Jimmy Wales the founder of Wikipedia has disappointed a lot of folks in the last day by appearing to side with Israel over the latest exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza, and by essentially accusing British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of anti-semitism. Here’s the Wales’s tweet that began it all yesterday:
150 rockets fired at Israel by Hamas. @jeremycorbyn silent.
Wales was promptly called to account and defended his tweet:
I think it is fairly obvious what it has to do with Jeremy Corbyn but happy to explain. He feels unfairly portrayed as one who doesn’t think Israel has a right to exist or engage in self-defense against “friends in Hamas” then he may wish to speak clearly against this attack.
In twitter exchanges, Wales said that Corbyn should use the Gaza rockets as an opportunity to immunize himself from the anti-Semitism charge, whether or not it is reasonable!
I am not a politician being accused of antisemitism so it seems less relevant that I condemn every atrocity in the world. For Corbyn this was a moment to show that he isn’t what people are reasonably or not thinking that he is.
He elaborated by suggesting that it is “realistic” to conclude that Corbyn is an anti-Semite:
He had a chance to show he isn’t an antisemite. He didn’t. As a BEST case scenario it shows he is tone deaf. As a realistic scenario…
Wales cites a recent controversy:
But given the current environment when he has caught on film questioning the right of Israel to exist on Iranian new channel… He had an opportunity to show he really is a man of peace.
This is a reference to a recently-publicized clip of Corbyn on Iranian television in 2011 saying that because of “pressure” campaigns from Israel and its friends, the BBC demonstrates a bias toward Israel’s right to exist.
“I think there is a bias towards saying that Israel is a democracy in the Middle East, Israel has a right to exist, Israel has its security concerns,” [Corbyn said]
The Labour Party responded to the resulting controversy:
“Jeremy was arguing that despite the occupation of Palestinian territory and the lack of a Palestinian state, Israeli concerns and perspectives are more likely to appear prominently in news reporting than Palestinian ones.
”Jeremy is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution – a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine.
Wales, 52, was born in the U.S. and built his career here and moved to London in 2012. He founded Wikipedia in 2001 and has said he’s the sole founder, though Wikipedia says he is the co-founder, having done so with “Larry Sanger and others.”
Wales has a long association with Israel. Three years ago he accepted a $1 million prize from an Israeli foundation and defended the country, which he said he’d visited more than ten times.
While Wikipedia strives for objectivity on Israel, Wales is unabashedly pro. The annual Wikimania conference, hosted by the nonprofit that runs Wikipedia, was held in the northern Israeli city of Haifa in 2011, and Wales appeared at the Israeli Presidential Conference that year.
Ahead of the Haifa conference, Wales defended Israel in a Facebook exchange with a pro-Palestinian activist, Joey Ayoub, that Ayoub subsequently published. Responding to Ayoub’s accusations of Israeli apartheid, Wales wrote, “How about those rockets? Complaining any about those?” …
“I’m a strong supporter of Israel, so I don’t listen to those critics,” Wales told JTA.
Wales said he backs Israel for “all of the standard reasons — the support for freedom of speech is very important to me, the rights of women, proper democracy. You can support all those things while still having criticism of actions and policies that aren’t good.”
Ofer Neiman has responded to the latest rockets tweet:
Jimmy Wales, I’m an Israeli citizen. You are consistently silent (no, make that supportive of) an Israeli
#apartheid regime which has killed thousands of Palestinian children. Oh, your hypocrisy.
…the root problem is a murderous Israeli siege on an impoverished open-air prison inhabited mostly by Palestinian refugees of Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing.
Jimmy Wales, how can you be so oblivious to the underlying reality of occupation and siege? Here’s some useful information from an Israeli woman living near Gaza:
Dave Berkeley, an eco socialist responds:
That is the most depressing tweet I’ve seen for a long time. Wikipedia is one of the great achievements of our age. I didn’t realise Wales was like this. Time to fork wikipedia.
Update: Wales responds to this story:
This story claims something false and deeply offensive to me. It claims in the headline “Wikipedia founder Wales sides with Israel against Gaza” which is completely false. It goes on to say “Jimmy Wales the founder of Wikipedia has disappointed a lot of folks in the last day by siding with Israel over the latest exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza” which is completely false.
I did not say anything at all about the Israeli airstrikes in response to the rockets, but for the record, I did not and do not support them.
I know it is very difficult for people to think clearly with all the noise of the world today, but it is entirely possible to be genuinely opposed to the terrorist organization and terrorist tacts of Hamas without endorsing everything that Israel does. Try to be more precise in the future.
I expect to see the story retracted and an apology issued.
There are other significant errors, such as saying that I accepted a $1 million prize “from Israel”. It was from a private foundation not associated in any way with the government of Israel.
[P.S. I’ve changed the characterization of Wales’s prize. As for Wales taking sides, we’ve changed our original to say that he “appears to side with Israel,” given his failure to mention any Israeli strikes in his tweets, just Hamas rockets.– Weiss].
Thanks to Ofer Neiman and Dave Reed.