‘Israeli’ Military Employs Popular Blogger for Psyops on Social Media
By Staff, Haaretz
For at least two years, the ‘Israeli’ army has been employing the operator of a popular Telegram news channel as a consultant for psychological operations on social media. His name can’t be published, and the fact that G. is the person behind the 'Abu Ali Express' channel has been secret until now.
In recent years, Abu Ali Express has become one of Telegram’s most influential Hebrew-language channels on Arab affairs and security issues in general, and especially on Hamas and the Gaza Strip. It has 104,000 followers and gets millions of views a day.
The channel publishes exclusive stories, videos and pictures bearing the label “Abu Ali Express,” and many reporters get information from it and cite it. The ‘Israeli’ military Spokesperson’s Unit sometimes refers journalists seeking information on events in Gaza to this channel, while insisting that the articles don’t come from any military source.
The channel also frequently attacks prominent ‘Israeli’ journalists who criticize the ‘Israeli’ military’s policy toward Hamas, sometimes even trying to undermine their credibility and question their professionalism.
G. formerly served as a junior officer in the ‘Israeli’ military’s Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. But when Hamas’ weekly March of Return protests and the ensuing clashes along the Gaza border began more than two years ago, he was hired as a psyops consultant by Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, who was head of Southern Command at the time and is now deputy chief of staff.
G. has continued this work under the current head of Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Toledano. His job is to identify and analyze trends and turning points among the Palestinians, especially in Gaza.
However, the channel doesn’t state openly that it is run by a paid consultant to the Zionist military whose job is to assist senior officers in Southern Command. The army has also never disclosed its cooperation with G.
Two years ago, for reasons that aren’t clear, the Abu Ali Express Facebook page was removed, either by Facebook or by G. It then moved to Telegram.
Aside from the informative reports it publishes, the channel is also a platform for harsh and sometimes ad hominem criticism of journalists who don’t support the ‘Israeli’ military’s policies.
In May, Abu Ali Express rebuked Haaretz for publishing pictures of the children martyred during the ‘Israeli’ war on Gaza. “The Palestinians have expressed satisfaction with the fact that The New York Times also followed in Haaretz’s footsteps and published the pictures of the children killed in Gaza on its front page,” it wrote.
‘Israeli’ military spokesman Ran Kochav declined to comment on the inherent problems of having G. serve as a consultant to the head of Southern Command while also running a social media channel that publishes defense content, and whose big audience may well earn him money above and beyond whatever the ‘Israeli’ military is paying him.