A short time ago, Machetera received the news that Rebelión, the primary Spanish language alternative media site had been censored by the Spanish language Wikipedia. A Rebelión editor, who also happened to be a Wikipedia contributor, tried to link a reference to Rebelión, and found that the link was un-saveable. As you will read in the story below by Santiago Alba Rico, where more details are provided in the footnote, when this editor asked what was going on, the answer came back that Rebelión could not be linked to any longer because it was not considered to be a reliable source.
But the truth is that it has nothing to do whether or not Rebelión is a reliable source (unlike for instance, the New York Times, or El País which would never ever lie), and everything to do with Rebelión‘s anti-Zionist stance. The Zionists who’ve hijacked the Spanish language Wikipedia for their own purposes are methodically combing through Wikipedia and manually disabling the links, and soon it will be as though Rebelión never existed at all. (Oh, but they wish.)
What we’re seeing is only the beginning, a symptom of the larger disease, and as Santiago Alba Rico puts it very eloquently, Wikipedia has become, “contrary to its programmatic principles…a “battlefield” whose relative forces pretty much reflect the exterior world. One in which, consequently, the pretense of “neutrality” serves as the medium for very specific, and at times, extraordinarily aggressive political interests.” The same is true of the wider Internet.
There has been an explosion of discussion over Rebelión‘s blacklisting and those readers whose Spanish is up to the task are welcome to delve into that here.
Santiago Alba Rico – Gara
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, holds two forms of “authority” in the eyes of its readers: that of its “encyclopedic” format, and of its underlying open technology and permanent state of construction. The Spanish version is put together by 5,000 people and read by millions. Therefore, contrary to its programmatic principles, it has become, it couldn’t be otherwise, a “battlefield” whose relative forces pretty much reflect the exterior world. One in which, consequently, the pretense of “neutrality” serves as the medium for very specific, and at times, extraordinarily aggressive political interests.
This is the case with Palestine, whose land is occupied by Israel, and is occupied as well in Wikipedia. A brief tour of the Near East related entries suffices to demonstrate an undeniable “neutral” partiality toward the Zionist project. While one reads – from link to link – the configuration that appears before one’s eyes is a constellation that strictly coincides, with greater and lesser degrees of elegance, with the official propaganda doctrine of the “Jewish State:” a fallacious interpretation of Resolution 242, a consideration of the occupied territories as “disputed” territories, the negation of the Palestinian people – and of their rights – the pretext that Palestine never constituted a sovereign state before the United Nations partition, and on the other hand, the insistence on the historical continuity of a Jewish presence in the region, a fraudulent historicism (with biblical support) through which the Zionist claims on Palestine are legitimized. The consideration of “Judaism” as a “community” and a “race” rather than a religion, the “innocence of [Zionist] weapons” in the war of ’48, and the voluntary flight – or flight induced by their own Arab neighbors – of the Palestinians during the Nakba (together with the concealment of Israeli and Jewish sources which contradict this entire thesis). Even the tiniest details are manipulated to favor Israel. The entry “Israeli Barrier in the West Bank” (a very “neutral” naming) contains the sober description, despite that of the Hague Tribunal: “The Israeli Barrier on the West Bank is a barrier built by Israel’s government for defensive purposes.” In the entry marked “Israel,” with the same impartial aplomb, the introduction (the only part read by most readers) states that “Israel is a parliamentary democracy and a nation-state of people who originate from Israeli land,” (italics mine), and which “has a surface area of 22,145 square kilometers,” (when the borders have never been fixed and the unjust partition plan of 1947 concedes only 14,500 square kilometers). The entries which correspond to some of the Israeli settlements and colonies in the West Bank (Modi’in Illit, Beitar Illit, Ariel) are olympic descriptions of these occupational thrusts, such as “Israeli cities” situated in the Israeli districts of Judea and Samaria. An entry exists for “(District of) Judea and Samaria“. No entry exists for “Palestine,” despite the United Nations’ recognition of its rights.
It’s said that the advantage of Wikipedia is that the content of its articles may be discussed in open forums and is the result of a “consensus” (as if errors and injustices become truth and legitimacy through “consensus”). The problem is that, as in the Athenian polis, those who decide are very few and always the same, and democratic participation is, from the outset, unbalanced by the absence of solid and combative leftist counterpoints. I invite readers to visit the discussion pages corresponding to the entries “Zionism” and “Israel“. In them, Kordas, Cansado and Yonderboy (usernames of three extremely active Wikipedia members) put forth all the founding myths of the Zionist state with a bellicose authoritarianism and verbose technical preparation. The end result, as all readers can see for themselves, is much closer to the position of the three Zionist warriors that that of the forum’s interlocutors, who barely try to introduce a few timid corrections. I will add that the “Israel” entry is locked, that is, it may not be modified by users in the hope that discussion will finally settle its contents. The mechanism appears sensible, but the truth is that the warning about its temporary nature is as stable as the very text to which readers have access: the stable temporariness of the “Israel” entry is that decided on by Kordas and Cansado, temporarily blinded against any change whatsoever.
I will also add that Cansado, Yonderboy and Kordas, beyond being “librarians” (that is, administrators of the virtual encyclopedia) form part of the Israel Wikiproject. Wikiprojects are specialized workgroups who take on tasks associated with a specific theme. The Israel Wikiproject, according to statements on its own webpage, is that of “ensuring as far as possible that Israel is treated with equanimity and neutrality in Wikipedia” based on the observation that “a great anti-Israeli sentiment, of political character, exists in the world.” It couldn’t be clearer: “neutrality” is defined by Israel’s point of view. Would anyone find it strange that Kordas has been one of those promoting Wikipedia’s censorship of Rebelión (1), the alternative media source?
None of this is surprising: this pro-Zionist bias can also be found (a little less sharp) in the Encyclopedia Britannica or Larousse. What’s surprising is that the left has believed once again, and continues to believe, that Wikipedia is a “leftist” project. It is not and has no reason to be. As Ariel Zúñiga wrote in its defense, originally, it was an initiative of “democratic elitism,” one which doubtless had already become an useful instrument, superior to its forbears. Since knowledge must be “tied” to certain rigorous and verifiable internal procedures, so that Wikipedia might be at the same time “democratic” and “encyclopedic” (and not “free,” a pure advertising concession to the dominant liberal-libertarian technology, but incompatible with the production of knowledge) the administrative control procedures would have to be very fair. But we live in a world in which the same forces sneak in at every opening, those that actually exist under globalizing capitalism. And what’s happened is that the “democratic” character of Wikipedia has allowed the world’s strongest to also have the most strength in the “free encyclopedia” and the legitimate control procedures have been turned – as in our parliaments and institutions – into tools of a “neutral” dictatorship. The case of Rebelíon is nothing if not revealing of a bureaucratizing and anti-democratic drift – to refer once again to the words of Ariel Zúñiga – which threatens to put a definitive “ideology” (against the left) in Wikipedia’s non-scientific entries.
What the left needs to understand is that this has to do with protecting, not opening, our media; and that the Internet’s great advantage is that we can “fence them” against the world, which is what happens when one operates, as it is realistic to assume, with clearly inferior forces. And in respect to Wikipedia, of course: we use it like everyone, for easier, faster consults on data and dates, for technical and scientific information, but knowing its limits and without asking more than it can (or should) give, and denouncing fraud and manipulation whenever necessary. In the arena of politics and culture, no encyclopedia can save us the task of reading many books and many – and various – communications media. There’s no such thing as free knowledge and there are no definitive encyclopedias (not even temporary ones). The struggle for knowledge is inseparable from the struggle for territory.
(1) Rebelión (rebelion.org) is probably the most widespread and influential alternative media website in the Spanish speaking world. On June 18, several “librarians” for Wikipedia, the “free encyclopedia,” blocked access to Rebelión, linked in more than 400 entries, under the pretext that it was “neither a neutral nor verifiable source;” a decision without precedent in the case of other media and whose suspicious shifting motives illuminate the extremely liberal tolerance shown by the encyclopedia toward other sources (just consider, for example, that the “Arafat” entry entertains serious speculation over whether the Palestinian leader died of AIDS and, as the only sources, cites the digital periodical 20minutos.com and Clarín, the Argentine daily). The protests of many Wikipedia users led to new punitive measures and sanctions by the administrators and so far have failed to lift the veto imposed on Rebelión.org. A brief investigation in respect to the internal mechanisms that led to this “censorship” by Wikipedia, clearly proves that the “blockade” has to do with Rebelión‘s anti-Zionist positions.
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