Since 7 October, the Israeli foreign ministry has paid for content to be shown on YouTube to audiences in Britain on at least 15 occasions, in videos that have amassed millions of views, Declassified has found.
The content focuses on the Hamas attacks and kidnappings in Israel, and is designed to cultivate Western support for Israel’s war on Gaza.
Over the past month, Israeli forces have killed over 11,000 Palestinians in a campaign of indiscriminate bombing and siege warfare.
YouTube does not release data about how much money has been paid for advertisements on its platform, but the audience numbers suggest the Israeli foreign ministry may have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on disseminating the content.
The data reviewed by Declassified shows that the propaganda has been aimed at Israel’s key supporters in the West such as Britain and the US, with audiences in countries like Ireland or New Zealand not targeted.
‘Now hug a baby and stand with us’
On 7 October, Hamas militants attacked southern Israel and killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to official Israeli sources. Israel proceeded to launch a ferocious military assault on Gaza, a territory which it illegally occupies, in what has been called “a text-book case of genocide”.
The first Israeli-funded advertisement targeted at British audiences appeared on 14 October with the title: “Babies can’t read the text in this video but their parents can”.
It opens with nursery music and unicorns jumping across the screen, against a pink backdrop overladen with a rainbow.
The music stops, and text appears on the screen stating: “40 infants were murdered in Israel. By the Hamas terrorists (ISIS). Just as you would do everything for your child. We will do everything to protect ours”.
The music then returns, and another block of text appears: “Now hug your baby and stand with us”.
Another promoted clip, which has been viewed by over four million people, declares: “Hamas (ISIS) kidnapped our loved ones. Tomorrow it can be yours! #HamasIsIsis”.
It concludes with the sound of children shouting, and an Israeli foreign ministry statement: “Stand with Israel. Stand with humanity”.
Israel’s targeting of parents in Britain is sharply contrasted by Israeli forces having killed over 4,000 children in Gaza over the past month.
Another Israeli advertisement video, also launched on 14 October, describes Hamas as “a vicious terrorist organization” which has “murdered over 1,300” people, adding that “entire families were butchered in their homes”.
The video ends by emphasising that “Hamas = Isis”, and encouraging viewers to share the hashtag #StandWithIsrael.
Other videos promoted by the Israeli foreign ministry in Britain focus on the victims of Hamas kidnappings. Hamas is currently holding around 200 Israelis hostage.
In one of those advertisements, an Israeli father reacts to the killing of his eight-year-old daughter during an emotive interview with CNN.
In the clip, the father says: “They said we found Emily. She’s dead. And I went, yes! And smiled… That was the best possibility that I was hoping for. She was either dead or in Gaza. And if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death… Death was a blessing, an absolute blessing”.
At the end of the video, the hashtag #HamasIsIsis appears, followed by an Israeli foreign ministry statement: “Israel will take every measure necessary to protect itself”.
‘What if it was your loved ones?’
A more recent advertisement promoted to British audiences appeared on 27 October 2023, and urges parents to channel love for their children into support for Israel.
In a brief clip, a female voice reads: “Over 200 babies, children, and families were kidnapped by Hamas”.
It continues: “What if it was your loved ones? Stand with Israel”.
The series of videos promoted by Israel in Britain has accumulated over eight million views. It remains unclear how much Israel has paid to share this content with British audiences.
The average cost of reaching 100,000 viewers on YouTube is reportedly around $2,000.
The Israeli foreign ministry’s YouTube account has published some 51 videos since 7 October, in contrast to just four videos posted during the first nine months of 2023.
According to Politico, YouTube has already removed some 30 Israeli propaganda advertisements which contained violent images.
Advertisement data reviewed by Declassified shows that pro-Israel groups in Britain such as Labour Friends of Israel and We Believe in Israel have also paid for content to be promoted on Facebook and Instagram in recent weeks.
Both groups are closely connected to the Labour Party, and are understood to have ties with the Israeli embassy in London.
Google did not respond to a request for comment on how much Israel has paid for the advertisement content on YouTube at the time of writing.