Readers should feel free to submit your own questions in the comments section below, as well as boldly add more background context or notable AfD examples.
The 2023 Israel–Hamas war was the 27th most visited article of 2023. It is not surprising that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict garners a lot of interest from editors of various political persuasions and worldviews. Unlike other topics however, there isn't one but two different WikiProjects principally responsible for maintaining coverage.
This report touches upon the editorial processes, challenges and differences behind the WikiProjects WP:Israel and WP:Palestine in covering the most politically contentious content on English Wikipedia. Despite many editors being active in topics covered by both projects, it appears the vast majority of editors don't have a strong identification with either project.
WP:Israel was founded in September 2006; two months later, it was followed by WP:Palestine. Notably at the time, both projects explicitly stated that their scope excluded the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Internally, a lot has changed on Wikipedia since then. In November 2015, the Arbitration Committee restricted editing to users with extended-confirmed status in its ruling WP:ARBPIA3#500/30 — and in 2019, the one-revert rule was implemented to minimize edit warring. More general guidelines around WP:CONTENTIOUS, WP:BRD, and WP:DUE apply as well. It's a long way from the early days of Wikipedia.
From the River to AfD
Everything from content disputes, to casting of aspersions, to debates about image-selection choices can lead to a heated atmosphere. Even seemingly-mundane things like selecting the appropriate title to describe geographic areas can be major points of contention. This specific example is partly explained because the politics of toponymy lends credence to certain historical narratives, e.g. the Hebraization of Palestinian place names. This political tradition occurs within Wikipedia disputes most iconically in the form of deletion debates at Articles for Deletion.
One of the earliest AfD discussions (back then known as Votes for Deletion) was for Occupation of Palestine, in early September 2004, and concluded after a whopping 120 kilobytes worth of discussion. A revamped version was created on 14 September 2004. Between 2006 and 2008, the article Allegations of Israeli apartheid was nominated for deletion ten times, until it was redirected to its current target Israel and apartheid. Perhaps the eleventh attempt will make a more compelling case. While the arguments raised in the AfD resemble some of the talk page discussions today, the end results are fortunately much more stable and mature today.
Statistics for the mentioned AfDs was found via SQL query: Quarry 79511 (courtesy of JPxG).
Are you affiliated with either WP:Israel, WP:Palestine or both? How did you decide which project to affiliate with?
- Abo Yemen: Nope. But if I had to join one of them, it is going to be WP:Palestine as there is a shortage of Palestinian and in general, Arab-related viewpoints in these types of topics (that is what most Arabs think is the issue with English Wikipedia and why they think it is unreliable).
- Coretheapple: No, it never occurred to me. I might join both.
- Alaexis: I watch both projects' talk pages but I am not formally affiliated with either one.
What is your favorite relevant example of collaboration that neutrally weaves and identifies different viewpoints?
It is challenging for many to edit without WP:BIAS. How do you ensure your editing complies with Wikipedia:Five Pillars?
- Abo Yemen: It is very easy for editors, especially new editors, to include political bias in these types of articles. Assuming good faith is the easiest way to make sure that my editing complies with the five pillars.
- Coretheapple: I think the most important thing is to have balance. Don't make editing Israel/Palestine (I/P) your entire "editing career." Do other stuff. Take breaks. If you edit only I/P articles you become, de facto, a single-purpose account (SPA). If you have no other interests, if you are editing purely because you want to "fix" the articles on the Gaza conflict and I/P generally, there is a good chance that you are too emotionally involved to contribute constructively, whether you intend to be constructive or not. And when I say "other interests" I mean real interests, not stuff you do so that you don't look like an SPA. Ideally editors in this area should not be editing I/P as their primary subject area, SPA or not.
- Alaexis: No one is unbiased and recognising your own biases is important. Also, I think that the beauty of a collaborative project like Wikipedia is that different editors have different biases, but as long as they are following other policies, such as assuming good faith, being civil and using reliable sources, the outcome is often quite good.
What advice would you give to editors to help them keep their WP:COOL and avoid engaging in edit wars or violating the other stringent requirements listed at WP:ARBPIA?
- Abo Yemen: ASSUME. GOOD. FAITH.
- Coretheapple: See my response above. Also try not to get involved in endless, circular arguments. Remember that you are not obliged to respond to every single remark addressed to you in a talk page discussion. If you believe that the articles are a subject of improper editor behavior or perhaps skewed by systemic bias, the talk pages of the articles are not a good place to give vent to your feelings.
- Alaexis: What I would add is understanding the limitations of Wikipedia, as they say, the "serenity to accept what they cannot help". Our sources have biases (also in terms of how much coverage this conflict gets compared to other ones) so at times it can feel completely unfair, but then you can either work within these limits or try to bend the rules - and the latter usually doesn't end well.
- ScottishFinnishRadish: The advice given above is pretty good. I would add that a willingness to step away from an article, or the topic as whole, if you find yourself losing your cool is an excellent trait.
Admins are not supposed to be WP:INVOLVED. What makes an admin well suited to volunteer in this area?
Skill sets include WP:BEHAVIOUR, stopping WP:Harassment, WP:Socking, WP:1RR and also understanding complex content disputes.
- Coretheapple: Not an admin, but my two cents is that I would emphasize that knowledge of the topic area is completely unnecessary, and may even be a detriment if it means forming opinions and points of view. Please help the administrators who are there now.
- ScottishFinnishRadish: I think the most important things that make an admin well-suited is not being involved, or having strong views on the conflict, and a willingness to spend dozens of hours reading hundreds of thousands of words. For the most part, an administrator should not be getting involved in complex content disputes. The way administration works is that, as soon as you find yourself with a strong opinion on one of those content disputes, you should recuse. While I'm familiar with the current conflict and the history, I don't follow the coverage very closely, and don't feel strongly about it aside from it being a horrible tragedy for all those involved.I try to focus my efforts on reducing the overall battleground atmosphere, as well as clearing as much of the chaff and obvious WP:NOTHERE editors as I can. My belief is that if our processes are going to work the atmosphere has to be as calm as possible in such a contentious topic. I do spot-check sources being used from time to time, but only for the most obvious issues. Poor interpretation of sources is not the same as misrepresentation and source reliability is the province of the community, not an administrator.
The premise of Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Do you see the WP:ARBPIA3#500/30 restrictions being compatible with that vision?
- Coretheapple: Not only compatible but essential. Without them the I/P articles would be even worse than they currently are. And that's pretty bad.
- User:Alaexis: I can't see it working without some kind of mechanism limiting the activity of users who are not here to build an encyclopaedia. Without such mechanism, they would dominate the articles about controversial current events, so it's either instituting editing restrictions or not covering such events.
- ScottishFinnishRadish: Not everyone can edit every part of the encyclopedia. That is just how the cookie has crumbled. Disruption in already incredibly tense discussions, editors who are WP:NOTHERE, and editors who are unfamiliar with our WP:PAGS do more harm than good. The bar of 500 edits and 30 days isn't so high as to prevent good faith contributors from taking part and is essential to the functioning of our processes in this topic area.