Why Israel is Losing the Internet War
Israel is losing the internet war for chiefly the same reason that France and Poland fell early in World War II. Israel is fighting a new war using old methods. The end results are predictable and devastating.
The first alarm bells should have gone off in the mid 90's. What struck me at that time was the number of Neo-Nazi websites that sprung up like weeds. It was not until a few years later that the ADL was offering filtering software. By then the battle had been lost; the damage had not yet been fully appreciated.
In 1999, Hollywood was having conniptions that Napster's file sharing software was robbing them of royalties. What was ignored was that, simultaneously, regurgitated Nazi propaganda was being remastered and traded as well.
By 2000, Israel should have acted, but it didn't. With the ease of purchasing domains, anyone with an anti-Israel bias could open up a site. Cross-linking got them a high presence on Google. It wasn't until Jew Watch -- a vicious anti-Semitic site -- punched a number one rating for searches of the word, "jew" ("Joseph Turow and Lokman Tsui wrote in 2008 that the Wikipedia page [Jew Watch] on Jews had become the number one result for the search word "Jew".") that a realization of how far things had deteriorated had finally set in.
But again, old methods were tried to fight the flood. Hate crime laws were applied to shut down sites, and punish their authors, such as happened with Ernst Zündel and his Zündelsite. There were requests to delist Jew Watch from Google. A Remove Jew Watch Campaign was started.
Apart from the fact that such methods are authoritarian, and only added to the criticism of Jews -- "What were the Jews trying to hide?" -- they did not work. The Canadian-resident Zündel merely transferred ownership of his site to his American wife -- and it is on an American server to this day, putting it outside the jurisdiction of Canadian hate crimes laws. Zündel would be deported to Germany under suspiciously political circumstances, which gave a foolish holocaust-denying clown the opportunity to redefine himself as a champion of free speech. Worst of all, Muslims used these very same hate crime laws to prevent criticism of Islam. All of this response was old school; and all of it backfired.
Jew Watch is still up and running; and still running rather high on Google, even though far worse anti-Semitic sites have sprung up.
So what were the mistakes?
A) Israel and the World Jewish Community sought to suppress anti-Semitism. The internet does not allow suppression. Getting court orders to shut down a site takes time. In the interim, a hundred new sites can spring up, some no more than mere mirror replications of the old site being suppressed. The Jewish response was that of an old world East European autocracy trying to shut down dissident printing presses. Given the history of the Jews, many of whom came from Eastern Europe, and some of whom ran those dissident presses, they should have known better. You can't stop a rebellion shutting down one press at a time.
B) Israel and the World Jewish Community did not fully appreciate the fluid and transnational nature of the internet. While Europe, with its hate crime laws, could be persuaded to shut down anti-Semitic websites, there is nothing stopping a European from opening up his website on an American server, under American First Amendment protections. RadioIslam.org is a notorious website set up by a former Moroccan, with connections to a Swedish Nazi, both of whom have spent time in Swedish jails for hate crimes. However, the website is hosted in the USA, and a WHOIS search shows it to be administered under a semi-anonymous cover with a Pennsylvania address. The Europeans can't touch the site.
C) YouTube is a game changer. Anybody with a camera can photograph some IDF abuse -- and it does happen -- and have it up on YouTube in a matter of minutes. Of course, all balancing context and information will be edited out.
D) Finally, all too often Israeli apologists tried to defend Israel by logic and appeals to reason. Dr. Martin Sherman of Tel Aviv might give an hour-long well-reasoned defense of a Jewish state, but it is meaningless on the internet, which has the attention span of a Sesame Street commercial for the letter Z. Jews might appreciate Talmudic logic, but Generation Y, thanks to our educational system, is technically brilliant, but functionally illiterate. Any appeal above the level of a lurid comic will be ignored. If it can't be reduced to a tweet, forget it.
Authoritarian media control will not work in an age where websites sprout like dandelions. Enforcing hate laws will not work when websites can move offshore. Reasoned discussion will not work when our education systems have dumbed down the constituencies.
Israel must fight back with a counter-blitz.
A) Hundreds of videos of Muslim outrages should be distributed daily. Fortunately, these are not hard to find. Many times, the Muslims upload the offensive boastful videos themselves. Millions of emails should be sent out daily linking to these videos.
B) Be brutal! This horrific photo [be warned] of a female genital mutilation procedure done to an Egyptian girl should be sent to every female in the Western world. The email headline should read: This is What Defending Islam Means. This could be done in a matter of days. Be sure to point out that it does occur in Gaza and the contested areas. Point out that this crime is rare outside proximity to Islam. Make no apologies for the email. Half the pro-Palestinian campus activity will cease within a month.
C) Hammer home the total lack of freedom, especially religious freedom in Islam. Every outrage must be mass mailed to millions of people.
D) Get rid of the hasbara activists, who are often quite dull, and annoying, even to supporters of Israel. Ten million emails sent out every day about Islamic outrages will do more good than any number of awkward hasbara activists in chatrooms fighting a propaganda war with tired slogans no one believes anymore.
E) Hire spammers to set up mailing campaigns. The West should be inundated daily with anti-Islam messages. The Arabists fight dirty. So should you. Assemble massive email lists, sorted by constituency Change servers to avoid blocking.
F) This is not about reason. The Jewish world abhors images as a foundation of logic, due to the Second Commandment. Forget that! You are trying to win the hearts of us Goyim. We need images, not the musings of Rashi. Graphic images! Lots of them! Daily! Hammer the point home! When the media screams foul, redouble the effort.
Finally, and this will be controversial: The ancient Israelites could not advance into the land until they dealt with the sin of Achan. Israel does tolerate some abusive settlers; and use some oppressive or prejudicial legal wranglings when dealing with Arabs, even Israeli Arabs. Until Israel deals with these issues, be assured the Arabists will make effective hay of Israel's sins to cover up Islam's far greater crimes. For the time being Israel must reign in violent settlers, and give the Arabs as much justice as is possible, if only to deprive the other side of ammunition in the propaganda war.
The first thing New York's Mayor Giuliani did when he started his war on crime was arrest crooked cops. Israel should do likewise.
Israel must change its tactics in the Internet War. Appeals to reason will not work with a generation which has be taught illiteracy. Israel must abandon its old methods, and fight hard and furious with the weapons of the internet. Images, videos, and cartoons. If done rightly, the battle can be won in short order, if Israel stops being polite.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is not Jewish, Latin, or Arab. He runs a website, http://latinarabia.com/, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin America. He wishes his Spanish were better.