A screenshot from an Israeli government ad on YouTube.
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs/YouTube
Israel has dropped 6,000 bombs on Gaza since October 7 after a Hamas attack killed 1,300 Israelis.Its ads on apps and social media justifying the bombardment have gotten over 16 million views.Some ads have rainbows and focus on deaths of Israeli kids. Others promise revenge against Hamas.
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is running dozens of ads on games like Angry Birds and social media platforms like YouTube and X, formerly Twitter, justifying its heavy air bombardment of Gaza in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7.
At least 16 million people have seen the YouTube ads, according to view counts. Google does not release information on how many people have seen ads until several months after they’re shown.
“We are being killed in our streets,” one ad, which ran on YouTube in the hours after Israel began retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza last week. “Murdered in our homes. Executed in our beds. Israel is under attack. We will make sure that those who harm us pay a heavy price.”
An X user posted a video on October 14 saying in Dutch that their six-year-old son saw one of the ads while playing Angry Birds. An Insider reporter saw the same ad on YouTube on October 8, just two days after Hamas first attacked. Dutch media reported that Apple is investigating the ads.
Zoontje (6 jaar) speelt #AngryBirds op zijn tablet en krijgt deze reclame te zien.
— Olaf (@Olafvandijk) October 14, 2023
Another advertisement, also on YouTube, appears to target parents. Set against graphics of pastel-colored rainbows and unicorns, the ad reads, “We know that your child cannot read this. We have an important message to tell you as parents.” The lullaby music in the background cuts out with an ominous boom. “Forty infants were murdered in Israel by the Hamas terrorists (ISIS),” the ad goes on. (The number of children killed by Hamas remains unverified, and there are no confirmed ties between Hamas and ISIS.)
“Just as you would do everything for your child,” the ad continues, “we will do everything to protect ours. Now hug your baby and stand with us.”
Google said its policies bar political ads and ads with references to death from being played on videos directed at children. The company said the rainbows ad was appropriately labeled and isn’t appearing alongside made-for-kids content.
A third video ad, airing on YouTube, described Israel’s justification for taking what it described as “every measure necessary to protect our citizens against these barbaric terrorists.”
“Armed Hamas terrorists infiltrated into Israel via a ground invasion and started going door to door slaughtering innocent Israelis. Hundreds of Israeli civilians, including children, women, have been killed and injured, and Israeli hostages have been taken,” the ad read.
The ads, all of which are in English, appear to target Americans and Europeans, according to Google’s Ad Transparency Center, which specifies that the ads are shown to users based in the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union nations.
In the 10 days since the Hamas terrorist attacks, Israel has dropped roughly 6,000 bombs on Gaza. The bombardment has leveled city blocks as Israel says it is targeting Hamas militants in mosques, houses, and office buildings, as well as roads and border crossings where people have massed to evacuate.
More than 1,300 people died in Hamas’ initial attack on Israel Oct. 7, which also injured 2,800 others, officials said. As of October 16, more than 2,750 Palestinians had died in the conflict, according to Palestinian authorities cited by Reuters.
A press contact for the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC and another for the Israeli Defense Forces didn’t respond to emails sent Monday morning seeking comment for this story.
A person posting on Hacker News said they’re seeing the ads “non-stop.” And on X, some users responded to the advertisements with alarm.
“Twitter promoting war propaganda ads in my timeline,” one user wrote. “Now that’s nuts.”
Israel does not appear to be running ads on Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, according to an Insider review of Meta’s and TikTok’s advertising libraries. TikTok’s library only appears to cover Europe.
Meta didn’t respond to an email about Israeli government advertising on its apps and websites. The company said in an October 13 blog post that it has amped up its moderation of Hebrew and Arabic content as the conflict has escalated.
TikTok didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.
It’s not clear how much money X, Alphabet, or Angry Birds have made from the ads. A Google spokesperson didn’t respond to a question about revenue from the ads. X’s press team didn’t reply to questions. Rovio, the Finnish developer behind Angry Birds, also did not reply to Insider’s request for comment.
On Saturday, the New York Times confirmed that Israel plans to launch a ground invasion of Gaza. The extent of the devastation wrought by Israel’s air bombardment led the military to give soldiers extra training in fighting in ruined urban environments, The New York Times reported.