The internet’s open-source, user-edited encyclopedia called ‘Wikipedia’ has been targeted by Israeli governmental and non-governmental partisans since its inception, who have attempted to manipulate its contents to promote a Zionist agenda. This week, Israeli settlers launched a course for right-wing Israelis interested in helping to manipulate the contents of entries on the online encyclopedia.The course, held in Jerusalem, was organized by the Yesha Council of settlements and Israel Sheli, two groups which have been at the forefront of constructing Israeli-only settlements on illegally-seized Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Around 50 right-wingers, including media professionals who live in Israeli settlements, are participating in the course, which aims to teach not only how to manipulate the open structure and style of wikipedia to push their far-right political agenda, but also how to do so undetected, in order to get into the administration of the site.

This is not the first time that right-wing Israelis have been exposed trying to manipulate wikipedia. In 2005, 5 high-level editors were removed from their positions when they were discovered to be working for the right-wing Israeli group CAMERA to “surreptitiously coordinate editing by ideologically like-minded individuals”, an objective which was found to be at odds with the open nature of wikipedia.

Despite the attempts by editors to keep the site, and the internet in general, open to all, private groups with political objectives continue to try to manipulate content.

Naftali Bennett, the director of the Yesha Council, says that he believes the internet must be ‘managed’, telling reporters, ‘The Internet is not managed well enough, and Israel’s position there is appalling. Take for example the Turkish flotilla [to Gaza]. During the first hours we were nowhere to be found. In those first hours millions of people typed the words Gaza-bound flotilla and read what was written on Wikipedia.’

The group plans to award a prize for the “Best Zionist Editor”, who is able to incorporate the most Zionist changes into wikipedia over the next four years. The winner will receive a free trip in a hot-air balloon over Israel.