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Israel’s malign global influence campaigns

May 25, 2019 at 9:57 am

US President Donald Trump (L) and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (R) show members of the media the proclamation Trump signed on recognising Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights after their meeting outside the West Wing of the White House 25 March 2019 in Washington, DC. [Alex Wong/Getty Images]

For three years after Donald Trump narrowly won 2016’s elections, much of America’s establishment corporate press was obsessed with the “Russiagate” conspiracy theory.

This was a relentless deluge of excrement flung in the faces of the viewing public by (supposedly) liberal cable news channels. The entire charade came crashing down last month with the publication of the Mueller report in full (minus some redactions).

Although there’s no doubt in my mind that Trump himself – as well as the cast of shady characters he surrounds himself with – is extraordinarily corrupt, the relentless, baseless repetition of the claim that Trump “colluded with Russia” in order to supposedly “hack” the 2016 elections was substantively disproven.

The way liberal elites relentlessly harped on about this always-tenuous narrative was worse than useless – it actively distracted from the president’s actual policies, and the many real problems with Donald Trump and his administration.

Their racism and Islamophobia, their misogyny, their actively anti-Palestinian aggression and their general war-mongering.  The irony being that on many of these substantive issues, US liberal elites often agreed with Trump’s actual policies – especially when he launches wars.

Hillary Clinton herself bares much of the blame for the “Russiagate” hysteria which gripped the US media for years. After all, it was in her interests all along.

According to Max Blumenthal’s brilliant new bookThe Management of Savagery”,  she was eager to excuse her “historically inept candidacy” — which lost to an obnoxious racist reality TV star.

READ: The two-state compromise and Trump’s deal of the century both normalise Israel

In the days after the election result, her team “did all they could to reinforce the narrative of Trump-Russia collusion and the general atmosphere of anti-Russian hostility. An insider account of the Clinton campaign published after her loss, Shattered,  confirmed that ‘in the days after the election, Hillary declined to take responsibility for her own loss.’ Her top advisors were summoned the following day, according to the book, ‘to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up … Already, Russian hacking was the centrepiece of the argument.’”

In other words, they invented a fantastical narrative in order to avoid the obvious conclusions, or to take any responsibility. It could not have been because Clinton was widely unpopular for her war-mongering and relentlessly neo-liberal policies that she lost – it must have been the Russians all along!

Despite the seas of ink spilled over “Russiagate”, no solid evidence of substantive Russian government interference in US elections has come to light –  and not for lack of trying to find it.

The real story should be “Israelgate” – contrary to Russiagate illusions, there is massive amounts of evidence of Israeli government interference in western democratic processes – and not only in the US, but around the world.

And Israel often does this quite openly. Noam Chomsky often gives the example of how Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu directly addressed the US Congress in 2015, in a snub to then-president Barack Obama and his negotiations with Iran over its nuclear energy program.

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It was open interference in the US democratic process – against even the White House.

Such things are only the tip of the iceberg, however. There is a lot more that Israel does in the shadows to influence the policies of western democracies to make them more inclined to support Israel, at the expense of the Palestinians.

The latest covert Israeli influence campaign to come to light was exposed earlier this month,  with news of an Israeli company called the “Archimedes Group”,

Facebook announced that it had removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts with a combined following of 2.8 million users for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”.

The activities of the Archimedes Group show that Israel’s malign and covert campaigns of subversion are by no means limited to operating in the West.

Facebook stated that the group’s activities were focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia along with some activity in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Screenshots of the group’s website suggest that it may have been involved in Venezuela, in working against the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

The aim was to influence elections using fake news – ironically often while posing as organisations devoted to combatting fake news!

There is also a UK link, with the group’s CEO Elinadav Heymann having also worked as a foreign policy adviser to the Conservative Party’s representatives in the European Parliament.

This one single Israeli influence campaign alone spent eight times as much on Facebook ads as the “Internet Research Agency” – the Russian firm identified as having supposedly posted ads around the time of the 2016 election campaign (in fact, almost all of those ads were posted after the election, and seem to have been commercial clickbait rather than politically motivated).

This one Israeli campaign alone seems to have had eight times the budget of the supposed Russian “Pearl Harbour” against US elections.

As the “Russiagate” narrative’s most impeccable and incisive debunker, the American journalist Aaron Mate put it mockingly, “this Israeli campaign amounts to eight Pearl Harbors.”

As I told Al Jazeera Arabic last weekend (see the video above if you understand the language) this is part of a pattern of how Israel operates as a threat to democracies the world over.

We should not be misled by Facebook’s removal of the pages in question.

While this was a welcome step in the right direction, the fact is that this is only one of many such Israeli campaigns – and it seems impossible that the government does not give licence to these supposedly private enterprises.

In other cases, such as the many fake Facebook pages operated by the Israel Project, Facebook refuses to take action.

Who will take action to dismantle Israel’s covert influence and sabotage campaigns?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.