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Tell Wikimedia Not to Hold 2011 Annual Conference in Israel!

Wikimania, the annual conference of the Wikimedia community, is set to be held in Haifa in August.

Wikimania, the annual conference of the Wikimedia community, is set to be held in Haifa in August. Tell Wikimedia that its mission of cultivating collaboration and a shared culture cannot be furthered in a gathering held in an apartheid state that occupies and oppresses Palestinians!


Wikimania, the annual international conference of the Wikimedia community, which include Wikipedia, is set to be held in Haifa, Israel from 4-7August 2011.

Israel seems a strange choice for the annual conference, which promotes neutrality and subjectivity, collaboration, and a shared culture for participants of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and its sister projects.

The country’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are certainly not in line with Wikimedia’s mission to promote neutral information. The annual gathering has in recent years been held in Germany (2005), USA (2006), Taiwan (2007), Egypt (2008), Argentina (2009) and Poland (2010), and a number of groups are calling on the media community to change this year’s location.

Wikimania believes that Haifa is a good choice for the conference, writing on their page that “Israel is the center of the Hebrew-speaking community but it is also home to other linguistic communities, most particularly Arabic- and Russian-speaking. Haifa is the base of the Israeli Arabic Language Academy and of Arabic publishing houses. We plan Wikimania as an outreach event aiming at increasing the number of Wikimedians and free content adherents among Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian speakers and communities.”

On the information page for the upcoming conference, the organizers also say, “Haifa is also easily accessible to the Palestinian community, which is often left out of conferences such as Wikimania due to special difficulties. This community has a high rate of Internet usage but little first-hand acquaintance with Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.”

The statement, however, is not true. Participation for individuals from Gaza and the West Bank is impossible, unless they receive special permits from the Israeli military to enter Israel in order to attend.

Wikimania must reconsider.

“We, the supporters of Wikipedia project and the believers in its objectives, refuse this decision, and ask Wikimedia Foundation to reconsider, and choose for holding the conference a non-terrorist state, which doesn’t practice apartheid, and which has not been acting outside of international law for all of its existence,” reads a statement from the group US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

The group is encouraging supporters to send a letter to Wikimedia on the Wikimania mailing list sounding rejection of this embarrassing choice, demanding re-consideration.

This article originally appeared at the AIC website.


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