(JTA) — Wikipedia has banned three editors from working on articles related to Jewish history in Poland during World War II, in a bid to resolve editing disputes and safeguard its credibility.
But the online encyclopedia stopped short of taking more aggressive action in response to allegations of widespread Holocaust distortion on the platform.
The decision, handed down Saturday, concludes more than two months of deliberation by Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee, which acts as Supreme Court over the community of volunteers who edit the website.
The Arbitration Committee had opened an investigation in response to an unprecedented academic study concluding that a group of editors had gamed Wikipedia’s rules to introduce content that absolves Poland of blame for antisemitism and Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, in line with the ultranationalist view prevailing in the country.
In keeping with Wikipedia’s accountability framework and to the dismay of the study’s authors, the committee didn’t take a position on the underlying dispute over Polish antisemitism and complicity with the Nazis. The committee instead concluded that then editors did not adhere to the community’s code of conduct.
The committee’s conclusion “entirely missed the mark,” said Shira Klein, a history professor at Chapman University whose study, written with University of Ottawa historian Jan Grabowski, triggered the investigation.
Klein said that by avoiding the issue of historical truth and focusing on civility, Wikipedia sent a clear message: “There’s no problem with falsifying the past; just be nice about it.”
The ruling comes amid a flare-up of attention to Poland’s insistence on a narrative of innocence during its occupation by Nazi Germany, thanks to comments made by Israeli pop star Noa Kirel following her third-place finish in the Eurovision song contest.
Kirel told Israeli media that she considered it a “victory” to have been awarded the maximum number of votes by Poland given that much of her family on her father’s side had been murdered in Auschwitz. Her comments proved explosive in Poland, where officials and media figures argued that Poland was not to blame for what happened to her family and that Polish people suffered much the same as Jewish victims of the Nazi regime.
Those ideas are baked into Polish law, which since 2018 has criminalized accusing Poland of complicity with the Nazi regime. Klein and Grabowski said they identified a set of Wikipedia editors who are propagating the same ideas on the site.
A majority of the 12 members serving on Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee decided against a complete ban against an editor known as Volunteer Marek, who has been accused of skewing the historical record by pushing a Polish ultranationalist agenda, despite a finding of repeated conduct violations.
Instead, Volunteer Marek, and another editor facing similar allegations, are no longer allowed to edit articles on Jewish-Polish history during World War II. A third editor, who sought to correct the distortions, was also barred from the topic area over uncivil conduct. All three can appeal their bans in a year.
In another measure, the decision creates a higher standard for the reintroduction of fringe sources in articles on the topic after they had been removed by anyone, in the hope of addressing the back-and-forth editing battles that can take place.
For Klein, the problem is not the committee itself, but rather that Wikipedia doesn’t have what she considers an appropriate mechanism to address propaganda efforts. She said consulting professional historians should be part of the solution.
“There is a systemic problem here that goes way beyond the distortion of Holocaust history,” Klein said. “This is the seventh-most viewed site in the world, yet the safeguards Wikipedia has in place for battling disinformation are scarily ineffective. If it’s true for the history of the Holocaust, it is probably true for other cases we have yet to discover. With ChatGPT amplifying Wikipedia on an unprecedented scale, this new failure is all the more worrying.”
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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