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Thursday, January 21, 2021

The App That BDS Fears

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Pro-Israel advocates who are fed up with the rhetoric from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement now have a tool they can use to fight BDS: the Act.IL app.

The app, a joint project by the Israeli-American Council (IAC), Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) and Maccabee Task Force, notifies users when Israel is being criticized online and provides them with the opportunity to fight back against it. For instance, the app notified the pro-Israel community of an image posted in a pro-BDS Facebook group that compared Zionists to insects that Facebook initially refused to remove when someone reported it.

“Within a few hours, hundreds of people sent this report to Facebook and by the morning, they said this post was removed,” IAC CEO Shoham Nicolet told the Journal. “This is an example where you have an individual trying to act, the power of individual is very limited. When you have crowds and audiences walking together, a community suddenly becomes a lot more effective.”

Another example of the app’s usage was when it suggested that people criticize a business that wouldn’t serve Israelis on Facebook, causing the business’s rating to decline from a 4.6 star rating to a 1.4 rating out of 5.

“The cutting edge idea is really to have a connected community that is all across the U.S. and in Israel that is fighting for Israel,” said Nicolet.

The app has already made enough waves to cause BDS to mention in a recent fundraising post on Facebook how the app’s “Situation Room” disrupted a pro-BDS webinar.

“This ‘Situation Room’ was funded by right-wing mogul and avid Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson, a man who has pledged $50 million to fight BDS on US campuses alone,” the post read. “Paid trolls littered our accounts with vile racism, racial incitement, Islamophobic and baseless anti-Palestinian propaganda.”

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan also gave the app a shout-out back in February.

“I am initiating an international effort to unite Israel’s supporters around the globe and provide them with a platform that strengthens their activities, with tools that will help all of us fight hatred together, and with resources to spread the truth,” said Erdan. “As part of the campaign, we will provide Israel’s supporters with videos, graphics, articles and content. Along with civil society initiatives such as the Act.il application developed by Israeli-American Council (IAC) and IDC students, we believe that this will be a game-changer in defending Israel online and around the world.”

The current version of the app has a 4.5 out of 5 star rating in iTunes.

Nicolet credited the app’s success to the fact there is such a robust, organic grassroots activism in Israel and the U.S. dedicated to defending the Jewish state.

“This is exactly where online technologies can really build bridges and really close the gap between Israel and the U.S. and the Jewish people in both sides of the ocean,” said Nicolet.

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