WaPo: Israel Earmarks Millions to Fight Boycotters Online

TEL AVIV — Israel is going on the offensive to combat the boycott Israel movement, the Washington Post reported.

The Israeli government recently earmarked close to $26 million to fight global attempts at delegitimizing the Jewish state’s right to exist.

Most of the funds are intended for use by tech and cyber companies to gather intelligence on activist groups and thwart their efforts.

“I want to create a community of fighters,” said Sima Vaknin-Gil, the director general of Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.

According to the Post, the initiatives are mostly covert and involve former members of the Mossad.

A world leader in cyber technology, Israel is believed to have been behind some of the most sophisticated recent cyber-attacks, including the Stuxnet virus that aimed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The initiatives aren’t all defensive, however. One of the campaigns will “flood the Internet” with positive content about Israel.

Anything that is unethical or illegal will not be funded by the ministry.

According to the founder of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Omar Barghouti, “quite a few web pages” that BDS websites linked to have mysteriously disappeared from the Internet.

“We assume Israel’s cyber sabotage is ongoing, but we are quite pleased that its detrimental impact on the global BDS movement has been dismal so far,” he said.

Many of the activists behind anti-Israeli campaigns on social media are tech-savvy, second- and third-generation Muslims in Europe and the U.S. They often take issue with the West at large and drive online campaigns against European and U.S. governments, according to Elad Ratson from Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

One of their tactics, he said, was creating code that blasts thousands of messages from different social media accounts, making it look like many people share their hatred of Israel and the West.

Ratson said Facebook and other social media networks are finally starting to close user accounts that post messages inciting violence. Twitter has closed more than 125,000 accounts that were “threatening or promoting terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS,” the Islamic State group.

But Ratson adds that, as a result, online Islamist activists are migrating to “Darknet” sites.

Israeli companies are building algorithms to limit and contain the proliferation of incitement on the “Darknet.”

Other Israeli companies work on forensic intelligence gathering, such as detecting digital or semantic signatures buried in activists’ coding so they can track and restrict their online activity.

“Delegitimizers are engaged in a Disneyland of hate,” Igal Ram of the non-profit Firewall Israel said. His organization teaches activists how to track BDS online. “We want to act against the people who run the Disneyland … and the useful idiots who help.”

Inspiration, an Israeli intelligence analysis company founded by former military intelligence officers, recently launched a technological initiative that aims to dismantle the infrastructure of groups driving incitement and anti-Semitism against Israel.

“It’s no different than an operation, which you sometimes read about in the newspaper, in Syria or Lebanon,” Ronen Cohen, one of the founders, said. “It’s the kind of thing that, if you want to do it in the future … you can’t work in the open.”

 


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