British media is reporting that a suspected Iranian disinformation unit created a network on Facebook that attempted to stoke anti-government sentiment and internal discontent in Israel. The network did this by posing as ultra-Orthodox Jews who supported extreme right-wing groups. According to the BBC report:
February 3, 2022: 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.Its goal was to help fuel “religious war” by amplifying “fear, hatred and chaos”, according to the Israeli disinformation watchdog FakeReporter, which uncovered the group’s suspected Iranian origin.It is the latest sign of a growing disinformation battleground on social media and messaging apps in Israel. The network became active after last year’s flare-up in sectarian violence in the country.In one case, the network reposted a video of a confrontation between a far-right MP, who was carrying a gun, and a Palestinian car parking attendant, adding the comment: “It’s a shame he didn’t give him one in the head.“Facebook and Twitter deactivated the group’s pages and associated profiles after being approached by FakeReporter. The network remains active on the messaging channel Telegram.
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The article further mentions that the group:
- Posted anti-government and anti-Arab content
- Backed an ultranationalist Israeli MP who was part of a racist movement
- Encouraged anti-police sentiment among the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, many of whom distrust law enforcement and the state
- Made extensive efforts to look genuine, such as using the identity of a deceased ultra-religious man and creating a Facebook page for a fictitious bakery in an ultra-Orthodox town
The Iranian embassy did not respond to the BBC’s requests for comments.