footprint of historical Jewish influence.
Edited the page on Palestinians – to include ‘pre-mandate’ Palestinians. Because of this user there is actually a Wiki page now that claims Jesus was a Palestinian.
The edits on the page of the 1948 Cairo bombings expose the strategy all too clearly. ‘Onceinawhile‘ includes a list of the bombing attacks – but attaches to each a completely arbitrary cause. For example, he states that the bomb of 22 September occurred 5 days after the assassination of Count Bernadotte. That may be the case but why on earth have the two incidents been linked? How on earth can anyone know whether the assassination was in the mind of the bombers? This need to place cause to effect on every incident that takes Jewish lives is a consistent theme of this user’s work on Wikipedia. This user does not want readers to consume information about Jewish deaths without in some way implicating other Jews as bearing responsibility for the killings. This is also a propagandist’s method to deflect attention. The reader, who came to learn about the Jewish expulsion, is distracted and if they follow the link – suddenly reading about a completely different incident.
Onceinawhile turned his attention to the Jewish exodus from Arab lands. He makes two importantedits and both somewhat blur the information below them. In the departure from Egypt he squeezes in mention of the Lavon Affair, although the 1956 imprisonment and expulsions from Egypt were not related to this. Then on Iraq he adds information about the bombing campaign against Jewish targets and the imprisonment of the ‘suspected’ Zionists, linking this campaign to the exodus of 120,000 Iraqis. The idea that a few minor explosions with a low casualty count would cause the complete upheaval of an entire community is bordering on the insane. As is the idea that Israel – which was struggling to cope with the Jews that had arrived, would be agitating for more. It is to push irresponsible conspiracy theory to even create linkage. His source for both of these edits were the writings of a Marxist anti-Zionist Jew. The core of both of these edits still exist on the main Wiki page.
Whilst inserting information about the bombings to create linkage between those bombs and the exodus of Iraqi Jews – the user edited out content that linked the Farhud to the exodus – claiming that this linkage was disputed. What is interesting in this evidence is that it was unsourced when it was placed. It was just the author’s point of view. Today that sentence still exists in the Wiki pagebut now carries three separate sources. This is how it done. You can always find support for any comment – but first we saw the unsourced insertion – then someone went to grab at archives to support the position. Either way it is a nonsensical argument. There is no way that the Farhud did not unsettle Iraqi Jews and no way it had been forgotten just ten years later. To suggest no linkage at all is ahistorical insanity.
He constantly complains about sources that he claims are from ‘right wing pro-Israeli sources’ such as CAMERA– going on to suggest they are one-sided. Yet he personally promotes anti-Zionist sources he finds on websites such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians- pushing these onto Wikipedia Editors. Or introduces into Wiki pages a rush of Marxist anti-Zionist Jewish thought that creates a total imbalance in the suggested reading section.
Edited the Wiki page on the murderous 1945 anti-Jewish riots in Egypt by adding a single sentence – that the Prime Minister of Egypt blamed the Zionists for provoking the attacks.
Tried and failed to have the page on the expulsion of Egyptian Jews deleted.
Edited the page on ‘refugees’. This was an interesting edit. The section on Jewish refugees (which this user edited) is all about how politicised the argument is, how Israel wanted the refugees and the possibility of Zionist false flag attacks. The section immediately above it is all about Palestinian refugees – there is no mention of politicisation and the focus is almost exclusively (and errantly) on forced expulsion. The page was eventually cleaned up – but the insertion about politicisation stuck and is visible on other Wiki Jewish refugee pages (see here).
Created the page about Ben Gurion’s letter to his son in 1937. The page was weighted to imply that Ben Gurion had stated his intention to expel the Arabs. Placing the original page alongside the current version highlights the problem of correcting bias – whilst individual attempts can be made over time to clean up the entry – the pillar of the page, the very bias with which it was created, remains intact.
The above are just a few examples. There are 100s of pages that have been edited. Much of the work of this user has been on the pages of key landing pages such as ‘Israel’, ‘Palestine’ and on the history of ‘Palestinians’. Onceinawhile has made over 32000 edits on Wikipedia.
The mistake would be in thinking this is an exceptional case.
Yahya Ayyash – the engineer
Yahya Ayyash was the chief bomb maker for Hamas during the early 1990s. This means that as Israel and the Palestinians engaged in peace talks, Ayyash was building bombs specifically to kill civilians and destroy the peace talks. He was responsible for several bus bombings at the time, including the bus 5 bombing in Dizengoff, a bomb at Hadera bus station, and others in Ramat Gan and Jerusalem. The man was a murdering terrorist.
I start by presenting how a search for Yahya Ayyash comes up – with the tags Wiki has attached to him and compare it to how Al Qaeda bomb makers and leaders are represented:
Only Ayyash is glorified with the tagged title of ‘military leader’. Moussa – a ‘military leader‘ of Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin is not tagged but clearly labelled a ‘Jihadist’. al-Asiri, is just factually labelled a bomb maker for al-Qaeda.
Ayyash is responsible for the death of more than 70 Israelis, yet Ayyash’s Wiki page humanises him. Readers are not told how many people he killed but are informed he was “well educated, ambitious, and soft-spoken”. The page even indirectly blames Israel for his activity by claiming that he only joined Hamas because Israel blocked an opportunity for Ayyash to study in Jordan. The source for that nugget is a single book – a non academic piece that does not seem to hold references on its pages. It was written by Maxine Rosaler. I contacted the author by email, to ask for the source of her claim. She has no recollection of where it came from. The key context – that Ayyash’s activity took place to disrupt the peace process – is completely missing from the page.
The motivations behind these editors is the key issue here. Why are they placing information on the page? The wiki page was updated with the new ‘humanising’ source on 27th January 2009. The Editor was a user by the name of Tiamut. The user’s landing page on Wiki is a poem about Gaza by Mahmoud Darwish. These make up some of her Wiki bio – a belief in the Palestinian right of return and more tellingly, a supporter of acts of terrorism:
It isn’t a question of illegitimate sourcing. If this were a history book, the argument would be that the author had grabbed at archives, carefully selecting only material to present the picture that the author wanted you to see. Wikipedia users can follow the same guidelines. Find 1000s of positive things to say about Palestinians and then insert them onto Wikipedia’s pages. It is a pure and effective propaganda strategy. Reading through Tiamut’s many, many, contributions one thing is absolutely clear – the user is an anti-Israel activist. What she is doing is helping to shape Wiki in a particular way. The end result – who wins- is simply down to numbers. How many of each side are there? In a numbers game that is based on how many hands are active – the Jews always lose.
Just this one user has made over 30,000 edits on Wikipedia:
As evidence of the degradation of the Wikipedia platform, the 2005 listing for Ayyash was far more factual and clear. Fifteen years of ideologically driven interference has rendered it an anti-Israel propaganda piece. Because Wiki does contain a checks and balances system – this propaganda is so smooth, it fits seamlessly into the page.
Importance of a disappearing sentence
In the early versions of the page on Ayyash, there was a sentence in the introduction that was precise, factual and necessary. It spoke of the human cost of his terrorist activity:
“The bombings he orchestrated caused the deaths of approximately 90 Israelis, many of them civilians.”
That information is clearly informative. It is no longer on the page – nor any reference to the number of people Ayyash’s bombs killed. So what happened to it? The first edit in December 2007 removed the part that suggested many of the victims were civilians. That is a deletion which is clearly political in nature. On the 26th July 2012, a User, ‘Egeymi’ removed the sentence completely. The User suggested he ‘shortened’ the lead because ‘it included repetition’. Nowhere else on the page was that information included. Egeymi is one of the most active Editors on Wikipedia and for whatever reason he completely deleted the human cost of Ayyash’s actions from the Wiki page. Now all readers are left with are tales about how ambitious and soft spoken he was.
Israel lobby in the United Kingdom
There is a Wiki page on the Israel lobby in the United Kingdom. There is however, no page titled ‘PalestinIan lobby in the United Kingdom’ – which highlights the bias inherent in the platform. Antisemites want a page about the ‘Israel lobby’ and so one exists. Is the Palestine Solidarity Campaign with its regular petitions to Parliament not part of a Palestinian lobby? Or active NGOs such as the Palestine Return Centre? Or the Central Committee for the BDS movement? How are these not lobbying agents? Why have only one page? If less than a dozen ‘Friends of Israel’ groups are troublesome, are dozens of Palestine Solidarity branches – less troublesome?
The page was created in 2006 by a user called ‘Arthur Warrington Thomas‘. He has been active on Wikipedia for 14 years and according to his Wiki page, he lives in Jordan. The motivations of the user were clear, the few links he provided on the original page include websites such as David Duke.
Arthur Warrington Thomas appears to be a full blown antisemitic conspiracy theorist. He has ‘a thing’ for Nazi Mysticism. Looking at his activity, there seems to be an Islamist link as well. The Israel Lobby page is not the only current Wiki page started by this antisemitic conspiracy theorist. He also opened the pageon ‘Christian Zionism in the United Kingdom’. Some of his other edits are predictable. In June of 2009, he added positive comments to the page on Holocaust denier David Irving. This user created dozens of pages on Wikipedia and made 1000s of edits.
The page itself – created by someone who appears to be a Holocaust denying, neo-Nazi, still exists on Wikipedia. It is still a depressing tale of conspiracy, mixed in with obsessions about Jewish money and Jewish connections to the State of Israel. The page is of interest to this research because it uses an article by Jane Jackman as a source:
Although the Wiki page relies on Jackman as a source, she was just a student. This is interesting as it goes against Wiki’s own standards – so the talk section of the page proves enlightening. In the talk (which is a historical record of editorial discussion surrounding the page) the inclusion of Jackman’s piece is justified:
The argument here is that the piece should be included solely because it says what these people want it to say. As I proved not long ago, that Jackman article is a junk piece, full of errors and antisemitic conspiracy. Yet they have awarded it prime real estate on that Wiki page. Note the role of the person fighting for truth (BobfromBrockley) is reduced to negotiating over how much antisemitism should be allowed. This is the best we can expect.
Just to reaffirm the level of people building pages on Wikipedia, the person who included Jackman’s article and argued for its inclusion – had this to say about its relevance:
Which outrageously suggests I am part of the GnasherJew account. This is the type of antisemitic conspiracy drivel we fight from trolls on Twitter. The links ZScarpia provides to support the Gnasher Jew allegation are the usual libellous rants of anonymous bloggers or people like Tony Greenstein. Unsurprisingly Zscarpia is also out there making edits to pages about Israel. This user, who relies on people like Tony Greenstein for material so he can smear the name of Zionist Jews, has a Wiki career spanning 15 years.
His anti-Israel activity is predictable. The users first actions on Wiki were to edit the pages of the King David Hotel bombing. He also edited other pages related to Jewish Insurgency. How many of these important pages were edited by someone who thinks Tony Greenstein is a reliable source, is anyone’s guess. It is worth pointing out that the Wiki page for the King David Hotel bombing opens by directly calling it a ‘terrorist attack’. The pages for suicide attacks against Israel, such as bus bombings, do not use such direct terminology. He has also made edits on pages such as on Shlomo Sand’s book, ‘the invention of the Jewish people’. Wiki is compiled by people who trust Tony Greenstein, think antisemitism is a smear campaign and do not like Jews/Zionists very much.
I will bring one piece of evidence to show just HOW selective Wikipedia is. In December 2019, Zscarpiaedited the page for Stephen Sizer – his reason for doing so was because a ‘Board of Deputies’ document was used as a source. He deleted the BOD link. He claimed that the BOD document was not reliable to use as a source. This is the same user who inserts the trashy work of students into antisemitic Wiki pages when it suits him.
If you read this Lobby page properly, especially the ‘talk‘ section – you will never use Wikipedia again. Nor should you. In fact the world will be a better place if everyone ceases to use Wikipedia or at least refuse to ever financially support it. The entire construct has become an antisemitic dogpile. They included a piece solely because it said what they wanted it to. This is how twisted Wiki articles can be.
Which brings us to a case where the opposite rules apply:
The massacre that wasn’t
In the Israel Lobby section just discussed, Wiki editors were arguing for the inclusion of a junk antisemitic conspiracy article because it was ‘of interest’ to them. They acknowledged it was written by a ‘student’ but spoke up the quality of her writing (even though as shown, the article is junk). They were so insistent on its import they justified using four whole sentences from the article to support the page. Which brings us to an existing issue with another Wikipedia page – about a massacre that never happened.
My research on the myth of the ‘Balad al-Shaykh massacre‘ is well known. I discovered a contemporary police report from the British archives that shows that the bragging Haganah fighters had exaggerated their activity. In fact there was no massacre at all. Only five Arabs had died that night, with three Jews also killed. I have the names and ages of the victims.
Wikipedia has a page on the event, outrageously calling it a ‘massacre’ and suggesting there may have been anything from 21 to 70 killed. So I tried to get it changed. Over three years has passed and the massacre page is still standing. The changes have been called ‘crap‘ by Wiki editors. It was uploaded by regular Wiki users in further attempts to have the material included. This too was deleted with claims that I am an unreliable source and further comments suggesting that the Wiki user is not allowed to edit that page. The key gatekeeper on this page was a user by the name of ‘Nishidani’ – whose user page is full of quotes about how Israel is an Apartheid state that is ‘infinitely worse‘ than South Africa was. This is the user who wouldn’t allow the archive material to be included. He has made over 80,000 edits on Wikipedia.
Think about it – it is proving impossible to get even one grave and blatant error on Wikipedia changed, even when supported by archive material. If only I was a Glasgow student writing antisemitic conspiracy theories – then the doors of Wikipedia would open widely for me.
Jewish Voice for Labour
There are different types of bias. The Jewish Voice for Labour page must be included here because it shows how Wikipedia exists in its own universe, untouched by the reality around it. The page does not even inform readers that JVL members have been suspended and expelled from the Labour Party. The entire page reads like a promotion. The page was clearly written and edited by members and supporters. It is just list of empty claims that JVL have made. Contrast this page, with the page about