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Twitter revelations – have they similarly affected Israel?

Smartphone open with Twitter (Photo: Shutterstock)

Billionaire Elon Musk’s recent purchase of Twitter opened up a hornet’s nest in ways perhaps he, himself, could not have imagined.

Hoping to restore the social media platform to one which operates in a more even-handed way, without censorship of opposing opinions to what was being printed and broadcast as the prevailing truth, he ended up discovering a treasure trove of incriminating evidence which confirmed the fears and suspicions of many – that there was a well-coordinated effort to silence one side.

As the proof came to light, via unearthed internal communications, we were able to see directives sent to Twitter’s top executives, letting them know which stories to kill and which to promote. More is yet to come, as Musk says; “More smoking guns are on the way.”

Consequently, Musk made the claim that Twitter interfered in the U.S. elections since its censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story was the “definition of election interference, as it acted as an arm of the DNC [Democratic National Committee].” 

Surveys are being conducted to ascertain just how many people would not have voted for Joe Biden had they known about the laptop story, and while percentages differ, one survey claims that “one in six Biden voters would have changed their minds if they had known the full story.” 

A Rasmussen survey puts this number at 48%, stating that “almost half of Americans believe Trump would have won a second term if the media had fully reported on the laptop’s revelations rather than ignoring and attempting to suppress them.” 

So, the big question remains: Can elections be conducted in a fair and honest manner anymore if social media continues to tip the scales in favor of their chosen candidate? 

No one can seriously doubt the immense influence of the media, which encapsulates the press, televised news and the ever-powerful social media sites, which include Twitter, Facebook and Google, just to name a few. Add to that the contribution of corporations and big tech – which contribute gargantuan donations, mostly to the Democratic Party – and the scales are definitely heavily weighted, favoring one side.  

Many of us sat mystified, wondering how candidates like Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman – who ran for Senate – managed to win given his recent stroke rendered him almost incapable of stringing together a coherent sentence, limited his appearances and prevented rigorous campaigning. Outspent four times over, Fetterman was yet able to raise $48 million by the end of October, compared to Dr. Mehmet Oz’s $12 million. 

Between suppression of scandals and huge donations, it’s clear the electoral system has taken a dramatic and decided turn toward being able to determine outcomes by manipulating voters, craftily using their ability to prop up whomever they want, making it impossible for anyone else to come close.

In contrast, the recent elections in Israel surprised many, given the clear rejection of the longest-serving prime minister just a year and a half ago. It was, in some ways, equally astounding, to discover that Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu not only won more mandates than any other candidate, but that right-wing religious parties managed to garner more votes than ever. As a result, Netanyahu (Bibi) was put way over the top toward being able to form a coalition, which would not be represented by any centrist, left-leaning or Arab parties. 

This seemed almost impossible given the combination of Bibi’s pending corruption charges, as well as a general disgust towards the very long-held political monopoly of the religious parties. This discontent brought Israelis to the point of gathering in mass each weekend over the past few years – at city squares, on bridges and highways and many other public venues – carrying protest signs and demanding change toward a much more pluralistic society to represent all of Israel’s citizens, the vast majority of whom are secular.

Yet, something happened to that hope for change, and it wasn’t a newfound longing for Bibi to retake the reins. In our case, one could say it was likely a combination of circumstances. 

Social media was not utilized to the max in ways which could have propped up the centrist unity government co-headed by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid.  

During their tenure at the head of the nation, when things seemed relatively quiet, the religious right was busily coalescing, unifying and fervently building a prospective coalition to lock out any dissenting voices. Instead, their efforts made way for a new group of lawmakers – who many call extremists – to define Israel more as a nation of observant Jews, one that would dismantle any advances toward pluralism that had been forged. 

But was social media involved at all? According to Haaretz, “A network of fake social media accounts likely being operated from abroad and trying to interfere in the Israeli election by calling on Israelis to boycott the vote” had been exposed but only partially stopped.

Just a few days before the elections, a media clip went viral claiming that the prime minister’s wife, Lihi Lapid, was a Christian.  

It wasn’t until a late-night news broadcast, called “Tzinor” (translated as “Pipeline”), debunked a photoshop picture of Yair Lapid wearing a cross, that some of those rumors began to die down, but damage had been done.

Right-wing religious parties made hay out of this news and continued to promise a greater commitment toward Jewish religious law superseding state law.  

Undoubtedly, the centrist unity party made many strategic political mistakes, underestimating the great power of these religious parties to make light of Netanyahu’s legal woes, while, in parallel, spreading fear and worries over Arab influence as a result of their being represented in the centrist unity government.  

One political writer basically called Lapid a rookie who could not compete with the likes of a seasoned and skilled Netanyahu, who had politically survived every kind of upheaval over the course of 11 years.

Clearly, Israel has not experienced the kind of media interference and accusation of campaign irregularities that the U.S. has seen over the last few years, in particular. However, smear campaigns, large blocs which hold monopolies and the intense efforts which went into engaging and mobilizing the youth and military vote are, in the end, what swung the election for the ultra-right. 

It could be that future elections will need to pay closer attention to the role of biased media interference but, for now, being a crafty politician seems to have been the winning formula – at least in Israel.

ALL ISRAEL NEWS is committed to fair and balanced coverage and analysis, and honored to publish a wide-range of opinions. That said, views expressed by guest columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of our management or staff.

A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.

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