The Jewish Internet Defense Force (JIDF) was an organization active from the 2000s to the 2010s that used social media to mobilize support for campaigns against websites and Facebook groups that promote or praise what it described as Islamic terrorism or antisemitism. The group's website described the JIDF as a "private, independent, non-violent protest organization representing a collective of activists". The JIDF's work has been termed "hacktivism" by the BBC and Haaretz.
|Purpose||Online activism, Israel advocacy|
Organization and methods
According to the JIDF, the organization "formed as a grassroots effort in 2000, to mount mass e-mail campaigns, in response to the outbreak of the Second Intifada." The website was run by a person who identified himself as "David Appletree." According to a reporter from The Jewish Week in 2009 he "will not say if that is his true surname". In the same article, Appletree accused Facebook administrators of antisemitism for closing down his account. A Facebook spokesperson replied that the account was terminated because the website did not believe he was using his real name, which is a breach of Facebook's "real name culture". Appletree went on to say that he maintains approximately 40 Facebook groups focused on combating terrorism and antisemitism.
A since deleted post on the group's website said they "specifically target hateful material or material which blatantly promotes hatred or violence, no matter where it can be found." The "About" page of the website says "We believe in direct action both to eradicate the problems we face online and to create the publicity that will cause those with companies like Facebook and Google to take the needed action themselves." The group focused its attention on websites like Facebook, YouTube, Google Earth, and Wikipedia. The JIDF redirected anti-Israel Facebook groups to other pages it preferred and changed the names of Muslim members of such groups to "Mossad collaborator," among other actions. A website spokesman told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that they don't break any laws and that the JIDF "prefers the terms 'seize control,' 'take over' or 'infiltrate' rather than 'hack to describe there actions.'
In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Appletree maintained, "The main reason the JIDF exists is to promote Israel and fight Jew hatred as well as Islamic terrorist trends online," and stated, "we are a grassroots organization that reaches the hearts and the minds of normal, everyday Jews and Israel supporters who haven't been bamboozled into supporting the Jewish establishment that has completely failed Israel and the Jewish people in every way imaginable."
According to a November 2008 article in Haaretz, the JIDF forwarded lists of Facebook groups that it deemed promoted hatred or violence to the website's administrators, hoping they would be removed. According to a man named "David" quoted in the Haaretz article, Facebook either did nothing or waited months before taking action. "David" told Haaretz that his group then decided to try to technically "intercept Facebook groups and make them impossible to access." The JIDF was particularly upset about Facebook groups praising the shooting of students at Jerusalem's Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in March 2008.
In July 2009, the JIDF and Avi Dichter took credit for successfully pressuring Facebook into removing a fan page for Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The JIDF said it mobilized supporters to complain about the page to Facebook's owners. The JIDF website claims that it deleted the vast majority of a pro-Hezbollah fan page's 118,000 members. The JIDF sites says it has removed more than 100 antisemitic groups from Facebook, In September 2009 that it hijacked a Facebook group titled "Eliminate Israel from Being" and deleted more than 5,000 members before Facebook management "returned control of the site to its administrators."
The JIDF criticized Facebook for allegedly condoning and hosting Holocaust denial groups on its network. The group charged that Facebook is hypocritical in removing groups that support the Ku Klux Klan, for instance, while not removing what it considers Holocaust denial groups and claimed it would continue to criticize Facebook over the matter.
Elsewhere on the Web
JIDF's measures "include reporting Wikipedia editors it claims are anti-Israel, and taking action against entries seen as including one-sided or false accounts of the history of Israel and the Mideast conflict," Haaretz wrote. The group sought to have Palestinian villages listed as having been destroyed during the foundation of Israel removed from Google Earth and campaigned against the description of "Palestine" as a country.
The JIDF organized a pro-Gilad Shalit campaign in 2009 on the social networking site Twitter. During the "Tweet4Shalit" campaign Twitter users drove the Gilad Shalit name to the second highest trend on the day of his 23rd birthday. Tweets for Shalit ranged from the demand to "Free Shalit" to requests for international supervision of the case.
In October 2008, the German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) wrote "the JIDF follows an open political agenda as well. Many of its members protested the clearing of Israeli settlements in the Gaza strip in 2005 – they regard this policy of trading Land for Peace as wrong." The newspaper wrote that "Ultimately the JIDF also wants to propagate ‘Jewish values on the Internet’. This leads to the self-appointed warriors against online-hatred to link their own homepage to a dubious site named ‘thereligionofpeace.com’. The JIDF website itself said "Mohammed was a genocidal pedophile who murdered people who didn't think like he did, or believe the things he believed. Millions of Muslims promote the idea that if we "insult" him (despite the fact that he's dead), that we should be killed." The website said that Mohammad was a "false prophet" and that the "Islamic ideology itself is clearly one of hatred and violence, which is declaring war against the entire non-Islamic world... it is determined to dominate the world, just as Nazism was." The website came out against plans to build an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York, "Because Islam is a hateful and violent ideology which preaches hate and violence against ALL non-Muslims (especially Jews, as it is obsessed with us, and dehumanizes us as apes and pigs), we are against ALL mosques. We are against Islam, just as we are against Nazism. Just as we don't wish to see Nazi institutions springing up everywhere, we don't need to see Islamic one's springing up everywhere, either."
In May 2009, CNN wrote that the JIDF is "sometimes guilty of sweeping generalizations of its own", citing a 2008 interview published on Facebook critic Brian Cuban's site in which a JIDF representative discussed "the issues surrounding [then-candidate Barack Obama's] terrorist connections as well as his racist and anti-Semitic church, which has supported Hamas and the Rev. Louis Farrakhan", and the reply when asked how the Jewish and Muslim communities saw the JIDF, that "99.9% of Muslims hate us". CNN quoted a JIDF spokesperson as saying he would rather people not focus on those specific quotations as the interview had been "informal" and Cuban "would not let us correct any of our statements after we quickly answered him to help him meet his deadline." Asked in the Cuban interview, "What is the position of the JIDF on the 'Palestinian Question' regarding disputes over occupied lands", the spokesman replied, "Palestinians should be transferred out of Israeli territories. They can live in any of the other many Arab states. We are against all land concessions to our enemies. We are against the release of terrorist prisoners from Israeli prisons. We are against the arming and funding of our enemies and the negotiation with them. We are for morals, ethics and common sense and feel Israel must truly act as a 'light unto the nations' in order for the world to be safe as we feel Israel is truly on the front lines in the war in which Islam has declared upon us."
- "About the JIDF". JIDF. 2 September 2010. Archived from the original on 13 January 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
- "Gaza crisis spills onto the web". BBC News. 14 January 2009.
- Hartman, Benjamin L. (8 November 2011). "Israel's Internet intifada". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Stephanie Rubenstein (29 July 2008). "Jewish Internet Defense Force 'seizes control' of anti-Israel Facebook group". Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
- Internet activist no friend of Facebook Archived 12 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine The Jewish Week
- "JIDF Response to Wikipedia". JIDF. 5 August 2008. Archived from the original on 13 January 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2008.
- Morrison, Sarah (4 March 2008). "Jewish Activist Battles For Israel on Facebook". Israel National News.
- Morrison, Sarah (27 July 2008). "Jewish Activists Hack Anti-Semitic Facebook Group". Israel National News.
- Moore, Matthew (31 July 2008). "Facebook: 'Anti-Semitic' group hijacked by Jewish force". London: The Telegraph.
- Benjamin Hartman (14 November 2008). "An online battle for Israel's legitimacy". Haaretz.
- "JIDF Fights for Israel Online". Israel National News. 31 May 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
- Zerbisias, Antonia (3 May 2007). "Playing Politics on Facebook". The Star. Toronto.
- Social media users successfully face down Nasrallah on Facebook, Jerusalem Post, 29 July 2009
- Lungen, Paul (25 September 2008). "Anti-Israel Facebook groups infiltrated". Canadian Jewish News.
- Call for hate groups to be taken offline, The National, Dubai, 15 June 2009
- Is Facebook Changing its Tune on Holocaust Deniers?, CS Monitor, 11 May 2009
- Miller, Elan (27 August 2009). "'Facebook doesn't bar hateful content against Jews'". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
- Ryan, Josiah Daniel; Miller, Elan (27 August 2009). "'Tweet4Shalit' campaign reaches No. 2 spot in Twitter". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
- Happy Birthday for Gilad Shalit?, Israel National News, 5 August 2009
- 100 Most Influential Jewish Twitterers Archived 17 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine, JTA, 1 May 2009
- Christoph Gunkel, Antisemitismus im Web 2, Frankfurter Allgemeine FAZ.NET 14. Oktober 2008. Quotes are taken from the authorised English translation, Facebook and Google Earth: Anti-Semitism in Web 2.0 published at Zionism On The Web, seen 22 November 2008
- Must see Religion of "Peace" Photo of the day Archived 15 September 2012 at archive.today JIDF website, May 19, 2010.
- During Ramadan Celebrations, Obama Supports Ground Zero Mosque (as do the "protesters"...just not at Ground Zero) Archived 14 September 2012 at archive.today JIDF website, 14 August 2010
- Lisa Respers France, Facebook urged to remove Holocaust-denial groups, CNN.com, 8 May 2009.
- Cuban, Brian. "Inside The Jewish Internet Defense Force". Brian Cuban. Archived from the original on 11 November 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2010.