Iran was behind an online campaign last year aimed at fueling “religious war” by amplifying “fear, hatred, and chaos” in Israeli society, an investigation by FakeReporter, an organization established by left-wing activists, among them former Breaking the Silence spokesperson Achiya Schatz, revealed on Thursday.

FakeReporter describes itself as an “Israeli disinformation watchdog group established by researchers, activists, and OSINT [open-source intelligence] experts. Using a combination of professional intelligence experts and an online crowd-sourced research platform, FakeReporter leads the Israeli civil effort against disinformation, CIB (Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior), hate speech, and online incitement.”

According to its investigation, a specialized Iranian unit disguised itself as an Orthodox newsgroup, and focused on a specific target audience of Israeli nationalists and Orthodox Jews in order to sow divisions and encourage hate speech against Arabs and Islam.

The propaganda campaign, which was also confirmed as Iranian by Facebook, was launched in mid-May 2021 as violence between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens was at a boiling point during Operation Guardian of the Walls against Hamas in Gaza.

The Iranians named their platform “Aduk,” or strictly religious.

The group, which presented itself as a “virtual religious union for the religious community,” was active on various online forums.

It also stole the identities of existing users, among them a chareidi citizen from Russia who had passed away four years earlier. The group circulated articles and posts supporting far-right politicians, encouraged protests, and encouraged anti-government and anti-Arab beliefs. One of the profiles gained thousands of followers.

Among the politicians targeted by Aduk was Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who was said to be “completely controlled by [Ra’am party chairman] Mansour Abbas.”

In another case, the network reposted a video of a confrontation in December between Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was armed, and a car parking attendant, adding the comment: “It’s a shame he didn’t give him one in the head.”

“We see this network rise up following the events in May when Israel was at one of the lowest points in its history in the relations between Jewish and Arab citizens,” Schatz, FakeReporter’s chief executive, told the BBC.

FakeReporter said in a statement: “The Iranians have no compunction, encourage violence and hate, and apparently would be happy to see a religious war here. The democratic countries of the world need to cooperate and pressure the tech companies to create a safe on-line space that will protect the public and democracy against malicious entities and elements.”

An Israeli security source quoted by the BBC said the online profiles had similar characteristics to previous Iranian disinformation activity on social media.

Source » hamodia