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The NYT reports:

The campaign began in October and remains active on the platform X. At its peak, it used hundreds of fake accounts that posed as real Americans on X, Facebook and Instagram to post pro-Israel comments. The accounts focused on U.S. lawmakers, particularly ones who are Black and Democrats, such as Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the House minority leader from New York, and Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, with posts urging them to continue funding Israel’s military.

ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence-powered chatbot, was used to generate many of the posts. The campaign also created three fake English-language news sites featuring pro-Israel articles. [...]

The operation is the first documented case of the Israeli government’s organizing a campaign to influence the U.S. government, social media experts said. While coordinated government-backed campaigns are not uncommon, they are typically difficult to prove. Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and the United States are widely believed to back similar efforts around the world, but often mask their involvement by outsourcing the work to private companies or running them through a third country.

The campaign didn’t have a widespread impact, Meta and OpenAI said last week. [...] On Facebook, the fake accounts posted on Mr. Jeffries’s public page by asking if he had seen a report about the United Nations’ employing members of Hamas in Gaza. [...]

The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs commissioned a campaign aimed at the United States, the Israeli officials said. A budget of about $2 million was set, according to one message viewed by The Times.

What's the point of Israel risking exposure over a relatively small operation like that (apparently only $2 million was allocated to it) when pro-Israel lobby groups (that are legit US citizens) like AIPAC have budgets of around $100 million?

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    I've upvoted the Q but will still be voting for closure. End of the day, not to minimize Israeli behavior in the matter, but that still leaves us with no way to know the reasoning behind what has certainly been a very hush-hush operation. I've DVed all but Sayaman's answer, but they all share in common that they are based on users' opinions. Which is all this Q is likely to get as answers. Commented Jun 5 at 17:01
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    The question is about public diplomacy strategies and is ontopic for politics.SE. As Israeli astroturfing has received widespread attention in media, answers based on those media sources are writable. Commented Jun 7 at 20:08

5 Answers 5

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The answer is right in the question:

when pro-Israel lobby groups (that are legit US citizens) have budgets of around $100 million?

Pro-Israeli US lobbyists are in the US. Many are from the US or intend to stay here permanently. They support Israel in the abstract, but they don't necessarily support specific actions of the Israeli government, and they don't necessarily push the same narrative as the government (or whichever part of the government is paying for this specific campaign, which is not necessarily the same as other parts of the government). They might back a different faction within Israeli politics or society, or they might push stories with a spin that - although they think it will garner support - is counter to the spin that some other agency is pushing.

It's always nice to have friendly lobbyists on your side, but special interest groups can be inconveniently independent in their messaging. It's valuable to have a group, even a relatively small one, that you can give a very precise narrative to push and know that they'll follow it to the letter.


Historically, this was a major issue for the USSR trying to export Communism to the West. They had many willing proxies and advocates: Communist parties, student groups, other special interests. But those groups had a tendency to push ideas that were inside the Communist umbrella but disfavored or even banned in the Soviet Union, like Trotskyism or (after the Sino-Soviet split) Maoism. Where major controversies like the Hungarian Revolution were concerned, some proxies stood by the party line, some tried to avoid discussing it at all, and others were more or less in opposition. Moscow had to toe a fine line between using the tools it had (such as financial support) to push its proxies in the direction it wanted, without accidentally turning them against the party or weakening them to the point of uselessness.

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I don't see how anyone who follows this site can believe that Israel has such widespread support in the US that is has no need to influence anyone on social media . Or even that the Israeli point of view is understood by most American social media followers.

You can also ask this question in reverse too. Why did the US State Department spend $350 thousand to prop up the left-wing parties and to influence Israeli elections, when the left-wing has so much power in Israel already?

https://www.ngo-monitor.org/ngos/onevoice_international_/

Anyway, the anti-Israel activist websites are constantly claiming that their campaigns, whether it is blocking bridges and people from getting to work, whether it is taking over college campuses, or whether it is online campaigns, are super successful in changing people's opinions. Particularly politicians. Being that those campaigns mostly start on social media, it makes sense to try to combat them on social media.

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    I suppose that's one way of saying it's Netanyahu's payback against the Democrats for trying to influence Israeli politics in a leftward manner (assuming your data is correct). Commented Jun 5 at 16:05
  • I suppose you're somewhat right about the other issue too. Support for the war in Gaza has dwindled among the US public in some respects but one should read the wording of those polls fairly carefully as they often mix goals/justification and means. Polls that ask more discriminating questions manage to tease out this distinction in the results as well. Commented Jun 6 at 6:27
  • @againstverylongusernames I suppose that's one way of saying it's Netanyahu's payback against the Democrats for trying to influence Israeli politics in a leftward manner (assuming your data is correct). - this is either deliberate propaganda or naïveté. Netanyahu watches for his own interest (which is not always aligned with Israel interest). Also, it probably takes more than just Netanyahu's wish to organize a state campaign - while they like to say that in ME all the decisions are made by the King/President, Israel still ranks on Democracy indices alongside other western nations.
    – Morisco
    Commented Jun 7 at 7:25
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Younger Americans are more likely to sympathize with the Palestinian people than the Israeli people. A third of adults under 30 say their sympathies lie either entirely or mostly with the Palestinian people, while 14% say their sympathies lie entirely or mostly with the Israeli people. The rest say their sympathies lie equally with both, with neither or that they are not sure.

Older Americans, by comparison, are more likely to sympathize with Israelis than Palestinians. For example, among people ages 65 and older, 47% say their sympathies lie entirely or mostly with the Israeli people, while far fewer (9%) sympathize entirely or mostly with the Palestinians.

https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2024/04/02/younger-americans-stand-out-in-their-views-of-the-israel-hamas-war/

Most likely due to the fact that younger people uses social media like Tiktok and traditional media doesn't influence them as much as younger people. This is also probably a preemptive measure to ensure that the majority of Americans support Israel in the foreseeable future.

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I fail to see why this is surprising. The US is a critical source of aid to Israel. Popular opinion in the US has been shifting rapidly against Israel. Israel has a history of engaging in disinformation.

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    Hmmm, can't say this is too impressive an example. IMEU seems to be about as anti-Israel as one can get, some of the examples aren't that clearcut - I certainly remember the WP rounds one as we had a bit of disinfo going on by one user about another with one Q about it and HRW's case was not all that strong. The rapes claim? Backed by UN nowadays, remember? Last, whatever is actually valid about that article - and there is still quite a bit - has a lot more to do with on-the-moment disclaimers than a premeditated disinfo campaign as asked about here. -1 : really should pick better sources Commented Jun 5 at 16:41
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The loudest Americans are the youngest.

They tend to get their information from social media. Which is hardly neutral. For example: Bin Laden's Letter to America not only went viral recently but frighteningly had a popular view by a percentage of the young. https://www.washingtonpost.com/style/2023/11/16/guardian-osama-bin-laden-letter-to-america/ (paywall). This is horrifying to most adults that watched the Towers go down on 9/11, only to hear Gen Z glorify Bin Laden.

They are taught by very left-leaning teaching institutions. They have propagated the idea of oppressor / oppressed in every situation. This study shows the socialist trend in higher education: https://collegestats.org/explore/red-campus-blue-campus/

Qatar has given literally billions to US schools for "Middle East" studies that typically use staff with an anti-Israel bias. Qatar is the home of the Hamas political leadership and the Hamas funding conduit. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qatari_involvement_in_higher_education_in_the_United_States

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2024/05/03/us-qatar-hamas-hostages-ceasefire/ (paywall)

Interviews have shown that protesters are mostly ignorant of what they are protesting for: https://www.wsj.com/articles/from-which-river-to-which-sea-anti-israel-protests-college-student-ignorance-a682463b (paywall)

The loudest people in the US are biased and not clear on the facts.

So does Israel have a right and duty to educate? Of course they do. The US has free speech, so why wouldn't they?

UPDATE 6/30/2024 With groups carrying Hamas and Hezbollah flags blocking memorials in the US, there is a problem. This isn't free speach. The radical left is very loud. It shouldn't be ignored. https://nypost.com/2024/06/10/us-news/anti-israel-mob-chanting-long-live-intifada-light-flares-outside-nyc-exhibit-that-memorializes-oct-7-nova-music-festival-victims/

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    Most of this answer does not seem relevant and perhaps even misleading. The question "Why is the Israeli government apparently wasting money on unnecessary propaganda when support for them is high?" does not change if "propaganda" is instead reframed as "educate." There's a bit about how Qatar is doing it too (but maybe Qatar is also wasting money, and the thesis of the question is that Israel would have less need to do this than Qatar).
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jun 5 at 16:20
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    A bit of claiming that younger people are socialist by linking to a somewhat old article that is about general left-wing and right-wing divides, not socialism. A claim that most pro-Palestinian protesters are not familiar with Levantine geography, from a small-sample study whose commissioner does not even tell us how it was sampling (but it does not seem to have been from protesters in any case).
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jun 5 at 16:26
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    And it's probably worth mentioning that what went viral were a few quotes taken out of context (mentioning only the pro-Palestinian bits without any of the misogyny, homophobia or other social conservatism, nor the anti-Semitism or the context of what OBL had been responsible for), that popularity does not necessarily equate to agreement, and they only went really viral after a few media companies tried to prevent people from seeing it.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jun 5 at 16:34
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    And as far as spreading fake news, statistically most likely culprits seem to be... older Republican women, not poor misunderstood GenZ. Commented Jun 5 at 16:51
  • @Obie2.0 I cited an older article because it was before everything became so partisan (DEI, etc.). It shows the trend towards socalist teachings. The Qatar money shows additional bias (over $4,000,000,000.00) in the past few years being spent.
    – DogBoy37
    Commented Jun 5 at 18:20

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