combats disinformation and anti-Israeli propaganda

"Anti-Semitism is closely linked to the propaganda spread during the war between Israel and Hamas"

Propaganda has always been a key element in times of war. Now, with new technologies and social networks, propaganda finds new ways to spread and spread.

The current war between Israel and Hamas is no exception in this regard and, as is always the case in today's conflicts, disinformation and so-called fake news are the order of the day.

With the aim of debunking hoaxes about the current war, three young Israelis have created Israel FAQs (an acronym for Frequently Asked Questions), a website that combats propaganda and disinformation by providing factual and verified information. 

The website contains a searchable library of conflict-related words, as well as links to videos and other explanatory documents.

Behind the idea are Ron Adany, 37, a tech entrepreneur with extensive experience in the sector; Eli Klaiman, 42, a lawyer who provides legal insight; and Yogev Lifchin, 41, an online marketing expert and musician. The three spoke to Atalayar about their project, propaganda during the war and prejudice towards Israel.  

When was Israel FAQs created and with what objectives?

Israel FAQs was founded in response to the 7 October terrorist attack through the joint efforts of Eli Klaiman, Dr Ron Adany and Yogev Lifchin.

We identified a lack of resources and tools for effective advocacy, recognising the rise of misinformation and anti-Israel sentiment on social media during conflict situations. Yogev, an expert on Palestinian-Israeli history, noted the increase in misinformation since 2012. Eli emphasised the need to counter blood libels against Israel and Jews in the aftermath of the 7 October massacre, which gave rise to the concept of an archive of evidence and facts.

The complexity and time-consuming nature of responding to repetitive claims prompted the idea of creating a "copy and paste" function for pro-Israeli text responses and relevant links. Thus was born Israel FAQs, a platform that provides effective and productive tools to combat misinformation.

Ron, Eli and Yogev, each with a unique perspective, shared a common goal: to combat false narratives by providing a centralised repository of pro-Israeli responses and supporting content. 

Ron Adany
Ron Adany, 37, a tech entrepreneur with extensive experience in the sector

Have you received any support (public or private)?

Israel FAQs has not received financial support, but has been fortunate to have the help of volunteers. Several people have given generously of their time to help with the website. Although the initiative is running without external funding, the technical needs are currently covered by Ron's startup. In addition to us, the founders, who invest hundreds of hours, six volunteers are actively involved in the project. Despite the absence of financial support, our dedication and that of the volunteers is evident in the commitment to the success of the project. 

To what extent are anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel related to disinformation in this war? 

Anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel are deeply intertwined with the disinformation spread during this war. The aim of the disinformation spread by Hamas and Palestinian supporters is to turn world opinion against Israel. This is achieved by resorting to old anti-Semitic clichés, adapting them to the modern world and disguising them in progressive language. Disinformation seeks to create a narrative that goes beyond criticising Israel to targeting Jews, Zionists or Israelis. Eli highlights the use of 'context' when discussing calls for genocide, which indicates a willingness to justify violence against Jews based on certain stereotypes. 

Yogev sheds light on the shocking responses of citizens in Western and democratic countries who not only express anti-Israel rhetoric, but also downplay or justify events such as the 7 October massacre. He underlines the lack of sympathy that Israel has received, especially given the attacks on liberal and music-loving people. Yogev points to the prevalence of misinformation and conspiracy theories, some of which are so unfounded that they require a significant amount of hatred towards Jews or Israel to be believed. 

The role of anti-Semitism is evident in the absurd claims and disbelief or lack of condemnation in certain quarters, raising concerns about the impact of hatred in shaping perceptions of the conflict. 

Eli Klaiman
Eli Klaiman, 42, a lawyer who provides legal insight

How does your Israel FAQ work? How does the team work? 

IsraelFAQs serves as the ultimate gateway to Israel advocacy, simplifying the process of finding authoritative answers to frequently asked questions. The platform allows users to easily refute claims by copying and pasting well-founded answers. In addition, Israel FAQs has published manuals on the site on how to conduct advocacy activities. The site also includes lists of online advocacy communities that one can join, along with recommendations on advocacy tools and resources that can be used.

Each founder has specific roles in the team: Yogev focuses on marketing, Eli handles content, and Ron is the CEO. Daily meetings ensure synchronisation, delegation of tasks and decision-making, and each founder leads several volunteers.

What are the biggest challenges in debunking fake news against Israel? 

Debunking fake news against Israel presents several challenges for the Israel FAQs team. Exposure is a major obstacle, and they emphasise the need for broad support from Israel's advocates to actively counter disinformation. Eli highlights the historical lesson of 1930s Europe, emphasising the dangers of remaining silent in the face of false narratives. Yogev points to the challenge of dealing with the rapid and massive spread of fake news, driven by the large number of users around the world echoing what they consider to be 'truthful'.

Despite the small fraction who actively spread false information, the scale is still significant, especially in the Islamic world. Ron adds another layer to the challenge by highlighting the short attention span of people in the instance world we live in, where people's tendency to focus on headlines or images without delving into research poses a significant obstacle. Educating people quickly about the nuanced issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a key challenge. 

Yogev Lifchin
Yogev Lifchin, 41, an online marketing expert and musician

What is the social network where fake news is most prevalent?

TikTok seems to be the social network where fake news is most prevalent. Eli highlights an investigative article by Fox Business that reveals disturbing aspects of TikTok's working environment. The platform is used to inundate and influence young people extensively, especially those unfamiliar with nuance.

TikTok's unique algorithm makes it easy for content to reach people outside of regular followers, contributing to widespread exposure of misinformation. 

How can disinformation posted by accounts with millions of followers be countered? 

Countering disinformation posted by accounts with millions of followers requires strategic engagement. Eli stresses that posting is only the first step; the real battleground is in interacting with the audience through comments. Engaging in discussions in the comments section offers the opportunity to educate and present facts, which can change minds. Yogev cites an example where even influential figures such as Gigi Hadid had to remove posts due to the absurdity of the lies.

Yogev advocates a comprehensive strategy, starting with the removal of the main sources of false information. Influencers who spread misinformation should not only be reported, but also face legal consequences, holding platforms accountable for enabling false information. This approach should extend to "disseminators", i.e. profiles with significant followings that spread disinformation. Yogev also recognises the challenge of proactively commenting on and debunking content, as excessive commenting can inadvertently push content through social media algorithms. Combined strategies involve both engagement in comment sections and legal action to address the root causes of misinformation. 

 What are your short- and long-term goals?  

In the short term, we are focused on creating a set of user-friendly tools, accompanied by manuals on how to use them, with the aim of increasing the effectiveness and impact of advocacy efforts on Israel. This short-term initiative involves collaboration with government departments, such as the Foreign Ministry's public diplomacy department and the National Intelligence Headquarters of the Prime Minister's Office. In addition, we are working with other advocacy initiatives, including those developing AI tools for advocacy, and groups managing thousands of volunteers active in social media advocacy.

Going forward, our long-term vision and ultimate goal is for IsraelFAQs to become a primary source worldwide for debunking lies and combating blood libel. However, the realisation of these long-term goals requires more resources and time than we can currently contribute as volunteers.

To achieve this, we need to find sustainable ways to support our goals, including seeking funding and broader support to maintain our position as the go-to website for Israel advocacy.