If AIPAC won’t do it…. CAMERA will….

A pro-Israel group’s plan to rewrite history on Wikipedia

(EI illustration)

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 controls.

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

Download CAMERA’s emails [PDF – 2.7 MB]

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 discussions.”

Anticipating possible objections to CAMERA’s scheme, Ini conjectures that “Anti-Israel editors will seize on anything 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 Wikipedia.

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 administrator.”

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.

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 working.

“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].”


  1. April 21, 2008 at 19:34

    […] THE CAMERA EYES IN ON ISRAEL… AND LIES 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. […]

  2. Brian said,

    April 21, 2008 at 19:35

    Somehow this reminds me of Stephen Colbert’s famous comments on wikipedia…

  3. banketh said,

    April 21, 2008 at 20:16

    You mean wikipedia isn’t already controlled by pro-isreali interests? I find that hard to believe….

  4. Ali said,

    April 21, 2008 at 20:28

    Wikipedia is ALREADY controlled by Zionists. It’s not going to make a difference.

  5. detainthis said,

    April 21, 2008 at 20:56

    No surprise here. The Hasbara Handbook stresses to young propagandists that they need not worry about the factual nature of their arguments; all they need to be good at is “scoring points” (transference, attack the opponent, fear, and so on). They know that the facts are not on their side. I recommend that people scan through the document (.pdf); therein, you will see how shamelessly low these state-worshiping Hasbaraniks will go to promote their backwards, soulless agenda. (PS: Hasbaranim absolutely hate it when you call them out on the specific hasbara techniques they’re using as you totally dominate them on substance and style.)

  6. April 21, 2008 at 21:12

    […] 21, 2008 By DesertPeace ∙ April 21, […]

  7. Easterling said,

    April 21, 2008 at 21:22

    Why does MSM not publicize thae fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s father was born Radomski and that he came from the Jewish ghetto in Lodz, Poland. I see no reason to not publicize this information? Shouldn’t Hillary be proud of her heritage?

  8. April 21, 2008 at 23:28

    Because Hillary Clinton is a crazily proud Zionist. I think she’s so proud that she actually carries a picture of Bibi Netanyahu and does not want peace in Israel that is unless the Palestinian movement is dismantled.

    What is wrong with Israelis good lord? Shouldn’t they be welcoming Jimmy Carter instead of trying to re-write the history of Israel and what happened to Palestine?

    Or are they more interested in smearing them to cover up things they know their leaders are guilty of? This is what happens when the truly insane becomes the new leaders of Israel. Whatever this cult is that’s in charge now has lost its mind.

  9. Klaatu said,

    April 22, 2008 at 00:10

    A search in the pdf document for the word “truth” results in ZERO hits.

  10. Ted said,

    April 22, 2008 at 00:22

    I thought Israel already controlled most of what was posted on the web. Usually anything anti Israel that they can edit is edited right away.

    Number of Operations Iraq Freedom and Enduring Freedom casualties as confirmed by U.S. Central Command: 4513

  11. April 22, 2008 at 00:46

    If this is a duplicate, please delete.

    An awesome piece of reporting. Hope you don’t mind linking to “Israelis Rewriting History?” on my blog.


  12. Israeli said,

    April 22, 2008 at 07:22

    Hi, I’m a Jew living in Israel
    I think that our war with the Arab world is fought in the media maybe even more than on the ground. And I find that most of the mainstream media (like BBC) is biased against Israel (and against the US and western culture). They have to report the whole truth, and they usually do – in small letters at the bottom; but their headlines always scream Israel is the aggressor. Their language clearly shows which side they favor.
    I don’t understand why you’re so excited about our tactics in this war. Each side claims the other side is lying, so both sides try to promote their version of the truth. Terrorist organizations use public opinion as their main weapon, and they have many online activists that spread their hate propaganda. Why shouldn’t we defend ourselves?

  13. DavidG. said,

    April 22, 2008 at 07:30

    Fanatics will do anything to advance their cause. In Israel’s case adjusting Wiki to suit their deranged agenda is a minor crime. They have many more serious crimes for which they will have to answer one day.

    May that day come soon!

  14. April 22, 2008 at 09:22

    […] UPDATE: Please see Desert Peace: THE CAMERA EYES IN ON ISRAEL.. AND LIES […]

  15. April 22, 2008 at 09:26

    “And I find that most of the mainstream media (like BBC) is biased against Israel ”

    Are you brainwashed? Get out of that bottom feeder media drone propaganda and look around you!!!

    Israel is guilty of many WAR CRIMES. BBC is actually being more balanced by highlighting for once these serious war crimes.

    They cover what Palestine does also, but the severity of Israeli crimes is very bad and should not be excused either should it?

    What is “MORAL” to you? And are you that brainwashed to think the media is anti-Israel? MOST OF THE MEDIA PROMOTES THE “PRO ISRAEL” LINE OF HAMAS BEING THE SOURCE OF NO PEACE!

    Even MSNBC promotes this lie. Fox News is a propaganda organ for Israel. What news are you reading? Its only the BBC who is critical and has open discussion now.

  16. Easterling said,

    April 22, 2008 at 18:21

    Steve. Thank you for an honest open forum. I hope to live my life as Jimmy Carter is living his. PEACE

  17. VFPDissident said,

    April 25, 2008 at 07:01

    This isn’t the first time Zionists have targeted Wikipedia. Follow the link to read about Aish International’s “Hasbara Fellowships” of May 2007 focused on Wikipedia.

  18. Samir said,

    May 5, 2008 at 19:17

    Let me tell you something why they are brainwashed (Israelies) ever since they are born they are being told over and over and over ‘you are gods chosen people’ ‘its wrong to compare you’re holocaust to the nakba’ ‘its wrong to compare jewish holocaust to african holocaust’ and shit like that…..

    Now they’ve removed the history of the nakba from the main palestine article…

    The biggest event in that region and its been removed… How.. WHY? > ZIONISM.

    It doesn’t take a genius to understand that Israel is a country of ‘terror’ but you can understand that hamas is nothing on a ‘terror’ scale compared to Israel…

    I follow their Channel 1 and 10 and 22 News (the main news channels) they never ever show about Palestinians deaths (they blur the faces) and they only report about 20% of all their deaths… And channel 11 only shows how Palestinains shoot rockets into Israel never how choppers destroy innocent civilians…

    Even on that day of the death of 4 children and their Mom, they reported that first the guy exploded (there was no evidence of a suicide bomb belt or what ever not from him) second they said he had ammo bullets (again thats just bullshit) third they said he was near the house (over populated area = Crime against humanity) now? they said they kill him because they were shooting rockets…. But the real event was they kill the children then rockets were shot…

    Just no objective news, idiot culture, idiot people…. There are few who stand out but they end up dead.

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