The folks at Winter Watch are not naïve. We know foreign agents conduct covert operations online everyday worldwide. In fact, to even mention it anymore almost seems to be somehow passé.
Yet, once in a while, we see something of such gross temerity that it must be flagged and brought to your attention. Such is the case with Act.il. Kudos to investigative reporter Josh Nathan-Kazis at the Jewish news publication The Forward for writing “Shadowy Israeli App Turns American Jews Into Foot Soldiers In Online War,” a story that brings to light an insidious Israeli-intelligence operation launched in the United States in June. We highly recommended reading the article in full.
What is Act.il?
Act.il (Act-il.com in the U.S.) is a mobile app that serves as a platform for uniting, organizing, training and deploying international hasbara.
Through the app, 12,000 pro-Israeli “volunteers” worldwide (but mostly in the U.S.) receive marching orders — or “missions” — from Israeli agents and operatives located at its headquarters in Herzliya, Israel. The app users’ missions are covert, vary widely in scope and include both online and offline tactics.
For completing missions, Act.il’s volunteer users get points and badges. Top-ranked users complete five or six missions a day, The Forward reports, and win prizes, receive a congratulatory letter from the Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs or a doll of Israel’s founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
“But not everyone on the app was a mere volunteer,” The Intercept reports. A security flaw in the app that was exploited shortly after its launch exposed the email addresses of all of its registered users. A review of the email addresses by The Intercept revealed that dozens of the Act.il’s earliest users have connections to “organizations that funded or developed the app. That means Act.il, which purports to be a grassroots campaign, was essentially seeded with paid activists.”
Act.il’s stated goal is to push back against the BDS Movement; however, descriptions of its missions reported by media seem to indicate it’s going after any sort of discourse critical of Jews or Israel, as well as encouraging political action among voters of foreign governments such as the U.S.
The Forward reports Act.il is “a joint project of two Israeli not-for-profits, it is led by former Israeli [army] intelligence officers and has close ties to Israel’s intelligence services, its Ministry of Strategic Affairs and American-Jewish casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson.”
Act.il is a “new entry” into the “propaganda war” that boasts “thousands of mostly U.S.-based volunteers who can be directed from Israel into a social media swarm.” It’s CEO, Ben Yosef, himself an eight-year veteran of Israeli army intelligence, described the propaganda operation’s association with Israeli intel agents to The Forward: “We know each other …. We talk with each other. We work together.”
Haaretz put together this short little explainer video. I’m surprised Acti.il’s troll army hasn’t had it taken down yet.
Israeli’s military and its domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, direct Act.il volunteers to get Facebook to remove videos “that call for violence against Jews or Israelis,” The Forward reports. (Um, I have seen videos that challenge their narrative, but have never seen videos on Youtube that called for violence against Jews or Israelis. Have you?)
In the news and social media space, Acti.il directs its hasbara-troll users to employ a tactic called “flooding,” which involves blasting a large amount of content at a particular news article or thread to distract the reader and dominate any discussion. For example, when something is identified as unflattering, Act.il will ask its volunteers to “leave a comment to uncover biased reporting” and “feel free to like other comments you agree with,” The Forward reports. It also provides users sample text to leave in comments section. Targets of Act.il flooding tactics have included RT, ABC News, The Kuwait Times and The Telegraph.
Act.il also gives its volunteers offline missions, such as contacting U.S. senators and asking them to support the anti-BDS law. Another offline mission directed users to email a Boston-area church to complain about the screening there of a documentary that is critical of Israel.
At Act.il “media rooms” in New Jersey and Boston, local students are trained by “adult mentors” and pro-Israeli videos are produced. Three other media rooms are slated to open across the U.S., including one in Manhattan that will be financed by vulture-fund billionaire Paul Singer. Another is planned for the City of London.
Every week, “adult mentors” at the media rooms send progress reports back to headquarters in Israel. And every week, Israel’s new Ministry of Strategic Affairs sends back a list of new targets for missions.
“The Ministry of Strategic Affairs has been embracing secretive data-focused programs in its efforts against BDS,” The Forward reports. “Initiatives in cyberspace seem likely to increase.”
In addition to missions, Act.il has campaigns that involve producing pro-Isreali propagandist videos. A particularly offensive one on the app’s website states:
Pallywood, a portmanteau of “Palestinian” and “Hollywood”, is a coinage that has been used to describe media manipulation, distortion or fraud designed to win the public relations war against Israel. Exposing Pallywood incidents is one example of our online activism strategy. Our volunteers in the situation-room exposed a false post on Facebook which accused the “Israeli Air Force killing children in Gaza”, presenting a photo from the Hollywood movie “The Final Destination”. We created a campaign revealing Hamas lies, over 30M users were exposed to our campaign, one of them was the editor of RTL German newspaper which decided to create a news report on prime-time German television, which exposed Millions more to the lies.
The propaganda video offers only one example of “Pallywood,” and Winter Watch suspects a hoax created in an Act.il media room.
Truth is that Irael’s Operation Protective Edge offensive evoked international condemnation for killing 2,104 Palestinians — including 1,462 civilians, of whom 495 were children and 253 were women. Several U.N. workers were also killed. It was because of this 2014 war crime on Gaza that BDS became an international movement.
Photos on the wire services of the carnage in Gaza were graphic and horrific. Residential communities, hospitals, schools and U.N. safety zones were mercilessly bombed by the IDF. And, of course, who could forget the Israeli airforce’s bombing of children playing on the beach right in front of visiting international press, who watched in horror.
Nope, there’s no need for any Palestinian to use fake photos to illustrate the carnage. This psy-op to discredit is pure evil.
All the more insulting about the fictitious “Pallywood” propaganda hoax is that it is Jewish-run Hollywood that has been using movies to demonize Muslims for decades. Here’s a compilation video rife with examples.
Ironically, the new Israeli-intel app that trains American hasbara to perform covert propaganda ops against fellow Americans was launched with great fanfare in broad daylight on June 4 in New York City as part of the Celebrate Israel Parade.
Governor Andrew Cuomo served as honorary grand marshal of the parade and marched alongside Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who touted Act.il as part of the “Iron Dome of Truth” campaign with parent organization 4IL. (The video of Erdan’s speech in New York has been removed from Youtube.)
It’s not as though Jews don’t have a voice in America. The majority of major news outlets across the country are either Jewish-owned or Jewish-controlled. Jews themselves acknowledge that they run Hollywood. They hold leadership positions in business, especially on Wall Street and in banking. They hold top positions in government, from local to federal. In Washington, D.C., there are countless Jewish and Israeli lobbying firms, advocacy groups and special interest organizations. Among the top 20 political donors in the 2012 and 2016 election, 18 of them were Jewish. And Israel receives billions of American taxpayer dollars every single year.
Acknowledging the prevalence of Jewish power and influence in the United States is not antisemitic. That would mean the truth itself is antisemitic.
Given the prevalence of Jewish power and influence operating in the daylight in the U.S., it’s absolutely asinine for Americans to allow Israeli intelligence — or any foreign intelligence for that matter — to recruit Americans to conduct covert operations in the dark on U.S. soil that are designed to suppress free speech and dissent.
Free speech and dissent are fundamental to a free America. It’s the foundation of a representative democracy. It’s what separates the U.S. from other countries worldwide — including the E.U., where old ladies get locked up for holocaust revisionism [see here and here].
Free speech is paramount to preventing oppressive regimes and dictatorships. Attempts by foreign agents to thwart free speech and dissent in America is akin to an act of war on Americans and American democracy. Any American who participates in or defends such activity should have their citizenship revoked.
If Congress can tell Americans it’s illegal to organize dissent against Israel via BDS, and it’s acceptable for foreign Israeli intel agents to train Americans to suppress the speech of their fellow citizens and propagandize them, then we have truly become an Israel First nation. And then where does it stop?
There is a way the Internet community can help thwart this covert operation: Sign up to be a Act.il volunteer, get access to its “mission” list and then alert the public that a source is under attack by covert hasbara and Israeli intel operatives. By raising awareness of Act.il’s activities, the operation loses its “protective edge.” It would no longer be able to feign the appearance of general public support for Israel’s agenda. It would expose this operation for what it is: an online propaganda war launched by Israeli agents against Americans.