Middle East Eye / August 18, 2021
Anonymous operator of a popular Telegram channel on Palestine and Arab affairs has worked for the Israeli army for the last two years.
The operator of a popular Hebrew-language Telegram channel focusing on Palestine and Arab affairs has for at least two years been working for the Israeli army as a social media consultant, according to a report in Haaretz published on Wednesday.
The Abu Ali Express channel, which has 104,000 followers and gets millions of views daily, covers a range of issues linked to the Arab world, particularly the occupied Palestinian territories.
It has even been a point of reference for Israeli army spokespeople when questioned on the situation in Gaza.
The channel’s manager – referred to as “G” because his name can’t be published – previously served as a junior officer in the Israeli army’s Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
Following the beginning of the Great March of Return protests held by Palestinians in Gaza in 2018, he was hired as a psyops – or psychological operations – consultant by then head of Southern Command Major General Herzl Halevi.
The channel has never disclosed its connections to the Israeli army.
Abu Ali Express has broken a number of stories, including that Qatari money was entering Gaza in suitcases.
Last July, it reported that the social media channels of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had been hacked, citing “a group of pro-Israel hackers that gave me this exclusive item”.
The channel – which hit 6.7 million daily views in May – is also often critical of journalists who question the army.
After Amir Bohbot, the Walla internet news site’s military correspondent, criticized the army’s response to Gaza rocket fire as weak, Abu Ali Express published a post about him entitled “Israeli reporters in the service of the enemy”, calling him Hamas’ “main propaganda organ”.
An Israeli army spokesperson didn’t reply to questions asking if there might be problems with employing a social media consultant for Southern Command who runs a separate channel posting about defence issues.
But he did say to Haaretz: “The IDF has employed G. as a consultant to Southern Command for around two years, in light of his unique expertise in various fields vital to the command’s activities in the Gaza sector, including his deep knowledge of Palestinian culture, the language, and Gaza’s social media networks.
“The IDF doesn’t make use of his [G.’s] personal accounts on social media. Moreover, the Telegram page in question doesn’t receive information from the IDF to help with its articles, or at all.”