Over 60 Jewish groups condemn boycott movement

NEW YORK – Over 60 Jewish organizations worldwide have issued a statement condemning the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement on college campuses.

The statement was published in the “BDS Cookbook,” an extensive resource for students and professionals to combat BDS through positive programming initiatives and coordinated reactive responses.

The statement asserts that academic, cultural and commercial boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel are “counterproductive to the goal of peace, antithetical to freedom of speech, and part of a greater effort to undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their homeland.”

It goes on to distinguish the fine line between criticism and anti-Semitism.

“We recognize and accept that individuals and groups may have legitimate criticism of Israeli policies,” the statement continued. “Criticism becomes anti-Semitism, however, when it demonizes Israel or its leaders, denies Israel the right to defend its citizens or seeks to denigrate Israel’s right to exist.”

Characterizing the BDS movement as “antithetical to principles of academic freedom,” the statement contends that the movement “silences voices from across the Israeli political spectrum,” and espouses extremist rhetoric.

“By pursuing delegitimization campaigns on campus, proponents have provoked deep divisions among students and have created an atmosphere of intolerance and hatred,” the statement reads.

The statement is signed by groups ranging from the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, to the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and the Zionist Organization of America.

“The World Jewish Congress- United States signed the statement against BDS because we believe that BDS measures against Israel are ways to punish, isolate and falsely criminalize Israel by those who wish to malign her with libelous charges,” signatory Betty Ehrenberg told The Post.

“The statement as well is geared towards fighting against BDS on campus, so it is particularly important in helping to set the record straight for students in general who may not know the true story, and in helping to educate Jewish students in particular by providing them with the facts so that they can stand up to anti-Israel actions and sentiments on their campuses.”

Todd Gutnick, spokesperson for the ADL, told the Post: “As the global efforts to utilize various tactics calling into question the legitimacy of Israel as a member of the family of nations continue to percolate, in recent months, some activists behind anti-Israel initiatives have claimed that Jews and Israelis support these campaigns and tactics.

“While criticism of Israeli policies or actions is always acceptable, these efforts cross a line that goes far beyond the boundaries of mere criticism.

“The Anti-Defamation League felt it was important for mainstream American and international Jewish organizations to stand together and make clear that the vast majority of the Jewish community is utterly opposed to boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel.”

By Jordana Horn

http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?ID=213224&R=R1

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Commentary Magazine: Israel Moves to Limit Google Street View Risks

Source: Omri Ceren, Israel Moves to Limit Google Street View Risks, Commentary Magazine, 27/2/2011

My friend Dr. Andre Oboler has an exhaustive article up on the Jerusalem Post site about the potential risks and benefits of Google Street View coming to Israel. The service, as most people know, allows you to take “virtual tours” up and down streets mapped by Google Maps (and Google Maps itself goes way beyond public streets, into zoos, amusement parks, and so on).

The problem, of course, is that terrorists and militias use services like Google Maps and Google Earth to maximize their carnage. The Mumbai terrorists very famously mapped out their attacks beforehand using Google services. Google Earth images of British military bases were found in the homes of Iraqi insurgents. And the Iranian proxies surrounding Israel have been bragging for years that they use Google Earth to set rocket targets.

On the other hand, it’s a losing battle to fight the spread of information, especially when Google gets involved. The deep controversy is about the advance of technology outpacing our legal and ethical coping mechanisms, but that’s not really important for this context. Suffice to say that new communication technologies are being developed and deployed almost recklessly, and certainly in the absence of mass public deliberation. India expressed concerns about Google Maps and Google Earth as early as 2005, those concerns were largely ignored, and then Mumbai happened. Israel is afraid that something similar will occur.

But the Jewish state is small enough that at least some checks can potentially be enacted, and Israeli security services are calling for exactly that. Oboler suggests several obvious measures:

Any permission to proceed with Google Street View should be coupled with both specific and general obligations on Google; for example, an obligation to collect and use data only in a manner consistent with the public interest, and an obligation to respect the rights of individuals. Keeping the data in Israel is the only way to ensure the Israeli courts can order enforcement. … Israel also has a responsibility to act in the Interests of its people and of the Jewish people more generally. … Israel may also request further unrelated guarantees from Google, such as an undertaking to cooperate more fully with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the fight against Antisemitism.

This is a conversation that should be happening in the United States as well. Google and similar companies make billions by quite literally entering and mapping public spaces and then selling ads related to what they organize. They don’t really owe anyone anything if they’re only helping convey information, but new technologies do introduce new risks, and inevitably Google Maps will be exploited for a domestic terrorist attacks. It’s something that should be talked about more, and more explicitly and more publicly.

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Discover Magazine: Google Street View Runs Into Controversies

Source: Patrick Morgan, Google Street View Runs Into Controversies in Switzerland and Israel, Discover Magazine, February 24th, 2011

Last year, Google raised the ire of many when it confessed that its city-mapping Street View vehicles unintentionally gathered unencrypted Wi-Fi data as they rolled past people’s abodes. To fix its image and to fend off lawsuits, the company soon tightened its privacy policies and ensured that its Street View cars stopped collecting that information. But the controversies just won’t stop. Google is now trying to convince privacy-conscious Swiss officials to drop the country’s tight Street View restrictions, while security-conscious Israeli officials are concerned that the technology will help terrorists.

Twenty-seven countries have been partially mapped via Street View, a Google product that provides 360-degree panoramic views from ground level. The company creates these images by sending groups of camera-studded vehicles to various parts of the world to snap pictures as they drive.

Although Switzerland is home to one of Google’s largest offices outside the United States, the country has strict privacy laws that have prevented Google from loading new Street View images of Switzerland for the past year. On Thursday, Google petitioned a Swiss court to lift this ban. The search engine company told Switzerland’s Federal Administrative Court that its technology automatically conceals the identity of faces and license plates, and that it is no different from rival services.

But Hanspeter Thuer, Switzerland’s data protection commissioner, doesn’t believe Google: He showed several examples of images in which the people were readily identifiable.

“I don’t want a ban of Google Street View,” Thuer told the court. “But in the present form Google Street View breaches basic principles of privacy.” … Thuer wants Google to guarantee that all faces and car plates are blurred — if necessary by checking all pictures manually. He also demanded that private gardens and sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals and women’s shelters be obscured. Google lawyers countered that the company is continually improving its Street View technology and that the images are too banal, and of too poor quality, to be used to identify individuals whose privacy might be breached. [AP]

While the Swiss court is still thinking the matter over, Google is still taking pictures. The company wants to add the ski slopes around Switzerland’s Matterhorn mountain in its Street View maps, and recently sent out a camera-equipped snowmobile.

Street View’s constant expansion is also set to include Israel, where some government officials hope the online maps will promote tourism. However, other officials worry that the photographs of streets and buildings would aid Palestinian militants, who have already used Google Earth to identify rocket targets.

“We already have problems with Google Earth, which exposes all kinds of facilities,” retired Lt. Col. Mordechai Kedar told the Associated Press. The 25-year veteran of Israeli intelligence said that Street View could facilitate terrorist attacks. [Los Angeles Times]

On Monday the Israeli Cabinet discussed the issues surrounding Street View, and ultimately decided to start working with Google on how the service could be safely introduced to the country. Experts say it’s likely that Street View will be prohibited from posting photographs of particularly sensitive locations, like government offices and power stations. And some Israelis think the Israeli government shouldn’t make the decision for the entire country, and argue that communities should be given a choice on whether to use Street View.

Andre Oboler, director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia, wrote in a blog post on the Jerusalem Post website that Street View could boost tourism in public places of historical, cultural and religious interest…. “Gated communities, kibbutzim and villages for new immigrants in particular should have a right to keep out the Street View car, or to invite it in. The default should be exclusion until the local community give permission,” Oboler wrote. [Los Angeles Times]

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In Israel Google Street View needs serious thought

Source: Andre Oboler, In Israel Google Street View needs serious thought, Jerusalem Post Blogs, Feb 20, 2011

Google would like to launch Street View in Israel. The web based application adds an extra level of depth to Google Maps. People can zoom in and see what the street actually looks like to passersby. Google uses roving vehicles that drive down the street taking millions of digital photographs to collect the necessary data. Street view pieces these together along with controls that allow users to step down the street, or turn their view to different angles. Want the red house with the blue door? Google street view has it covered.

Street view also comes with draw backs in the areas of privacy and security. Cars, people, and security measures are all captured. Street view is like having a team of surveillance personal who can immediately send you photographs of any location. The real difference is that they pull these photographs from their archive rather than taking them live. Another difference is that under pressure from privacy regulators, Google added technology to blur faces, license plates and other details identifying people and companies who have been photographed.

Photography has posed problems for Israel before. Three years ago I wrote “Let’s not give away all out secrets on the web.” The issue then was Facebook use by IDF soldiers who were taking pictures on base and in the field. These photographs had the potential to compromise security, but I urged the IDF not to go overboard. Instead, I suggested the flow of information could be managed using existing structures. That approach is not available here as Google itself takes the images.

Street view could be very useful in public spaces, parks, museums, hotels and places of historical, cultural, and religious interest. It could significantly help tourism. A street view of the old city in particular could prove very popular. However, concerns about security in a small number of places, and about privacy in a far larger set of localities, suggest blanket permission would be unwise. Given its connection to Google maps, an edge to edge coverage is not needed. Google could easily provide street view only in front of designated locations of interest where permission has been specifically granted and if needed, where a risk assessment has already taken place.

Israel has specific needs, but the wider international concerns with street view should also be considered. These start with the ability of people to be easily removed. The original requirements were bordering on the comical, but they have improved. We still need to ask if they have improved enough, and whether Google can promise swift compliance with removal requests.

Gated communities, kibbutzim, and villages for new immigrants in particular should have a right to keep out the street view car, or to invite it in. The default should be exclusion until the local community give permission. This need is not unique to Israel, but it may have special implications. In the UK village of Broughton an angry crowd surrounded the street view car preventing its work. A spate of burglaries had residents concerned that appearing on Google Street View could attract further problem. (The article about this incident in The Sunday Times may of course have led to the same result, unless you assume thieves don’t read The Sunday Times).

Google street view cars have also been found collecting and storing data from open wireless networks in addition to taking pictures. This data was not just related to the location of open (non password protected) wireless networks, but also included payload data. In Ireland Google was forced to delete this data. What data could be collected in Israel, and how might this harm Israel? Both public diplomacy and security considerations need to be considered. How might this data be used against Israel’s interests, particularly if it is stored in the US and subject to US government control rather than Israeli control? Keeping the data solely in Israel would be a significant development.

The basic disconnect between our assumption of privacy and the concept of street view should also be considered. Segments of the online world have found the irony of stalking the Google Street View car irresistible. Bonus points apply if you can catch Google breaking the law. Of courseGoogle will also catch you catching Google breaking the law. Beneath the fun and games, discussion in the tech savvy online community are ripe with concerns about street view, Google’s potential use of the data, and the wider implications of online monitoring that is publically available. These ideas also need consideration, though culturally Israelis may be less concerned about privacy and surveillance, provided it is for a good cause and not simply a company’s profits. Street view may also have positive benefits for Israel’s security services (at the expense of civil liberties), the balance in Israel may be different to elsewhere in the world.

Privacy officials in Israel as well as Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom have already raised concerns about Google Street View and Google Buzz. They have criticized the roll out of technology before full consideration and protections have been put in place for the public. Yoram Hacohen, head of the Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority signed the letter on behalf of Israel. When the new task force, headed by Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor meets, they may want to consultation with Mr Hacohen and see what role his authority could play in any future arrangements and what additional powers they may require. Some regulators overseas already have the ability to impose significant fines for privacy breaches.

Whatever issues the task force considers, they will not be an exhaustive list of the impact Street View could have on the lives of Israelis. Any permission to proceed with Google Street View should be coupled with both specific and general obligations on Google; for example, an obligation to collect and use data only in a manner consistent with the public interest, and an obligation to respect the rights of individuals. Keeping the data in Israel is the only way to ensure the Israeli courts can order enforcement. This may be a good first step.

Israel also has a responsibility to act in the Interests of its people and of the Jewish people more generally. In light of that, Israel may also request further unrelated guarantees from Google, such as an undertaking to cooperate more fully with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the fight against Antisemitism. The Online Antisemitism Working Group of the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism, of which I am co-chair, came up with many recommendations for service providers like Google. Now might be the time to open that dialogue with Google directly. Google has been far better than Facebook when it comes to respecting the rights of democratic states, but that doesn’t Israel can’t negotiate and ensure its issues are given a higher priority by the internet giant as part of any new expansion.

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CIE contributes to global efforts against BDS

The StopBDS.com website created by the Community Internet Engagement Project for a group of academics and students concerned about the misrepresentations made by the BDS movement, has been mentioned in Jerusalem Post as one of the major achievements in the stuggle against the delgitimizers of Israel in 2010.

BDS 2010: Fighting back

Jon Haber, Jerusalem Post, 12 Dec 2010
Online at: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=199028

Efforts to counter the boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign against Israel have been considerable this year.
It’s been 10 years since anti-Israel activists meeting at the now-notorious Durban I conference kicked off their campaign to “brand” Israel as an “apartheid state” through a program of boycott, divestment and sanctions. As this project enters its second decade, however, the big news surrounds not BDS itself, but the fight against it.

Until recently, the fight against BDS projects has largely been ad hoc, with informal coalitions emerging to fight attempts to get boycott or divestment resolutions passed at institutions such as Harvard and Berkeley, the Presbyterian and Methodist churches, or US cities such as Somerville, Massachusetts and Seattle, Washington.

RELATED:
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While the organized Jewish community played a part in these battles, the key role in successful efforts was played primarily by members of these institutions, who rejected efforts by boycotters to import the Arab-Israeli conflict into their organizations.

This year marked the first time substantial online resources became available to rival the considerable lead BDS activists have enjoyed on the Internet. A group of academics and students put together “The BDS Cookbook” (www.stopbds.com) featuring a wealth of resources for students and others dealing with boycott and divestment activities in their communities.

A new BDSIsrael site (www.bdsisrael.com) builds on successful counter-boycott programs (called Buycotts) which have become widely popular in North America.

StandWithUs (www.standwithus.com/divestment) provides help and support to those fighting divestment campaigns on campuses and beyond. And my own Divest This blog (www.divestthis.com) recently released a new manual providing practical advice on fighting BDS.

BEYOND THESE grassroots efforts, at the start of the year the Jewish Council for Public Affairs unanimously passed a resolution denouncing boycott, divestment and sanctions activities – reflecting a rare consensus among mainstream Jewish organizations regarding what falls outside the realm of legitimate criticism of the Jewish state. This consensus was backed by action when the Jewish Federations of North America, in partnership with JCPA, announced plans to create a new Israel Action Network that will focus on the broader efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state (of which BDS is just a part).

Considering the fact that boycott and divestment has enjoyed virtually no successes (economic growth and investment in the Jewish state have both exploded during the very decade in which BDS has perpetually claimed to be on the march), it is worth considering why this has become such a mainstream issue over the past 12 months.

One explanation is emotional. Given the history of anti-Jewish boycotts, it should come as no surprise that the reaction to a campaign targeting Jewish individuals and organizations would be both negative and visceral.

While BDS activists routinely break into song and dance claiming that their efforts are only directed at “the occupation,” the nearly infinite elasticity of that term contradicts claims of innocence regarding anti-Jewish bias. To cite just one example, the academic boycott of Israeli universities pushed particularly hard in the UK claims to target only Israeli institutions and not individuals. But when such boycotts get put into practice, it has been actual Israelis (although just the Jewish ones) who have had their papers rejected or placements denied at graduate programs.

A second explanation of the new-found enthusiasm for standing up to BDS is based on experience earlier in the decade, when divestment campaigns caught Jewish organizations largely off-guard. Given how even a temporary BDS victory (such as support for divestment by the Presbyterian Church between 2004 and 2006) can “anchor” other boycott and divestment projects for years, recent emphasis on vigilance can be seen as a sensible desire to drive instead of be driven by events.

In addition to the wreckage boycott and divestment fights tend to leave in their wake within civic organizations, these battles also tend to distort debate, creating an environment in which Israel’s guilt is assumed; only the question of punishment is deemed worthy of discussion. So getting ahead of the BDS curve also provides a way for Israel’s supporters to not cede the language of debate to those trying to brand Israel an “apartheid state.”

This last point is particularly important, given that BDS is simply one part of a broader effort to question Israel’s legitimacy as a state or portray any effort the country takes on its own behalf (whether militarily, politically, diplomatically or even culturally) as illegal, abnormal or otherwise illegitimate.

Efforts to have Israeli political or military leaders arrested if they travel abroad and other forms of “lawfare,” or ongoing efforts to limit Israel’s entry or role in international organizations are all part of this broader campaign to portray it as “beyond the pale.”

WITHIN THE context of this broader campaign, BDS activists are not the small voices in the wilderness they claim to be, but are actually allied with wealthy and powerful states that dominate organizations like the UN.

Given how little influence even the best-organized “civilian” political groups can have over the decisions of state actors and international bodies, the fight against BDS (which targets civic organizations such as schools and churches by trying to get the apartheid message to come out of the mouth of a well-known institution) turns out to be the one area where Israel’s supporters can have an impact.

And the impact of exposing the unpopularity of calls to boycott or divest from Israel and defeating BDS activities again and again helps to expose (and delegitimize) the entire program to delegitimize the Jewish state.

The writer is a Boston-based activist who runs the antidivestment website www.divestthis.com and has recently published Divest This! A Practical Guide to Ensuring the BDS Program’s Second Decade of Defeat.

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Wikipedia Manipulation: Anti-Israel Activists using Criticism Elimination

A new paper by Andre Oboler (CIE’s Director), along with Prof Gerald Steinberg (head of NGO Monitor) and Rephael Stern has been published by the Journal of Information Technology and Politics. The full length academic article, “The Framing of Political NGOs in Wikipedia through Criticism Elimination”, introduces the concept of criticism elimination, a type of information removal that has been used by anti-Israel activists to control the message and frame issues in Wikipedia articles.

Criticism elimination facilitates a new form of gatekeeping, and the article demonstrates how this was systematically done to remove criticism of NGOs actions in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The article also categorizes the editors responsible for the behavior into four types. Mitigation approaches to criticism elimination are also suggested.

Background

  • Wikipedia’s approach has, however, raised concerns (Lichtenstein, 2008) that are traditionally reserved for the mass media. For instance, the media has long acted as a gatekeeper, selecting and framing issues in what was perceived to be the public interest (Williams & Delli Carpini, 2004). The management of public discourse through framing raises significant political implications…
  • The presence of politically motivated framing (rather than the expected NPOV), as well as gatekeepers, sanctioned or de facto, has serious implications for the understanding of content production in Wikipedia.
  • The problem in subjective areas is that Wikipedia articles can be dominated. Sunstein (2006) notes that the last editor “can appoint himself as sovereign” (p. 158) destroying, rather than aggregating, content. Stacy Schiff (2006), writing in The New Yorker, noted that more frequent editors generally get their way. Articles or entire topic areas can be framed with a particular view by users with knowledge, determination, and power within the system.
  • By dominating articles and topic areas, Wikipedia can be used as a platform for political propaganda. Paul Murphy (2008) called Wikipedia “an early and illustrative warning of the collapse from informed social networking to propaganda.” He explained that “sub-groups of the general community … are now using Wikipedia as a marketing tool for their viewpoints.” He called it “fundamentally inappropriate in a site nominally dedicated to the provision of objective information.” He raises a concern that those with an agenda will be more dedicated to getting their point across than casual users, thereby allowing them to dominate.
  • Framing can occur though gatekeeping (Lewin, 1947), a theory of how items are “selected” or “rejected.” … [it] is “the process by which selections are made in media work, especially decisions whether or not to admit a particular news story to pass through the ‘gates’ of a news medium” (McQuail, 1994, p. 213). Social responsibility theory (Peterson, 1956) saw the public as passive and easily manipulated and the media as “information gatekeepers who represented the public’s interest” (Williams & Delli Carpini, 2004, p. 63).
  • Wikipedia’s dominance raises concerns about its own effect, or that of dominant editors, in framing information and acting as gatekeepers….  In Wikipedia, a culture (Schiff, 2006) with power structures, guidelines, and policies has developed to prevent this. These policies include NPOV, which states that articles should be “written from a neutral point of view, representing significant views fairly, proportionately, and without bias” (Wikipedia, 2008c)… In practice, however, the top 1 percent of posters jointly contribute about half of Wikipedia’s edits (Wilson, 2008). The power of the elite gives them a default gatekeeping role. Their strength in authority, time commitment, and knowledge of Wikipedia can easily overwhelm, and thus eliminate, the contributions of others.

The experiment

We use an in vivo experiment in the form of an observational study with predefined variables and multiple “sites” (articles in this case), making this a field study as per Basili’s (1996) classification scheme for experimentation in software engineering. As Wikipedia records all interactions within the system, we use content analysis on stored data as a form of observation.

Metrics:

  • 16 NGO articles were used in this study, all edits to these articles were reviewed
  • 627 edits relating to criticism were extracted
  • Of the 16 NGO articles, nine were included in WikiProject Palestine (and their criticism sections were heavily revised to eliminate criticis

Methodology:

We reviewed how the edits changed the nature of the article, and specifically whether they removed relevant sourced information. We reviewed the over all impact on the article, and the over all editing behavior of the editors found doing such criticism elimination. We did this both for numeric results and for a more in-depth qualitative review.

Summary of Results

Four of the NGO entries examined (including the UK-based charity Christian Aid and the Israeli NGO Hamoked) had sourced criticism sections completely or almost entirely deleted. In both cases, all discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was removed (twice in the case of Christian Aid).

In total, 89 editors removed criticism, and 61 of these used registered user names. There are four prominent users removing criticism from multiple NGOs; 16 users removing criticism multiple times from one or more NGOs, in addition to making revisions in other NGO entries; and 26 users with low-edit counts focused on NGOs.

Qualitative analysis revealed 4 types of users who removed criticism:

A campaigner is a Wikipedia editor working towards a larger goal. He or she edits across a range of NGO articles and other articles. In the NGO articles examined here, campaigners usually removed sourced criticism. Some campaigners are members of WikiProject Palestine. Others appear to edit articles in the project without being members.

An advocate editor is concerned almost entirely with one page or a very limited topic. In the case of our research, the focus would be a particular NGO. One hypothesis is that advocates may be members, supporters, or staff of the NGO. These editors are using Wikipedia for a purpose unrelated to the advancement of the encyclopedia, and instead they remove criticism in order to frame their targets in the best possible light.

The lobbyists are editors who work within a broad scope of articles across Wikipedia, yet focus on only one NGO. They differ from advocates, because they contribute in other places, and from campaigners, because their actions do not appear to be part of a general campaign. These editors may attempt to remove or reduce criticism or set very high standards for the inclusions of criticism. As they become more involved in Wikipedia, their use of Wikipedia’s internal policies and guidelines to achieve their goals becomes more sophisticated.

Casual editors are visitors to Wikipedia who only edit articles on occasion. Spread across many topics, their edits show no unified agenda. Their attention is divided and, very often, thinly spread. These users may remove information that conflicts with their conceptual model on the justification that it is out of place.

Examples of each type of editor and the changes they made can be seen in the full paper.

The paper may be cited as: Andre Oboler, Gerald Steinberg and Rephael Stern, “The Framing of Political NGOs in Wikipedia through Criticism Elimination”, Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Volume 7, Issue 4 October 2010 , pages 284 – 299.

The published, Routledge (Taylor and Francis), have made the article a sample for the Journal. As a result the article is online and may be downloaded or read online for free.

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Iran’s propaganda against Facebook and Twitter

The Iranian regime has been producing propaganda targeting social media Facebook and Twitter. These sites played a significant role in mobilizing opposition forces during the Iranian elections in June 2009. The election result was disputed and the process was fraught with government corruption. When the government chose to respond militarily, this led to riots.

Barbara Lochbihler, Chair of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Iran, said a year later, “since June 2009, when hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Tehran, the Basij militia and other security forces have been harshly cracking down on all opposition forces.” She added there had been “Mock executions, torture, rape, death sentences” and that “the record points to a terrible human rights situation.”

The Iran regime is now not only targeting opposition figures, and using its intelligence agencies to target dissidents abroad, it is now trying to smear social networking itself. It does this by preposterous accusations of Israeli control, American government control and “interviews” with workers who are silhouetted to protect their privacy and then make claims that they worked for Facebook in once case and Twitter in another, and that western intelligence agencies asked them to use the social networking tools so they could gather information on their friends. It also suggests the Mossad is behind these social media platforms. The allegations are so out of touch with the nature and reality of social networking, any one with an account will see straight through them. The are however designed to spread fear, and perhaps will keep new users off the social networking sites.

The Iranian regime started by arresting bloggers, and having agents spread a message that people should not trust Twitter. Over time they have been rounding up, arresting and in some cases killing dissidents who use social media. At the same time they run Press TV, an English language propaganda service masquerading as part of the free press.

Now they are going after the concept of social media itself. They want to put the genie back in the bottle and restrict information flow so that only the official message can get out, a message which like the elections they hope they can control. They aim to do this through fear, and this propaganda video is part of that process.

["allowFullScreen":"true","allowScriptAccess":"always","src":"http://www.youtube.com/v/V9bluTcULG0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3","allowfullscreen":"true"]

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The Gaza “Freedom Flotilla”, its technology and its militants

The social media campaign against Israel is not organic. Nor is it running on a shoe string budget. One major partner in the “Freedom Flotilla Coalition”, the umbrella group behind the current problem, is the “Gaza Freedom Movement”. The Gaza Freedom movement ran a well organised campaign called the Gaza Freedom March in December 2009.

As part of the 2009 Gaza Freedom March, the Gaza Freedom Movement set up 34 official Facebook groups each claiming to be their local branch in a different country. Each group has a logo based on the same theme but with their country’s name on it. Most, but not all the groups, were in the national language of that country. These groups were mostly controlled by Chris Zhora (who created most of them), Dave Kunes, Sarah Mahmoud, and Shauna Sabry.

Far from being grass roots, the campaign was highly organised with all these official groups linked to an official website. In total they had 22,481 members. Some groups worked, other simply allowed them to pretend they had a support base in an additional country. The smallest group was just 39 people 2 days before the March. Since then the Gaza Freedom Movement has become a registered charitable organization in Cyprus.

Fast forward to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. People have discussed how much free publicity they are getting via social media, particularly though their camera mounted on one of the boats. While it may be free to watch, it’s not a no cost campaign. Money has gone into providing a decent internet connection, presumably by satellite, and plenty of bandwidth for that camera. The websites did not happen accidently, there are two staff listed as being involved. They are described as staff, not volunteers, so we can assume they are paid. The boats themselves that create the stunt for spectacle are also essential, and indeed is the aid. None of this comes free.

The real spectacle, however, started with the refusing to take the boat to Ashdod under escort. Israel offered to transfer the goods on the boat to Gaza, by land from Ashdod, under the supervision of the passengers. There is a video of the offer and refusal.

Things then became heated as soldiers tried to board the boat by sliding down a rope from a helicopter. Those on the boat tried to bring the chopped down, then settled for attacking the troops as they landed. The militants (yes, that is the correct work for someone who has a “combative character” and is “aggressive, especially in the service of a cause”), anyway, the militants then used knives, bats, metal pipes, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles to attack the troops. At least one had a rifle. The soldiers were armed with paintball guns, used by Israel to disperse protestors, and handguns they were told were for their own defence and not to be used except in extreme circumstances.

Again we have video clearly showing the soldiers being physically attacked.

After one was knocked unconscious and his handgun seized the troops requested, and received, permission to shoot. They proceeded to shoot at the militants legs where possible. A number were incapacitated in this way. In all seven soldiers were wounded, four moderately (two of these were initially in a critical condition) and three more were lightly wounded. 9 of the militants were killed and other were injured. But what do you expect when you resort to armed conflict against the military? The real cost here was the lives of those militants. Lives wasted to buy airtime on television to demonize Israel. This was not a cheap campaign.

This is not a social media war, this is a real war in which some are trying, through social media, to remove Israel’s right to self defense. This is not just by denying Israel had the right to stop boats from breaking it’s blockade of Gaza (which in any case still lets in aid through the proper channels by land), but by denying young Israelis doing their national service the right the defend themselves when being bashed with bats, clubs, metal pipes and knives. The social media battle here is about truth. With the blogosphere, twitter and facebook show people Israel’s offer of safe passage for the aid to Gaza? Will they show people how the soldiers were attacked? Will they show how Israel went into the boats to redirect them, rather than taking a simpler path and just blowing them up (as some other counties might have done) or arresting them as spies as other countries have done in recent years. Will social media be a tool of truth or a tool of propaganda? We’ll wait and see.

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Israel Bans the IPad

Israel has apparently banned the IPad from being imported into the country and is currently confiscating them at the airport.

There seems to be some technical confusion as the reason for the ban related to the iPad’s broadcast strength which Israeli officials say is too high for European and Israel standards, even though it is ok in the USA.

The problem with this argument is that apparently the broadcast power is the same or less than in the newer iPhone – which are readily available in Israel. This one looks like it needs some more research.

In an article on the topic in the Jewish Week, CIE’s director Dr Andre Oboler stated “If the claims are true and the device is no different from those already sold in Israel, approval should be fast-tracked. If the device has the potential to interfere with the communications of the security services, that is another matter entirely, but one that needs addressing in a general manner rather than by attaching special conditions to the iPad.” Dr Oboler also noted the IEEE, the professional engineering body who create the standards, have over 1,300 member in Israel so getting independent verification should not be too difficult.

Read the full article by Sharon Udasin in the New York Jewish Week, April 20, 2010: Israel Versus iPad

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Vote Israel Vs. Palestine

This hoax takes the form of an e-mail claiming CNN is hosting an online poll on whether readers support Israel or Palestine. The poll is not at the CNN site but rather at israel-vs-palestine dot com. This is a hoax and has no relationship with CNN or another other reputable news media.

What does it aim to achieve?

The people running this site get advertising revenue each time people visit the page. This is due to “impressions” on their advertes. An impression occurs each time a new person looks at the page.

What to do about it

Do not forward this hoax on to others. Reply to the person who sent it to you and direct them to this page.

In general check out our hoax archive or simply google a key phrase from the suspect e-mail. If it is a hoax, chances are someone will have written about it.


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