The government and military have unofficially outsourced some of their intelligence work to private organizations that monitor anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian media and are associated with right-wing politics, according to several high-ranking government and military sources.
The situation — which the sources said stemmed from a lack of resources, shifting priorities and years of neglect — has prompted some government officials to ask Military Intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi in the last few weeks to take action. Staff members in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau were among the officials who complained to Kochavi.
A Military Intelligence decision to more closely monitor social media, blogs and other online sources after the events of the Arab Spring has meant dramatically reduced monitoring of the mainstream Arab-language media, the IDF sources said. They said Military Intelligence has almost totally stopped monitoring major television stations in real time, like Al Jazeera, Al-Manar and Palestinian television.
For instance, they said, MI soldiers listen to the Friday sermons broadcast on Palestinian television and radio stations a few days later.
The Israel Defense Forces issued a statement denying the allegations.
The Military Intelligence unit assigned to monitor the Arab-language media does so in real time, “24 hours a day, every day of the week, in a wide variety of fields, including the Palestinian field,” the IDF said. The army has been expanding its monitoring of open-source information - which can include newspapers, television and social media - to include “various platforms,” said the IDF, adding that “any other claim is unfounded.”
The government, meanwhile, is getting most of its information on anti-Israel incitement from two private organizations, the sources said: the Middle East Media Research Institute, which is based in Washington, D.C., and the Israel-based Palestinian Media Watch.
Palestinian Media Watch provides mostly professional material on Palestinian incitement in the media and textbooks, but is associated with the right wing. It is directed by Itamar Marcus, who until recently served as the vice president of the Central Fund of Israel, a New York-based right-wing nonprofit association that donates to Israeli right-wing groups like Im Tirtzu and helps fund various activities in West Bank settlements.