‘Israel ran secret influence campaign targeting US lawmakers’

The initiative, orchestrated and financed by Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, sought to rally backing for Israel’s actions in the conflict….reports Asian Lite News

Israel has been conducting a covert lobbying campaign aimed at influencing US lawmakers and the American public about the Gaza war, according to a report by The New York Times published on Wednesday.

The campaign, organized and funded by Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, aimed to garner support for Israel’s actions in the conflict, as revealed by officials involved and related documents.

“Israel’s role in this is reckless and probably ineffective,” said Achiya Schatz, executive director of FakeReporter, an Israeli misinformation watchdog that identified the effort in March.

He added that running an operation that interferes in US politics is “extremely irresponsible.”

The documents cited by The New York Times indicate that the ministry allocated about $2 million for the operation and hired Stoic, a political marketing firm in Tel Aviv, to execute the campaign.

Launched in October, the campaign employed hundreds of fake social media accounts on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and X to post AI-generated pro-Israeli comments targeting key American lawmakers.

Democrat Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the House minority leader from New York, and Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, appeared to have been key targets.

Three fake English-language news sites featuring pro-Israel articles were also part of the influence campaign.

Despite these efforts, FakeReporter noted that the campaign did not achieve a “widespread impact.”

Accounts shut down by Meta in May had “accumulated more than 40,000 followers across X, Facebook, and Instagram,” but many followers appeared to be bots, failing to generate a significant audience.

Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs denied involvement, stating it had no connection to Stoic. However, four current and former members of the ministry contradicted this claim, confirming the ministry’s involvement.

If verified, this would be the first known campaign by the Israeli government to directly influence US lawmakers.

Countries such as Iran, China, North Korea, Russia and the US have previously been linked to similar tactics aimed at influencing public opinion and creating controversy.

Israel has been striving to gain public support following its military invasion of Gaza last October, a response to the Hamas Oct. 7 attack.

With global support at minimal levels, Israel has resorted to such tactics to sway public opinion, particularly in the US, where the Biden administration’s support for Israeli actions has faced growing discontent.

Last October, an Arab News investigation revealed that an Israeli state advertising campaign appeared on many X users’ feeds, despite the platform’s ad policy guidelines prohibiting such content.

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