Skip To Content
Fast Forward

How An Israeli ‘Mossad For Hire’ Firm Manipulated A Small Town’s Local Election

Israeli private intelligence firms have been increasingly in the spotlight, revealed as the suppliers for Harvey Weinstein’s “army of spies” and as creators of apps that repressive regimes can use to spy on activists and journalists.

Now, a New Yorker article is detailing how another firm — Psy-Group — used its intelligence expertise to manipulate a local election in a California town of 64,000 people.

Read a brochure from Psy-Group here.

Psy-Group was hired by Yorai Benzeevi, a doctor in Tulare, Calif., to create fake social media opposition to a grassroots campaign organized to remove him as head of a local hospital. The target was a local hospital board election, where activists hoped to unseat the man responsible for putting Benzeevi in charge of the hospital. Community members had accused Benzeevi of letting a hospital slide into bankruptcy while pocketing large management fees for himself.

Psy-Group told Benzeevi it would mount “a coordinated intelligence operation and influence campaign,” using fake social media profiles and creating fake webpages to target “the opposition candidate.”

The group created the site, posting pictures of Senovia Gutierrez, the candidate running to unseat Benzeevi’s supporter, asking “Who Is Pulling Senovia’s Strings?” That site later published the Gutierrez’s bankruptcy filings from 2003.

The election was a landslide — against Psy-Group’s client.

The Forward has previously reported how Psy-Group, based outside Tel Aviv, proposed a campaign to target proponents of the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions movement against Israel on college campuses.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.