Feb 3, 2022

Iran accused of sowing Israel discontent with fake Jewish Facebook group

A suspected Iranian disinformation unit ran an elaborate network on Facebook targeting nationalist and ultra-religious Jews in Israel in an attempt to stoke division and inflame tensions with Palestinians, according to research shared exclusively with the BBC.The alleged foreign interference campaign ran across multiple social media platforms posing as an ultra-Orthodox Jewish news group supportive of extreme right-wing groups. The group repeatedly backed an ultra-nationalist Israeli MP, Itamar Ben Gvir, a follower of an outlawed, racist movement which called for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel. A retweeted call by Mr Ben Gvir for "Targeted killings" of Arab Israeli "Inciters" in towns that witnessed a flare-up of sectarian violence last May.Reposting pictures falsely suggesting Israel's coalition was controlled by Muslims due to the inclusion of an Islamist party in government. Some young ultra-Orthodox Israelis may be more vulnerable to foreign interference due to low "Digital literacy", suggests Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank, who says many more are now experiencing the internet for the first time. Erez Kreimer, former head of the cyber division at Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency, describes the "Aduk" network as "Unprofessional but efficient", adding that Iran sees Israel as "a prime target in its cyber efforts".

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