Regardless of how weak India’s media propaganda might be, Pakistan still has much to do in gaining the upper hand against it. The vast difference in the size of the online presence of the two countries’ populations factors in here as much as Pakistan’s lethargic, overly-domestic-oriented media which deals poorly in broadcasting Pakistan’s responses to India’s aggressive Infowars in real-time.
Given India’s extremely close ties with and socio-religious affinity for Israel (a factor the Jewish state values immensely), however, it may soon have an ace up its sleeve in the infowar component of its tussles with Pakistan that the latter may well not anticipate. Israel’s uncanny censorship capabilities in cyberspace may well help not only patch up the many rather comical chinks in India’s infowar armour (or at least conceal them to an extent) but can help drown out Pakistan’s meagre scattering of voices concerned enough to respond to India’s behemoth propaganda machine.
India’s Massive Online Presence and the Global Censorship Paradigm
Pakistani Twitter handles, in a recent controversy, were removed or contacted by Twitter authorities and informed their content ‘violated Indian law’. Kashmiri accounts have experienced mass-removal from Twitter as well in recent times, bringing the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression’s to the issue late last year. This signified a degree of clout India had with such large companies as Facebook, and the absolute lack of it possessed by Pakistan.
Little attention was paid in Pakistan to the notorious Atlantic Council censoring social media accounts it claimed, in a tactic mirroring that it used during the 2016 US Presidential Election to shut down independent voices online, represented ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’ on behalf of the Pakistan military. The move came leading up to India’s elections and signified the regard important elements of the US ‘deep state’ structure have for India, as well as the usage of censorship as a strategic weapon by states.
Israel’s Devastating Weapon of Censorship
Huge levels of censorship have since then ravaged YouTube-based critics of Israel, with many accounts suspended thanks to the ADL’s activities. The ADL also works in projects involving Israelis and American Jews in Jewish community centres across the US organized to mass-report and flag online content that is anti-Zionist or critical of Israeli policies. Wikipedia is a major target of many of these projects, with Israeli and Jewish youth paid large sums to constantly add edits and Israeli state propaganda, or ‘Hasbara’, into entries related to Israel and to ‘Zionize’ Wikipedia.
Israel’s capability to censor content it does not like is perhaps the most underrated policy tool of any state in the modern-day. Eerily paralleling its capabilities – or more accurately, those of the US-based Israel Lobby – to launch coordinated smear-and-silencing campaigns against prominent figures that criticized it prior to the days of the internet is this influence Israel has with major Silicon Valley tech and social media companies.
As documented in a detailed report by investigative journalist and MintPress writer Whitney Webb, Israel’s foreign military intelligence unit, Unit 8200, has had its alumni placed in ‘top managerial and executive positions in Microsoft, Google and Facebook.’ The report also describes how Paul Singer, Zionist billionaire hedge fund manager and major Trump campaign donor, has run a prolific project for moving investment and jobs by major American tech companies to Israel. In addition, the project, ‘Start-Up Nation Central’ (SUNC) has helped get much Israeli intelligence personnel embedded in these companies.
The Paul R Singer Foundation also funds the same online censorship projects overseen by the ADL. They also involve guidance from Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, as was revealed by the undercover al Jazeera investigative documentary on the Israel Lobby publicized in 2018.
Unit 8200 was stated by its former commander, Yair Cohen, in 2016 to be involved in essentially all major MOSSAD operations abroad. Singer’s own links to Israeli intelligence are deep and facilitate this welding together of Israel’s cyber warfare machinery with private yet state-subsidized American tech companies, which as per the SUNC project have been laying off thousands of American jobs via outsourcing to Israel.
India’s Hasbarist Allies
Indians vastly outnumber Pakistanis online and their flagging and reporting capabilities augmented by those of the more organized and more influential Hasbara squads operating with impunity could see indigenous Pakistani content curbed greatly online. Pakistan not only lacks 24/7 English-medium news channels that would dedicate time and publicity to getting Pakistan’s side of the story out to the world audience but also until recently has severely lacked ‘patriotic’ English magazines, websites and other platforms. The rather surprising lack of this would explain why popular independent media endeavours seeking to explain broader geopolitical schemes involving the targeting and destabilization of Pakistan often leave out or underplay the Indian role.
The explanation for this is the failure of Pakistan to get the word out on its aggressive, primary eastern rival despite the latter possessing a lot of aspects to its foreign policy which if highlighted accurately would see it subject to great scrutiny among independent media voices.
Indo-Israeli Counter-Pakistan Surge
The similar overall stance with regard to Muslims, Islamist-oriented armed movements fighting them that Israel and India hold provide an Indo-Israeli infowar alliance with a pre-set roadmap to follow. Inevitably, even if Pakistan’s lethargic media continues to provide no stimulus for it, Kashmir advocacy will begin to be taken up by the same large pool of grassroots activists who would document Israeli crimes, defend armed resistance against Israel and are well sensitized to the evil that is the occupation of other peoples’ homelands.
This means that the communities the Israel Lobby in the US traditionally smears and tries to censor are the natural candidates for Pakistan to reach out to vis-à-vis exposing India. Following from this, they are India’s natural foes, especially as of the BJP taking power and abandoning Congress governments’ tendency for marketing India as ‘diverse and tolerant’. They are also, like most everyone on the planet, reliant on Silicon Valley mega-companies for publicity. Their vulnerability to Israeli censorship has been great in recent times, with several renowned sources of content on Israel’s crimes having been struck off YouTube in recent purges.
Notably, Pakistan may well find itself hamstrung by Israeli censorship enforcers in the pursuit of what is perhaps the most comprehensive, self-galvanizing, morally-sound, internationally-appealing and effective way of exposing India: advocacy, as the author argues in detail here, for Kashmiri freedom and resistance against Indian occupation.
In addition to just flagging and reporting, another instrument of the Lobby’s power might well be put to use against Pakistan. This is the ability to draft and get approved draconian legislation in the US. The finest example of this is the ‘anti-Semitism awareness’ legislations now passed by several US state legislation that, using vague and loose criterion crafted by the Lobby itself, criminalize public criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Jewish bias or hatred and thus seek to pull the rug out from under principled activists documenting, exposing and condemning its crimes.
Such laws affect the internet’s mega-companies and all their customers, be they US-based or outside it. The potential for Israel’s global censorship project’s power trip here is massive. For Israel’s ally India, the specific criticisms of whom often align along remarkably similar axes to those made against Israel, such a capability would do it wonders in managing to curb the rise in awareness of the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK).
Not much resistance would be experienced by the Lobby if it decided to quickly rally Congressmen or state legislators to blacklist groups or individuals partaking in pro-Kashmir activism. IOK is under-discussed by Pakistan’s media, which focuses on petty domestic politics, and even the tendency of such evocative and stimulating causes as justice for IoK toward spreading exponentially among grassroots activists might be pre-empted by a silencing campaign.
Pakistan has little to no clout in front of the US Congress or with any state governments and as of the Musharraf era has not done much at the policy level for IOK, to begin with anyway. They would likely face a great deal of harassment from US law enforcement despite their First Amendment rights as well. Owing to the unfair blacklisting long ago by the UNSC under US pressure of some Pakistan-based armed groups fighting India’s occupation in Kashmir, it would be easy to associate with such groups any entities in the US and curb their activities severely. The US has ample such laws to be invoked by Israel-pandering legislators to arbitrarily brand anyone to be associated with a terror group and face the music for it.
If not arbitrarily, it would not be out of the question for Israel’s intelligence services such as MOSSAD and Unit 8200 to provide ‘intel’ on such pro-Kashmir voices associating them to Kashmiri ‘terrorists’ to provide a pretext for them to be silenced. Their access to broadcast media, their accounts on the social media behemoths that Unit 8200 has penetrated so deeply, their ability to hold bank accounts, get funding and more may well be jeopardized by a public-private joint censorship onslaught inflicted upon them by Israeli-penetrated social media and the Lobby’s influence over legislators.
A Tough Task Ahead
Pakistan is in sore need of a proactive counter-propaganda campaign. It is already hard-pressed due to the size of India’s massive presence in the digital and cyber world and with Israel actively assisting India things might get very tight for it in the near future. India is already in an aggressive mode when it comes to actual policies and it may realize the benefits of seeking out Israel’s censorship prowess to give it cover as it seeks to continue to portray itself as a defence.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.