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Israelis, Palestinians Expand Mideast Debate to Wikipedia

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, August 31 2010

Supporters of both sides in the Mideast peace talks unfolding in Washington this week are taking their case to the Internet, hoping to bolster their case with the savvy wielding of today's social media tools.

After the Israeli Yesha Council announced, for example, that they'd be holding Wikipedia-editing workshops and offering a prize for the "most outstanding Zionist editor" (grand prize: a hot-air balloon trip over Israel), the Association of Palestinian Journalists responded by calling on Palestinian civil society to get busy editing relevant Wikipedia entries to be more pro-Palestinian, reports Ha'aretz.

And then there's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, who opened up YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter accounts in preparation for this weeks meetings, mediated by American officials. In a statement, Netanyahu said, "social media channels are more vital than ever for Israel's public diplomacy efforts, for administrative transparency and for providing citizens with updated information."

The statement goes on to say that "Prime Minister Netanyahu has directed that these media be used during his upcoming trip to Washington in order to pass along updates and current information."

This might mark an increase in the attention paid to social media in the Mideast situation, but it's not a completely new development. Israel has been fairly active in taking their case to the Internet, with the consulate in New York, Israel Defense Forces, and others actively taking to Twitter and more. And in the conflict in May aboard the ship Mavi Marmara, you might remember, both pushed out video online in an attempt to justify their actions.