CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) is the Orwellian name of a pro-Israel media watchdog group that monitors, influences, and seeks to control all mainstream media coverage of issues affecting public opinion on all matters related to Israel. It has some 1000 members and chapters in several major American cities. It’s staffers scour all media coverage of Israel and “engage and directly contact” (some would say “harass”) reporters, editors, producers and publishers concerning what they regard as “distorted or inaccurate coverage” (some would say “the truth”) about Israel. They also offer “factual information” (some would say “propaganda”) to refute those “errors”. The role and influence of the organization is explained in this segment from the excellent documentary “Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land.”
However, the media landscape is now quickly changing in ways that make CAMERA’s tactics less effective. Traditional news organizations are using fewer and fewer journalists and professional editors, and media consumers are increasingly turning to independent websites, blogs, and organizations like Wikipedia for their news and information. This change in how media is produced and consumed might lead some to think that standard pro-Israel narrative that has become the norm in the mainstream media, especially in the US, is about to come undone. But maybe not, for it seems that organizations like CAMERA are now changing their tactics in response to the changing media landscape. A recent article in the Electronic Intifada, based on leaked emails between members of CAMERA, reveals a brazen attempt by that organization to infiltrate Wikipedia precisely in order to slant the complex web of information it contains in a pro-Israel manner.
From the article:
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.
After being exposed, CAMERA’s plan to infiltrate and control Wikipedia was abandoned, at least temporarily. But this story is a useful reminder of the extent to which these pro-Israeli groups are prepared to go to control the narrative on the Middle East conflict and how vigilant everyone else must be in protecting and spreading the truth about this conflict.