By Ari Lieberman
It has been a while since I’ve contributed anything meaningful to Wikipedia. My last encounter there ended badly and resulted in an “indefinite topic ban,” Wikipedia jargon for the Siberian gulag. Essentially, an anti-Israel administrator decreed that I can no longer contribute or edit the Arab-Israeli topic area and if I attempted to do so, my account would be blocked. An appeal proved to be an exercise in futility, drawing on the same swarm of malcontents who made their appearance in the initial proceeding clamoring for a ban. I thus joined the lot of countless other editors who have tried and failed to insert a modicum of balance into Wikipedia’s Arab-Israeli topic area.
Wikipedia is something akin to a giant blog where anyone with a bit of writing ability and some computer literacy can add and contribute to the world’s most famous online encyclopedia. In theory, administrators are there to enforce rules and make sure things don’t get out of hand. Sounds like a great idea, right? The answer is yes when writing about innocuous things like the chemical composition of water where there’s really nothing to argue about – H2O. But when veering into more contentious topic areas, Wikipedia’s darker, more malevolent side becomes readily apparent.
The most contentious topic area in Wikipedia is arguably Israel and the ongoing Arab-Israeli dispute. Wikipedia is where assorted anti-Semites and Israel-haters coalesce like flies to dung and find common cause – Jew hatred. Thus, various pro-Palestinian editors and BDS types have banded with a mixed collection fringe, lunatic ideologues like anarchists, radical leftists and neo-Nazis to edit and create articles disparaging of Jews and Israel. Some administrators, who are there to ensure fair play and unbiased editing, often allow their biases to get the better of them and become complicit by enforcing the rules against pro-Israel editors while ignoring transgressions committed by the anti-Israel camp.
Wikipedia is filled with various articles highly critical of Israel and Jews that veer uncomfortably into David Duke territory. Want to find an article about Apartheid in Israel? No problem, just enter “Apartheid” and “Israel” in your Google browser and voilà; you get a nice propaganda piece called “Israel and the Apartheid analogy.” Want to do some research on those oh-so-violent Jews? Wikipedia has got that one covered too with a beauty called “Jewish religious terrorism.” There’s also a mammoth article singling out Israel for special treatment titled “criticism of the Israeli government.” The list of repugnant anti-Israel articles is mind-numbing.
By contrast, attempts to highlight genuine Apartheid in Arab countries through the creation of meticulously sourced, articulate articles were quashed. Similarly, there are no articles specifically dedicated to criticizing the Syrian, Saudi Arabian, Sudanese, North Korean and Iranian governments or other repressive, fascist regimes.
Leading the pack of miscreant editors is a pernicious sort who goes by the pseudonym “Nableezy.” He’s got some Egyptian ancestry – travels there from time to time – and at one point maintained a domicile in the Chicago area. Nableezy is a rancid anti-Semite and prolific Wikipedia editor who zealously and tendentiously edits the Arab-Israeli topic area, cherry-picking his sources to fit his vociferously anti-Israel agenda. Often, he rallies other anti-Israeli editors, so-called “meat puppets,” to converge or swarm on specific articles to either insert a particular anti-Israel viewpoint or maintain an existing anti-Israel narrative.
In addition to maintaining a loyal cadre of meat puppets, it is all but certain that he edits under various IP addresses using different accounts. This practice is referred to as "sock puppetry" and is also prohibited under Wikipedia’s rules. A well-crafted effort based on meticulously documented evidence was brought forward to expose Nableezy’s practice of utilizing meat puppets and sock puppets. Despite overwhelming proof, it failed due in large part to Nableezy’s ability to gather swarms of allied editors and sympathetic administrators to come to his defense.
Notwithstanding his anti-Israel vitriol, tendentious editing, use of bullying tactics, legal threats against fellow editors and extensive use of meat puppets and sock puppets, Nableezy was recently named “Editor of the Week” in recognition for “persistence in the face of duress.” In the wacky world of Wikipedia, the most malevolent editors harboring views consistent with those of Hamas and Hezbollah, are elevated to the status of quality editors meriting positive recognition.
In the Arab-Israeli topic area, pro-Israel editors are forced to edit with one hand tied behind their backs. This is because rules that are meant to be applied to both sides are generally enforced only against those thought to be pro-Israel. Thus, as a result of multiple enforcement actions, most of which were brought by Nableezy or his cohorts, the number of editors identified as having views sympathetic to Israel have dwindled to a trickle while the ranks of rabidly anti-Israel editors have swelled. Because articles appearing in Wikipedia are heavily influenced by “consensus,” another word for the volume of people advocating a certain viewpoint, Israeli views are generally marginalized while “Palestinian” narratives are overemphasized. Here are just a few examples illustrating this perversion:
The term “Judea and Samaria” denoting the biblical and historical name for the West Bank may not be used to describe that geographical location. Any attempt to do so will get the offending editor banned.
Israeli cities, towns and villages across the Green Line must be referenced as “settlements.”
All articles describing Israeli cities, towns and villages in Judea and Samaria contain the following sentence in the lead paragraph; “The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law.” The sentence is inaccurate but efforts to remove this erroneous allegation are instantly met with a torrent of objections and ultimate reversion by Nableezy or one of his acolytes.
Yasser Arafat was long rumored to have been gay and there is some credible evidence suggesting that he was also a pedophile, having had sexual relations with boys between the ages of 13 and 15. All efforts to insert these well-sourced facts into the Arafat article were rebuffed. Arafat’s sexual orientation is clearly relevant given the discrimination and outright hostility gay Arabs are forced to endure in Palestinian society, making the irony hard to overlook. It is also relevant given persistent rumors that Arafat had died of AIDS. Moreover, evidence of pedophilia by the father of the Palestinian movement is certainly relevant. In addition, Arafat’s life was marked by corruption, terrorism and murder, yet the article sanitizes his knee-deep involvement with these nefarious activities.
Credible sources suspected of being pro-Israel are routinely subjected to heightened scrutiny and are often dismissed and rejected as biased or untrustworthy. Conversely, anti-Israel sources such as the government-controlled Qatari mouthpiece Al-Jazeera and the Palestinian Authority’s propaganda outlet, Ma’an News (which dabbles in Holocaust denial), are accepted without equivocation. So-called “scholars” such as Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein, whose works have been soundly discredited, are often cited as authoritative.
Many of those who edit Wikipedia do so under pseudonyms, some out of fear of being linked with the odious views they espouse in the virtual world. Others, with little to lose because of already tarnished reputations, freely edit under their own names. One such marginal character is Roland Rance, an unrepentant Marxist and self-hater who chairs an organization called “Jews against Zionism.” Rance and Nableezy, along with a host of assorted anti-Israel, anti-Semitic editors, often employ tag-team tactics to exhaust or overwhelm those who maintain contrary opinions.
In fairness, there are some administrators at Wikipedia who are impartial and take their responsibilities seriously. When they challenged Nableezy’s outrageous misconduct, they were subjected to vitriolic abuse and were ultimately forced to back off. This had a chilling effect on other editors and administrators who decided to steer entirely clear of the topic area lest they encounter the same foul treatment from Nableezy’s allies.
In the scheme of things, what degenerate anti-Israel contributors do on Wikipedia doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Israel is strong militarily, politically and economically and skewed editing on Wikipedia, no matter how pernicious, has no impact on the Jewish State. Nevertheless, delegitimization efforts disseminated by society’s lowest dregs need to be combated in all forums and venues and Wikipedia is certainly no exception.
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.
Original op-ed appeared in FrontPageMag on August 25, 2015. Reprinted with permission.