Archive for October 17, 2018

Revealed: the 1 million tweets of Iran’s troll army

October 17, 2018

Source: Revealed: the 1 million tweets of Iran’s troll army – The National

Twitter releases treasure chest of Iranian twitter troll activity, showing hundreds of accounts set up to spread regime’s propaganda, aimed at destabilising the region. But efforts were fairly crude and ineffective, analyst says

A data dump of state-sponsored Twitter troll operations has revealed Iran’s “clumsy” efforts to mimic Russia’s social media disinformation campaign, including hundreds of accounts and one million tweets.

Twitter released its complete data set of Iran’s and Russia’s activity, which combined amounts to more than 10 million tweets and two million images.

The company announced the data dump on Wednesday, encouraging researchers and experts to analyse the data so they can better understand how their platform had been misused.

Analysis of the Iranian troll activity shows a focus on discrediting Saudi Arabia and crude attempts at copying their more effective Russian counterparts.

“It is clear that information operations and co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour will not cease,” the social network wrote on its blog. “These types of tactics have been around for far longer than Twitter has existed — they will adapt and change as the geopolitical terrain evolves worldwide and as new technologies emerge,” it said in the post authored by two members of staff.

Data on trolls connected to the Russian Internet Research Agency, which is the subject of United States intelligence investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections, have also been released.

Both regimes put a huge amount of effort into their operations. The Iranian troll operation consisted of 770 users and one million tweets, while Russia’s 3,841 accounts posted nine million tweets.

“The Iranian operation was big but it was frankly clumsy,” Ben Nimmo, an Information Defense Fellow at the Atlantic Council who had an advance look at the data told The National. “They weren’t very good at what they did. The big difference between the Iranian operation and the Russian one was that the Russian operation was using Twitter and other social media to engage people, the Iranian operation was using social media to message people.”

Approximately a third of the one million Iranian tweets released by Twitter contained links to awdnews.com. AWD News is a part of a cluster of sites exposed by FireEye in August to be Iranian government sponsored outlets, Mr Nimmo said.

The Iranian operation, however, was pushing pro-regime narratives, without engaging people.

“If you compare that with some of the best performing Russia troll accounts, they had real personalities. They were engaging with people, they were funny, they were sarcastic, they were edgy, they appeared to be real people. The Iranian attempt didn’t have personality, they just had content,” Mr Nimmo said.geopolitical phrase, mentioning the phrase “Saudi” nearly 90,000 times, accusing the Saudis of committing war crimes, analysis by Mr Nimmo revealed.

“This was really about promoting Iranian narratives…there were a lot of posts about Yemen and the Syrian conflict.

“It was very much ‘the Saudis are bad and they are doing bad things’, it wasn’t a very sophisticated message,” Mr Nimmo said.

Once Russia’s disinformation campaign was exposed by newspapers, the Iranian operation appeared to mimic the Russian operation.

“One of the key moments is that there was an account called Liberty Front Press, which in July of this year changed its name to Bernicrats…it looks like the Iranian troll operation was probably watching the Russian operation and looked at what works.”

Other popular phrases used in the Iranian campaign were “Trump”, “Palestine”, “Israel”, “Syria”, “Quds” (Jerusalem in Arabic), “Turkey”, “Assad” and “Netanyahu”.

Many of the Iranian trolls either posed as news sites or masqueraded as journalists. One account with 1,450 followers, MariaLuis91, which claimed to be a French journalist, posted the same article to hundreds of different people each day throughout 2014, Mr Nimmo said.

“They were just spam sharers, but that’s not the kind of behaviour which is going to engage lots of people. They are just going to think who are you and why are you sending me this, and I will probably block you.”

Many of the tweets and pictures from the archives were in French, some referring to Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper which was the subject of a terror attack in 2015. Some implied France was becoming overrun by terrorists, mimicking lines from far-right anti-immigration parties.

It is unclear if all of Iran’s operation has been shut down by Twitter, by Mr Nimmo says there are “indications that the websites that have been identified so far are not the full set”.

 

PM vows ‘forceful’ response to Gaza as violence surges

October 17, 2018

Source: PM vows ‘forceful’ response to Gaza as violence surges | The Times of Israel

Netanyahu meets with top security officials near border with Palestinian enclave after rocket strikes a home in Beersheba, IDF bombs 20 targets in Strip

Today, 4:20 pm

From L to R: National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman,  Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman and IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi hold a situaltina assessment near the Gaza border on October 17, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel would “act forcefully” in response to a predawn rocket attack from the Gaza Strip that struck a Beersheba home, as a shaky calm appeared to return to the area.

The comments came after the prime minister met with top security officials for emergency consultations over the flareup, which sent already high border tensions skyrocketing. The Israel Defense Forces said it bombed at least 20 targets in Gaza in response to the missile attack.

“Israel views with utmost gravity the attacks against it on the fence, on the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, on Beersheba — everywhere. I said at the start of the cabinet meeting this week that if the attacks don’t end, we’ll end them,” Netanyahu said in the IDF Gaza Division’s headquarters near the Strip.

“I want to say to you today: Israel will act very forcefully,” the prime minister added.

The security consultations included Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Shin Bet security service chief Nadav Argaman and other top officials, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

During his visit to the Gaza Division, Netanyahu also met with the group of soldiers who spotted a group of Palestinians preparing to launch a large mortar shell at southern Israel and called in an aircraft, which bombed them before they could fire their projectile.

The prime minister also met with the heads of the local governments.

PM of Israel

@IsraeliPM

Prime Minister Netanyahu: “I said, at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, that if these attacks do not stop – we will stop them.
I want to tell you today as well – Israel will take very strong action.” pic.twitter.com/JpfvcsDkcD

View image on Twitter

PM of Israel

@IsraeliPM

Prime Minister Netanyahu toured the IDF Gaza Division command center where he met with the look-outs who, this morning, identified the launch cell that was stopped by the IDF, and expressed appreciation for the work and activity of the command center. pic.twitter.com/oZdZbAu3Ny

View image on Twitter

Egypt and the UN have reportedly scrambled to try to negotiate a calm between the sides since the rocket attack on Beersheba, which came days after Israeli leaders had already threatened a wider offensive over near-daily border riots and launches of incendiary balloons and kites.

In the predawn hours of Wednesday morning, a mid-range rocket from the Gaza Strip bearing a heavy 20 kilogram (44 pound) warhead struck a house in the southern city of Beersheba, causing significant damage to the structure.

An Israeli sapper checks a house after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip at the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on October 17, 2018. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)

The residents were spared injury as they had rushed into their bomb shelter after the incoming rocket siren sounded in the city.

A second rocket was also fired from the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning. It landed off the coast of the greater Tel Aviv area, known in Israel as Gush Dan.

In response, the Israel Defense Forces carried out strikes on some 20 targets in the Strip connected to the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group and other organizations in the coastal enclave.

Hamas and the second largest terror group in the Strip, the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, officially denied carrying out the rocket attack, saying it was “irresponsible” and undermined an Egyptian-led negotiation effort.

A Palestinian man walks on debris following a retaliatory Israeli airstrike near the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah after a rocket struck a home in the Israeli city of Beersheba on October 17, 2018. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Speaking to Israel Radio, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is a member of the security cabinet, accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of orchestrating the flareup in violence, and cautioned against launching a full-blown war in Gaza, which, he suggested, was what the West Bank-based Abbas wanted.

“We must aggressively respond with force to the rocket strike on Beersheba, but there is a difference between that and being drawn into a full campaign in Gaza,” Steinitz told the radio station. “This whole flareup was caused by Abbas and we should not let him draw us in.

“If we go to war in the Strip we will call it ‘Abbas’s war,’ because he is the architect of this flareup.”

Steinitz said that, contrary to comments from Defense Minister Liberman, Israel has not yet exhausted the chances of reaching an arrangement to calm the situation in Gaza. Egyptian mediators, who have so far failed to produce an agreement between Israel and Hamas to end the violence, were in Gaza on Wednesday.

Israeli security forces inspect a building that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on October 17, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in 2007. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks that come out of the Gaza Strip.

Abbas, who is demanding a resumption of control of the territory, has been working to undermine Hamas’s government in Gaza, and in recent months has levied severe sanctions on the Strip, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis there.

Opposition leader Avi Gabbay on Wednesday morning accused the government under Netanyahu of bungling the situation in Gaza and bolstering Hamas’s status.

“We are tired of a government that is strengthening Hamas. We are tired of a government that is enabling Hamas to strike and disrupt the lives of residents in the south,” he tweeted. “We are tired of Netanyahu’s security failures and Liberman’s empty slogans and we are tired of a cabinet that is mixing politics and state security.”

Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid at a plenary session at the Knesset on September 17, 2018. (Flash90)

MK Yair Lapid, who leads the opposition Yesh Atid party, tweeted that Hamas no longer fears Israel, and that the political leadership is entangled in public disputes between Liberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett on security policies.

“A direct hit on a home in Beersheba. There are no [school] studies in the city,” he said. “Hamas is no longer afraid and Netanyahu is hiding behind the Bennett-Liberman spats. Those who are clamoring for credit for successes should also take responsibility for failures. For how long will Hamas dictate the situation in the south?”

On Tuesday, Liberman warned that the military was gearing up for a major strike on Gaza to stop ongoing violence.

“I’ve held a series of meetings with the head of the Southern Command, the head of the [Gaza] Division, the brigade commanders, the battalion commanders, also with soldiers. My impression is that they all have reached the understanding that the situation as it is today cannot continue,” he said.

Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich on Wednesday criticized the government for not bringing calm to the south.

“This is an impossible situation,” he told Hadashot TV news. “In general, what has been going on in the Negev and the south in recent months is an unbearable situation… and we call on the government to put an end to it. It is impossible to live in a situation like this, no one is eager for a fight, but if this is repeated, something must be done.”

Earlier Danilovich canceled all school studies in the city until further notice.

It was only the second rocket fired at Beersheba since the 2014 Gaza war. The previous rocket, which struck a field north of Beersheba on August 9, came as Palestinians fired dozens of projectiles at Israeli communities along the Gaza border.

Rocket attacks on Beersheba — home to more than 200,000 people — are rare and considered a major escalation.

A second rocket fired from Gaza Wednesday morning fell out at sea across from the greater Tel Aviv area, known in Israel as Gush Dan. The military would only confirm that it struck “off the coast of a large city.”

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires as they demonstrate during the “Great March of Return” on the Gaza-Israel border in Rafah, Gaza on October 12, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots dubbed the “Great March of Return,” which have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

There have also been several flareups that took Israel and Hamas to the brink of war, with Palestinians firing rockets into Israel and the IDF responding with airstrikes.

Some 155 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures; Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border.

 

For a ‘nation in trauma’ rockets trigger underlying anxiety 

October 17, 2018

Source: For a ‘nation in trauma’ rockets trigger underlying anxiety – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

20% of Israelis suffer from symptoms of post-trauma, the NATAL study found.

BY TAMARA ZIEVE
 OCTOBER 17, 2018 19:53
The damaged house in Beersheba from the rocket attack on Wednesday, October 17, 2018.

The phone was ringing off the hook on Wednesday at the Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center NATAL, after a Grad rocket destroyed a home in Beersheba and another rocket landed in the sea next to the central city of Bat Yam.

Gila Sela, help line manager of NATAL, told The Jerusalem Post that on days like these she sees a 100% increase in calls, coming in not just from the south, but from all over the country. “It’s very reactivating of symptoms in people who remember what happened in previous incidents like this,” she told Post. “The memories are coming back, even if you sat in a shelter in Tel Aviv in Operation Protective Edge [in 2014].”

Sela explained that the recent incidents trigger anxiety in people all over the country “because we are a nation in trauma.”

Twenty percent of Israelis suffer from symptoms of post-trauma and are at high risk of that developing into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if they don’t get help, according to a new study by NATAL.

NATAL strives to help people with their symptoms in time and prevent the development of PTSD.

The study explored the psychological resiliency, coping capacities and pressures among the citizens of Israel, as a result of terrorist attacks and particularly in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge four years ago.

Data was collected between July and September of 2017, and the study was led by Prof.Marc Gelkopf, director of NATAL’s research and evaluation department and head of the community mental health department at the University of Haifa, Dr. Talya Greene of University of Haifa, and Liron Lapid Pickman of NATAL.

The study was conducted, with the support of the Lange Family Foundation, among 1,382 Israeli residents aged 18 and over, 500 of whom represent a representative sample of the population of Israel and 882 from specific populations (living in high-exposure areas, the Arab sector and immigrants). The data was collected, using questionnaires via the Internet and telephone, by the Brandman Institute for Research and Marketing Consulting.

The study found that among residents of Beersheba and the surrounding area, there are particularly high mental distress rates, almost 21% more than residents in the rest of the country (in the Jewish sector only). The margin of error of the study is +-4.5%.

While on regular days people manage to get on with their lives, Sela said, in times of tension, anxiety resurfaces.

What NATAL does, she says, is to try to help restore a sense of calm and routine, the latter which she stressed is important for achieving the former. Anything that interferes with routine — such as the closure of schools, as was instructed by the Home Front Command in Beersheba and Gaza Border communities on Wednesday — has a negative impact, particularly on those who are already nervous, she said.

“Resilience means routine and knowing what to expect so you can prepare for it,” she said, highlighting the importance of regular drills and information circulated by the authorities.

“We saw it with the woman in Beersheba, who wasn’t confused by the siren at 4 a.m., because in routine we are practicing all the time, so she took her children [to the shelter] and saved their lives,” Sela noted.

In this vein, NATAL staff members guides parents to talk to their children about the situation in a way that they can understand it. “They need to know what is happening and what to do and this reduces anxiety and makes them feel that it’s under control,” Sela told the Post.

“What happens outside our homes has a very significant effect on what happens inside our homes, where we can control what happens to us — we don’t want the outside to come inside, we want to make a wall and bring back a feeling of control,” Sela said.

But many living in the Gaza border communities don’t feel safe in their homes.

Symptoms witnessed by NATAL staffers in children include regression in language and bed-wetting, and fear of sleeping alone or of being alone at all.

Since some parents are themselves suffering from anxiety, that impacts on the children, who don’t feel like they have anybody to protect them, said Vivian Reutlinger, clinical social worker and CBT psychotherapist at NATAL.

This, she said, has many psychological repercussion later in life, such as trust issues, insecurity, depression and hopelessness.

“You can see this in teenagers,” Reutlinger told the Post over the phone after a day of working with children in southern communities. “They can’t think about the future, because the future is so uncertain.”

“We work with whole families, we understand it’s shared,” Dr. Tamar Lavi, NATAL’s director of community outreach, told the Post, as she was on her way back from field work in the south.

She stressed that the south has been experiencing a situation of insecurity and waves of conflict for almost 17 years.

“It’s a chronic exposure, very long exposure, and the children of today — their parents were teenagers when everything began,” Lavi said. “They are second generation.”

Citizens in the south, Lavi said, live with uncertainty of what will happen next. “There is a lot of hyper-vigilance and stress because you are always 15 seconds away from a disaster,” she continued, 15 seconds being the amount of time Gaza border community residents have to get to a shelter from the moment the siren rings.

Lavi added that in recent months, the combination of rockets, sirens and incendiary kites and balloons, has been harsh: “That takes a toll on body, mind and spirit.”

The fact that it’s a shared experience with everyone in the same surroundings, also causes problems, she notes, because both adults and children in the family, at schools, even in the social services are experiencing the same thing.

“Resources are impaired in the entire community,” Lavi highlighted, contrasting it to trauma experienced by an individual in a car accident, who can then lean on others, who have not been affected by that experience, for support.

Reutlinger recalls a family she once visited in the south. “The parents told me that one of their girls was scared, but then I saw the other children were walking in pairs…even in their own homes they don’t feel secure,”  Reutlinger told the Post. “We help them feel that they can take care of themselves and, as much as possible, to feel that their home is a safe place.”

Reutlinger heads up NATAL’s “mobile units program,” which was founded in 2006 when residents of Sderot were afraid to leave their homes — so NATAL brought the therapy to them. What was supposed to be a temporary program has since expanded, meeting a growing demand across different cities and communities in the south.

NATAL provides parents with tools to help their children as well as helping the children help themselves. Sometimes the children even use those tools to help others, Reutlinger remarked, recalling how a girl had told her how she’d taught a fellow pupil breathing techniques.

“If you feel that the ground is not as solid under your feet, call us, because with a very mild intervention, with very mild tools, we can help people get back into routine,” Sela urged.

On November 2, NATAL is  set to hold its annual “Running in Color” event, to raise awareness about the phenomenon of post-trauma from terror and war.

 

Israel policy fails to enamor US Jews of Trump, poll finds 

October 17, 2018

Source: Israel policy fails to enamor US Jews of Trump, poll finds – International news – Jerusalem Post

( Proud to be Israeli and American.  Ashamed to have been an American Jew. – JW )

“Only 6% say Trump’s Israel policy will cause them to consider voting for him despite disagreements on other important issues,” the Mellman Group adds.

BY MICHAEL WILNER
 OCTOBER 17, 2018 16:41

Israel policy fails to enamor US Jews of Trump, poll finds

WASHINGTON – A slim majority of American Jews support Donald Trump’s policies on Israel – but his stance on the Jewish state has not been enough to win over their support for his presidency, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

The survey, conducted by the Mellman Group and the Jewish Electorate Institute earlier this month, found that Jewish American support for Trump remains at a dismal 23% – and that 74% plan on voting for his Democratic opponent in 2020 regardless of the candidate.

Underscoring their opposition, 71% say they would not even consider voting to reelect Trump.

American Jews also plan on supporting Democrats with similar fervor in the midterm elections next month, according to the poll, which was commissioned to gauge the Jewish American electorate ahead of the upcoming races.

“While Jewish voters are split almost evenly on how they respond to the way President Trump is handling US-Israel relations, few are willing to support him on that alone,” the Jewish Democratic Council of America said in a statement. The Jewish Electorate Institute, which commissioned the poll, is affiliated with JDCA.

“Only 6% say Trump’s Israel policy will cause them to consider voting for him despite disagreements on other important issues,” the organization adds.

JDCA is surgically funding Democratic candidates in races considered too close to call, where large Jewish populations reside and where their high turnout could tip the balance of votes in their candidates’ favor.

A majority of those polled gave Trump only one positive mark: 51% approve of his handling of US-Israel relations. But American Jews support him on virtually no other issue. On his handling of rising antisemitism and Iran’s nuclear’s program, 70% of respondents disapproved of his job performance.

His worst issue polled was healthcare – a top issue for Jewish voters, who disapproved of his policies by an overwhelming 78%.

Mellman’s findings on Trump’s overall approval rating mirror the results of similar questioning in a poll conducted by the American Jewish Committee over the summer, which found that 26% of American Jews viewed Trump favorably. But they differ on the AJC’s findings on Trump’s Israel policy. Their June poll found that only 34% of American Jews supported his actions on Israel, suggesting a marked increase in recent months, or else a flawed polling method.

The poll was conducted October 2-11 and its results factor in a reported margin of error of 3.5%.

 

Off Topic: Farrakhan compares Jews to termites, says Jews are ‘stupid’

October 17, 2018

Source: Farrakhan compares Jews to termites, says Jews are ‘stupid’ – Diaspora – Jerusalem Post

“White people don’t like Farrakhan,” he said in his speech at the event on Sunday, a clip of which was posted on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

BY JEREMY SHARON
 OCTOBER 17, 2018 16:53
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has once again provoked controversy by comparing Jews to termites and calling Jewish people stupid in a speech he gave earlier this week at an event marking the 23rd anniversary of the so-called “Million Man March” in Washington, DC in 1995.

“White people don’t like Farrakhan,” he said in his speech at the event on Sunday, a clip of which was posted on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

MINISTER FARRAKHAN@LouisFarrakhan
“To the members of the Jewish community that don’t like me, thank you very much for putting my name all over the planet because of your fear of what we represent,” he continued.
Farrakhan was referring to the strong reaction to antisemitic comments he made in a speech in May this year when he talked of “Satanic Jews who have infected the whole world with poison and deceit.”
“I can go anywhere in the world and they’ve heard of Farrakhan,” he continued. “Thank you very much.”
“I’m not mad at you because you’re so stupid,” he continued, apparently still addressing Jews.
“So when they talk about Farrakhan, call me a hater, you [know] what they do, call me an antisemite. Stop it, I’m anti-termite,” he said to laughter and applause around the audience. “I don’t know nothing about hating somebody because of their religious preference.”
Farrakhan has a long history of antisemitism, and made another hateful speech in February this year when he said that Jews control the US government as well as Mexico, Ukraine, France, Poland and Germany.
He also said, “When you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door.” He also claimed that Jewish people are the ones responsible for “degenerate behavior in Hollywood turning men into women and women into men,” and that Jews are “the mother and father of apartheid.”

 

Khamenei lambastes Western nations, promises Iran will turn to East

October 17, 2018

Source: Khamenei lambastes Western nations, promises Iran will turn to East – International news – Jerusalem Post

He characterized Western nations as the enemy who are attempting to paint Iran negatively and humiliate it.

BY JOSH AXELROD
 OCTOBER 17, 2018 15:57
Khamenei lambastes Western nations, promises Iran will turn to East

Using a meeting on scientific progress as an opportunity to slam Western nations, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran must turn to the East to advance the nation’s power.

“Looking to the West and Europe has no benefit other than having to stand idle, begging favors and undergoing humiliation,” Supreme Leader of Iran Khamenei said.

Calling western nations “the enemy,” he elaborated that these countries have painted a false image of Iran. He emphasized that the actual state of the country is the opposite of what “domineering foreigners” have depicted through “the hegemonic system.”

“Portraying a false, negative and disappointing image of the situation in Iran is the most important agenda of the enemy today,” Khamenei said.
The objective of the meeting with scientific elites in Tehran was to stress the importance of science in all fronts of Iranian society. He hopes to connect universities with industry, while cooperating with ambitious countries in the East.

“If we make scientific progress, the threats from our civilizational, political, and economic enemies will not be permanent and will diminish,” Khamenei said.
The meeting in Tehran came a day after the US imposed new sanctions against Iran.

In May, Trump ripped up the Iran nuclear deal, announcing a severe new attitude towards the Middle Eastern nation. The US has been encouraging other countries to freeze economic activity with Iran and its economy has been decimated by sanctions.

 

After 6 months of Hamas arson terrorism, 9,000 acres lost in Israel’s south 

October 17, 2018

Source: After 6 months of Hamas arson terrorism, 9,000 acres lost in Israel’s south – Israel Hayom