A Pro-Israel Group Is Trying to Intimidate Palestine Protesters With Claims of ‘Infiltration’

‘It’s pure fantasy.’

by Clare Hymer

1 March 2024

Palestine supporters protest on Vauxhall Bridge, London, November 2023. Kevin Coombs/Reuters

A group of anonymous pro-Israel digital vigilantes which claims to surveil supporters of Palestine could be exaggerating the sophistication of its activities in order to make people scared, Novara Media can reveal.

Shirion Collective, a self-described “private Jewish surveillance force”, stated in a post on X/Twitter on 13 February that it was looking for “volunteers willing to wear keffiyehs and walk in” pro-Palestine demonstrations in seven major cities on 17 February as part of “Operation Global Insight”, an initiative “to uphold Western values and safeguard Israel and the Jewish people”.

The group also claimed to offer cash compensation to “individuals with Arabic-sounding names and Middle Eastern appearance”, who it said “may be uniquely positioned for deeper infiltration” into the Palestine movement, and to provide recruits with training from “one of our ex-Mossad team leads”.

But screenshots from Shirion’s internal Telegram channel, shared with Novara Media by Australian antifascist research group the White Rose Society, indicate that such claims might be more bluff than reality. 

Commenting on the callout for infiltrators posted on X/Twitter – which has over half a million views at the time of writing – Shirion digital volunteers discussed how they hoped this tweet alone would sow distrust amongst Palestine supporters.

“We won’t need to do anything,” one volunteer wrote. “They [supporters of Palestine] will:

1. Tone down

2. Police their own

3. Maybe even beat up their own just because they think those are us

And all accomplished just by ONE tweet. Doesn’t even cost a cent.”

“They are horrified!,” another volunteer said, noting the online response to the X/Twitter post. “Now they won’t be able to trust their own shadows!”

The White Rose Society told Novara Media that while Shirion may still be organising more serious surveillance operations in other private spaces – and the group itself told us it is – it suspects these posts reveal the true intent of the callout for infiltrators. 

“It’s a bit silly to make such a callout in public,” a spokesperson for the White Rose Society said. 

There has also been scant evidence of a sophisticated surveillance operation at Palestine demonstrations held in cities across the world on 17 February. 

While a post on X/Twitter claimed Shirion’s “undercover teams” in London that day were “firsthand witnesses to the antisemitic fervor [sic] directly targeting Jewish congregants leaving synagogues”, the attached video – which is selectively clipped and inaccurately subtitled – provides little evidence for this. 

When approached for comment by Novara Media, Shirion insisted that the incident took place, and that a “comprehensive report” from Operation Global Insight – with “revelations that will pivot global discourse” – would be published in March.

Shirion Collective was founded in November 2023 in the wake of the 7 October attacks on Israel. With active volunteers in the UK, US, Canada and Australia, it says its primary objective is “scraping digital fingerprints to aggressively track and expose antisemitism”. 

Shirion claims that at the heart of its operations is “Maccabee”, “a sophisticated AI-driven tool designed for modern digital warfare against antisemitism” (or, as it turns out, anyone who is simply anti-Zionist or pro-Palestinian).

The group has described Maccabee, which it implies is already up and running, as having the ability to identify a pro-Palestine activist from a photo or video, track them across the internet, create deepfakes of them, and send those deepfakes to their employer (and all future employers) in order to make hiring them a “liability”.

But while Shirion told Novara Media that Maccabee is “a very real initiative”, a spokesperson for White Rose Society said the group thought Shirion’s claims are “pure fantasy”, as the technology to do all it claims “simply doesn’t exist” without significant manual intervention.

Regardless of the veracity of Shirion’s claims, bragging about its AI capabilities – as well as undercover infiltrators and (unverified) offers of bounties for information on pro-Palestine protesters – nonetheless “serves the purpose of making people afraid to publicly support Palestine”, the spokesperson for the White Rose Society said.

To date, what Shirion has actually achieved in terms of tracking and reporting Palestine supporters appears limited.

The group’s 900-strong Telegram channel shows digital volunteers, some of whom seem well meaning, manually mass reporting genuine instances of antisemitism on social media. But it also shows members of the channel reporting accounts that support the Palestinian cause, claiming that phrases such as “The world stands with Palestine, not Zionism” are antisemitic. 

Active members of the channel also regularly post Islamophobic content, such as “memes” of the Quran printed on toilet paper, a graphic of the Winston Churchill quote: “Islam is as dangerous in a man as rabies in a dog”, and AI-generated images portraying pro-Palestine protesters as zombies and Krampus-like creatures. 

When challenged by Novara Media on the Islamophobic content on its Telegram channels, Shirion did not respond directly, but said: “Encountering disagreeable opinions? Welcome to the real world.”

Clare Hymer is a commissioning editor at Novara Media.

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