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(Jeff Haynes / Agence France Presse)

Head of Israel’s “covert” social media program suspended over anti-Japanese Facebook posts

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Screenshot shows Israelis in an organized digital “war” room posting tweets against the flotilla to Gaza in the summer of 2011. (Source)

Following Israeli media reports on a “covert” government program to pay students for spreading pro-Israel messages on social media, the program director Daniel Seaman’s own social media posts became the subject of unwanted scrutiny—and may end up costing him his job.

His offensive postings have also created a diplomatic incident between Israel and Japan.

As Ali Abunimah reported for the Electronic Intifada on Tuesday, the program itself, which is coordinated through student unions at Israel’s seven universities and structured in a “semi-military” fashion, is not entirely new.

The Electronic Intifada has previously reported on other versions of the program, including an effort run in partnership with the National Union of Israeli Students, in which participants would be awarded stipends of up to $2,000.

At the time, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jillian C. York compared the program to similar efforts by China, Syria, Bahrain, and Russia. “When a state — be it Bahrain, Israel, Syria or China - needs to stoop to the level of paying citizens to fight its public relations wars, it has already lost,” York wrote.

Attempt to conceal ‘covert’ program leads to exposure

The newest iteration of the program apparently came to the attention of the Israeli media as the result of a letter written by program director Daniel Seaman, who works out of the prime minister’s office, to Israel’s public tender committee. In the letter, Seaman, a former head of the Government Press Office, sought to exempt the initiative from the government’s standard public tender process as a means of concealing the astroturfing nature of the program.

According to the Times of Israel, Seaman explained that “the project requires the state’s role to be under the radar, making it appear as if the students are working independently under the auspices of the students’ union.” The article went on to explain that although the “advocacy units” will be convended under the auspices of Israel’s student unions, “they will take their orders from the Prime Minister’s Office advocacy apparatus.”

How not to help Israel’s image on Facebook

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A Facebook post made by Daniel Seaman on August 8th

A Facebook post made by Daniel Seaman on August 8th, via Haaretz

Following these initial reports, Haaretz columnist Barak Ravid posted an article questioning the choice of Seaman, outgoing deputy director of the prime minister’s office, to lead the program. Ravid denounced Seaman as an “abusive racist” whose personal Facebook postings revealed a lack of good judgement.

Among the posts cited by Ravid:

Does the commencement of the fast of the Ramadan mean that Muslims will stop eating each other during the daytime?

and

I am sick of the Japanese, ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Peace’ groups the world over holding their annual self righteous commemorations for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the consequence of Japanese aggression. You reap what you sow.

Of the various remarks cited, it was the latter which landed Seaman in the hot seat once publicized by Ravid. The Japanese embassy in Tel Aviv complained about Seaman’s “Hiroshima” remark, and were apparently assured that this reflected only Seaman’s personal views.

Early this morning, Haaretz reported that Seaman had been suspended from his official position.

Israel-Japan gas, construction deals jeopardized

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A woman displays radiation burns suffered in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

A woman displays radiation burns suffered in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (Source)

(Flickr)

The potential diplomatic row comes at a sensitive time in Israel-Japan relations. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida had visited Israel, the West Bank and Jordan only three weeks prior to the exposure of Seaman’s remarks, meeting with Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders to discuss a variety of issues.

Prominent in Kishida’s itinerary had been discussions of Japan’s plan for an agro-industrial park in the West Bank, known as the “Corridor of Peace and Prosperity.” The USAID-funded project, a highly problematic effort, has been the subject of previous reporting for The Electronic Intifada by Adri Nieuwhof.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s talks with Kishida also included the potential involvement of Japan in natural gas exploration off the Israel/Gaza coast, and in the construction of a high-speed railway between Tel Aviv and Eilat.

With Israel deeply concerned about its growing political and economic isolation, the loss of such projects would be a major blow.

The fact that the potential row was set off by the Facebook posts of the very diplomatic official tasked with bolstering the country’s image on social media lends further creedence to York’s obervation: in the global battle for hearts and minds, both online and off, Israel has already lost.

Comments

...............An Obvious Irony
The Japanese Aggression was genocidal. Just like the Israeli Aggression. That's why Israelis didn't like that post which condemns aggression. the comment wasn't "anti-Japanese... It was "anti-Japanese Aggression"

And They ALL deserve(d) to be stopped (through non-lethal force), and all responsible should be made to pay and apologize. Can Only happen through a world of awareness .

'... (through non-lethal force)...' and what planet do you live on?????

Whatever you may think about the rights or wrongs of the Israel-Arab conflict, to accuse Israel of committing "genocide" is ludicrous. If Israel wanted to commit genocide, she would have annexed the West Bank long ago, and expelled or exterminated all the Arab residents of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. If Israel had been intent on "genocide", why on earth would she have given the Israeli Arabs the vote, why would there be Arab Knesset members and Cabinet ministers, judges - including Supreme Court judges - and why would she have allowed the population of Israeli Arab citizens to burgeon to 20%? Oh - and instead of labelling me a "hasbarist", I suggest you try actually to answer the question.

You can't be serious. Israel has in fact annexed the West Bank, if not in law.

"[B]urgeon to 20%"! Zionist terror forced three quarters of a million Palestinians out in 1948 alone--none of whom Israel has allowed to return.

The Jewish Virtual Library--hasbara at its most blatant--admits to nearly a hundred thousand Palestinian deaths at Zionist hands. We can safely assume the actual number is far higher. Genocide committed over decades, instead of a few months or years, is genocide all the same.

If Gaza isn't a concentration camp, it's a ghetto, which, history shows, is a distinction with little difference.

Why not give Israeli Arabs the vote, etc.? As long as they're artificially kept in the tiny, powerless minority. And--more important--as long as doing so lets Zionists claim that they're not committing genocide, because Israel has Arab citizens! Arab legislators and Arab judges even!

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was far from inevitable as a "consequence" of Imperial Japan's brutal colonization of Asian neighbours and attack on its major regional competitor/threat, the United States. The war was essentially over in August 1945 and Japan had been trying to surrender; the U.S. went nuclear to send a message to the Soviet Union and the rest of the world.

This is clearly articulated recently in "The Untold History of the United States", by Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuznick. See
http://therealnews.com/t2/inde...

So Seaman is repeating the old falsehood used to justify U.S. incineration of tens of thousands of civilians (at least he's immorally consistent).

by duping people on the net, but NOT by racists? Or at least NOT by racist as a head of the duping team? Hilarious

Unlike in Israel, where it is proved . To cite "rumors" as a source (as Jillian C. York did without shame) is not a solid journalism. I expect more from EI.

That's typical ZIONIST mind-set!

Wish to donate but I myself am FAKIR/penniless.
Insha Allah next time Bro....Amin.

Google tjoaginsing (where I enjoy kicking the Zionists!)

I have no direct knowledge of York’s research, but a cursory search turned this up rather quickly:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/07/putin-hacked-emails-russian…

This too:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/russian-government-tri…

Websites or social media which accept political commentary should have as part of their terms of service that the commenter warrants that the opinions he/she posts are his/her own, and not part of an organized campaign by a State to spread propaganda. Each commenter would have to agree that, in the event it can be shown that he/she acted on behalf of a foreign government as part of an organized plan to spread its viewpoints, that he/she will be personally liable to the site operator for damages of $100,000. After a few court judgements granting such awards, Israel (and any other nation with such a program) may back off.

I am aware of such rumors and accusations (including sum of 85 rubles(2 Euro) for a comment), they are used by anti-Putin folks in runet , but, unlike re Israel, they are NOT 100% proved. Not mentioning that Guardian or WP is hardly a neutral party here - they are part of force attacking Putin under ANY pretext, the newest him being not being gay-friendly.

I do not say that Putin is saint, or that I am 100% sure that "rumors" are lies. But the difference between accusations and proof still matter. And if more than a year after Guardian article all York could cite are "rumors", it does not sound VERY professional.

Lidia,

Thanks for your comments. The question of the alleged Russian program is quite peripheral to my post, and my knowledge of it is rather limited. I’d encourage you to raise the issue with York herself, who may by now have new information proving or disproving the existence of the program.

Yes, the passing (or sometimes not so passing) accusations against Russia is something I meet often now. and in leftist publications as well. Sometimes it is malicious and in line with the newest NATO plans, and sometimes just knee-jerk, not really different from Cold-war era anti-USSR staff. like calling USA(NATO) torture centers of jailing without trial or even indictment "Gulag", or comparing wholesale and very USA spying to rather limited achievement of Stasi (done in very different circumstances, as well).
You cited the article by York, I suppose, because he is an expert, or something, so I would think it was your job to ask him to support his words by something more reliable than "rumors". But I bet he also would not give a damn about accusing some "Ruski" in any sin, maybe also to balance proved disclose of Zionist crimes. After all, Zionists belong to "civilization", so they could be shamed by pointing to them the depth of their fall - to the same level as Russia - horror! It is not alike some well-meaning fighters for the holiness of USA Constitution try to sham Obama pointing to DDR horrors. No matter that USA Constitution was written by slavers and Natives' slayers, no matter that Obama's crimes are not only as American as inedible BigMac, but much more grave - the kernel is the same. USA/Europe/Israel are the shining city on the hill and should be better that Russia/USSR/DDR/Syria by default.
It is so ingrained even in leftists's mind in the West that they just cannot see it. But from without it is very visible.
Next time, writing about USA/UK/Zionist crimes, try not to forgot that they are criminal regimes on their own. Russia could be bad, but it is not guilty in their crimes.

The next time a hasbarist wants to quibble about the origins of the name "Palestine," the number of time Jerusalem appears in the Koran, the contents of the Balfour declaration, Jordan being Palestine, whether the '48 lines are ceasefire lines or armistice lines or an international boundary, the San Remo declaration, the invention of cherry tomatoes, or the maker of the chip in Hawking's computer I will quibble about how much he is being paid to quibble with me.

"The next time a hasbarist wants to quibble ... I will quibble about how much he is being paid to quibble with me."

A sure sign that you have no real answer to his/her claims. You people always shout "hasbarist, hasbarist, hasbarist" - but you never have any real answers, do you. "Hasbarist" is your lame excuse to duck the issue.