How Israel Funded Covert Influence Campaign Targeting US Lawmakers

A New York Times story revealed how Israel funded a covert influence campaign targeting US lawmakers using the Tel Aviv-based political marketing firm Stoic.

How Israel Funded Covert Influence Campaign Targeting US Lawmakers 1

According to a New York Times story published on Wednesday, Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs planned and funded a digital campaign aimed at swaying US politicians, particularly Black Democrats.

In October, the ministry allocated $2 million for the project and engaged the services of Tel Aviv-based political marketing firm Stoic to execute it. According to the Times, Stoic created hundreds of phony Facebook, Instagram, and X accounts with pro-Israeli messages, as well as fake news websites, in an attempt to pressure lawmakers like Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to support Israel’s war efforts and fund its military.

How Israel Funded Covert Influence Campaign Targeting US Lawmakers 2
Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) speaks onstage at the March For Israel at the National Mall on November 14, 2023. Getty Images

A few news and NGO organizations had covered the influence effort in recent months, but the Times article—which revealed that Israel’s government was behind it—was the first to do so. It was based on operation documents and interviews with current and past officials of the ministry dealing with the diaspora. A linked story was published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Wednesday, one hour later.

The Israeli government was criticized by some for its involvement in the misinformation campaign. James Zogby, co-founder of the Arab American Institute, posted on social media, saying, “So in addition to the pro-Israel lobby spending tens of millions to defame and defeat progressives in Congress, we now learn that Israel creates fake media to target friends and opponents by inundating with fake news supporting Israeli positions.”

The disinformation campaign is part of a larger attempt by pro-Israel organizations to sway American politics during the country’s attack on Gaza. These efforts include lobbying and the expenditure of campaign funds by organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its affiliates.

The Russian attempt to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election is well-known, and the Israeli disinformation campaign echoed that effort. This attempt became a major topic of discussion among American political pundits in the years that followed. Editor at Democracy Now! Ishmael Daro made a lighthearted forecast that the response from the political establishment in the United States would be similar this time.

Both Meta and OpenAI released reports on Stoic’s misinformation campaign last week and declared that they had stopped all future activity on the company’s network. Over 500 bogus Facebook profiles were shut down by Meta, and OpenAI referred to Stoic as a “for-hire Israeli threat actor,” according to NBC News. Users of Stoic are still active on X, according to the Times.

The Times noted that a large portion of the “stilted” and repeated wording in the phony social media messages was produced by OpenAI’s AI-powered chatbot, ChatGPT.

Along with being “sloppy” and “ineffective,” either clandestine plan failed to gain much traction with the general public or government officials.”We found and removed this network early in its audience-building efforts before they were able to gain engagement among authentic communities,” Meta wrote in its report.

The Times omitted to mention that, according to social media posts, the secret influence campaign was uncovered in February by Marc Owen Jones, a professor of Middle East studies and digital humanities at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar, and the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) of the Atlantic Council, a think tank located in Washington, D.C.

The ‘Russian influence’ versus ‘Israeli interference’ double standard of Washington is evident…

The campaign’s activities, including the creation of the online platforms Non-Agenda, The Moral Alliance, and Unfold Magazine—which created or republished news from a pro-Israel perspective, including the creation of fake social media accounts and purported links between the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and Hamas—were covered in a March report by Israeli disinformation watchdog FakeReporter, which built upon those initial discoveries. Haaretz published a report on the findings at that time.

Israel “ran an operation that interferes in U.S. politics is extremely irresponsible,” FakeReporter executive director Achiya Schatz told the Times. In an interview with Haaretz, he called it “amateurish” and “anti-democratic.”

In actuality, a second study published by FakeReporter on Wednesday suggests that Stoic’s network of influence may have extended beyond what the Times’ reporting indicates. The watchdog group discovered four other websites with anti-immigrant and Islamophobic content that appear to be associated with Stoic. In March, DFRLab published a report that also referenced anti-Islamic speech and pro-Israeli misinformation, although, in that instance, the research was primarily directed at Canadians.

The influence network has “apparently developed into a large-scale effort to target various groups, some outside the U.S.,” according to the latest report’s conclusion.

Recently, GreatGameIndia reported that according to a recent report by OpenAI, an Israeli firm named STOIC attempted to influence Indian elections using ChatGPT but was thwarted by OpenAI.

GreatGameIndia is being actively targeted by powerful forces who do not wish us to survive. Your contribution, however small help us keep afloat. We accept voluntary payment for the content available for free on this website via UPI, PayPal and Bitcoin.

Support GreatGameIndia

Leave a Reply