By Jack Saltzberg
In 2016, a graduate student at Berkeley offered a two-credit course called “Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis.” The title alone made it clear that this course would be a one-sided, agenda-driven, propaganda view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, meant entirely to demonize Israel using superficially logical and balanced arguments.
When information about the course became public, a media firestorm ensued within the pro-Israel community. The ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, wrote a piece with the headline: “UC Berkeley Course: The Travesty of the Distortion of History Under the Guise of Academic Discipline.” From The Guardian to The Jerusalem Post, this course made international headlines and—for a while—became the pro-Israel community’s cause célèbre. Although the course was initially canceled, it was reinstated for the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters.
The uproar was understandable, but where was the perspective? How many students in each class were misinformed about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Five hundred? Two hundred? Try about 25. Granted, even that is too much, but compare that figure to the number of people who are unknowingly “educated” by anti-Israel propaganda disseminated from Wikipedia: tens of millions.
Wikipedia has more than 370 million monthly visitors who collectively account for 18 billion page views a month. And that doesn’t even include the billions of times Wikipedia information appears on web pages and devices (like tablets and smartphones) without the reader ever visiting the site.
Google, the world’s top search engine, often places Wikipedia as its top-ranked search result. More importantly, on computers, Google automatically places Wikipedia’s information into a browser sidebar, so people are “educated” without knowing the information is even coming from Wikipedia or without visiting the site. Over time, people have been trained to simply accept as fact what they view in Google’s margins.
In smartphone Google searches, the first sentence or two from Wikipedia appears. This is what people digest, and a reason why those sentences are so highly contested in Wikipedia. Those first sentences alone have the power to negatively or positively label a person, business, or event for decades.
Where is the pro-Israel community?
Other than CAMERA’s valiant efforts a decade ago, the pro-Israel community has been silent and inactive on this issue. There are presently fewer than 20 serious pro-Israel Wikipedia editors. And as one of the best-ever said to me, “I’m tired of wading through all this shit.” Editors have been abused, completely overpowered, and relegated as insignificant by a group of ruthless, relentless, dedicated, knowledgeable, vile, experienced, extremely skilled (and most likely paid) anti-Israel Wikipedia operatives… I mean editors. With the help of Wikipedia administrators, they have completely hijacked Wikipedia’s Arab-Israel and Israeli-Palestinian conflict topic areas. For more than a decade, they have successfully manipulated Wikipedia to become the #1 anti-Israel propaganda informational source globally. And nobody has done anything about it. Until now.
As long as Wikipedia confirms, substantiates, and globally promotes the lies and propaganda against Israel promoted by the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, all efforts to counter BDS are futile.
For all those who were outraged by the UC Berkeley course, “Palestine: A Colonial Settler Analysis,” direct your outrage at the #1 informational source globally, and the #1 disseminator of anti-Israel propaganda: Wikipedia.