Israel will invest more in technology enabling it to gather intelligence on social media about potential “lone wolf” terrorists, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Wednesday.
Erdan was speaking at a session at the third annual Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv devoted to using Israel’s cyber abilities to fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and efforts to delegitimize Israel. Erdan is also head of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, in charge of the government’s anti-BDS efforts.
The session was organized by the Israeli American Council, headed by Adam Milstein, which is promoting ways to use cyber technology to tackle BDS. Milstein described BDS as an “existential threat” to Israel.
Erdan said that the current wave of terrorism is forcing Israel to deal with a new challenge. When the terrorism was directed by terrorist organizations, Israel knew well how to collect intelligence and thwart the attacks, he said.
But, he added, “today there is incitement on the Palestinian television and social media, and you find yourself against hundreds of thousands of potential attackers who could go out to kill innocent civilians,” adding that terrorist attackers over the last number of months have admitted the degree to which they were affected by the social media.
Erdan said that Israel has learned about how these attackers operate, and about ways to monitor their intentions in advance.
“We learned that before the attacks they change profile pictures on Facebook, write on Facebook about their intentions and inform family and friends that they intend to attack. The Israeli government intends to invest more in the acquisition of resources and technologies that can help us reach the potential attackers,” he said.
Regarding fighting BDS, Erdan said that the Strategic Affairs Ministry has a NIS 100 million budget to fight it, and he believes that sum will grow.
Amos Yadlin, the head of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, bemoaned the fact that today it is not clear who in the government is dealing with the issue, since various aspects have been spread out across six ministries.
“In a normal country, the foreign minister would deal with this problem,” he said. Israel’s enemies have identified delegitimization as Israel’s Achilles’ heel, and as an area where they can harm Israel, Yadlin said.
“The most dangerous country in the Middle East is the ‘State of Facebook,’” he said, saying that it provides more energy than a number of armies in the Middle East.
Milstein, who said at the conference that his organization wanted to raise greater awareness of the issue and lead to more coordination and effectiveness among groups involved in fighting it, told The Jerusalem Post
that BDS is “war against Israel by nonmilitary means.”’ The movement is publishing things that were “unthinkable” a few years ago, and creating an atmosphere in the US where even Jews feel uncomfortable identifying with Israel because of being labeled supporters of occupiers and human rights abusers, he said.
Milstein, whose organization for the estimated 500,000 Israelis living in America was established in Los Angeles some eight years ago, put together a brainstorming session at the conference to generate ideas about how best to gather information on BDS – know who their leaders are and what they have planned – in order to thwart their campaign.
He dismissed the notion that BDS was more of a nuisance and annoyance than a real threat to Israel or its economy, saying that BDS activists are buying up shares in large US companies so that they can attend board movements and call for divestment.
Milstein said it was important to look at the trend line of BDS, and that this line was very negative, with many more unions, church groups, and academic organizations supporting it now than just a few years ago.