The IDF’s Arabic-Language Social-Media War

Feb. 15 2018

After serving for more than a decade as the Israeli military’s chief Arabic-language spokesman, Major Avichay Adraee had become a fixture on Arabic news programs. Last summer, he decided to expand his efforts by taking Israel’s cold war with Hizballah to Facebook. Elhanan Miller writes:

Hizballah [members have] developed the habit of tweeting greetings from their posts in Syria to loved ones back in Lebanon. One combatant, his face unseen in the photo, thought it funny to address Adraee directly by holding up a cardboard sign: “We are practicing on the Nusra Front [a Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate currently at war with Hizballah] in preparation to occupy the Galilee.” . . .

Adraee retorted on Facebook, bashing Hizballah for attacking a field hospital that treats Syrian refugees in the Arsal region, near the border with Lebanon. “My response, I thought, left us even,” Adraee said. “But the following day another fighter from [Hizballah’s] Radwan Force appeared, in full fatigue, with a similar sign reading, ‘When we finish with the takfiris’”—a pejorative term for Islamist Sunni fighters—“‘we’ll come for you.’”

At this point, Adraee and his team decided to up the ante. IDF intelligence provided him with photos of undercover Hizballah agents positioned along the border with Israel. Adraee promptly published the images among the Syrian population, adding a warning that “these are Hizballah men endangering you.” . . .

Since its launch on Facebook four years ago, the official IDF Arabic spokesman’s page—boasting over 1.2 million followers—uses Avichay Adraee as its brand. The same is true for Twitter, with 177,000 followers. As a result, he has become a household name across the Arab Middle East, with spoofs and parodies displaying the uniformed, eloquent Israeli on a regular basis. . . . It is hard to gauge the effect of the army’s Arabic activity on social media, but Adraee said several positive indicators cannot be denied. [He uses as one] yardstick for success the growing use by Arab media of the term “Israel Defense Forces” when referring to the Israeli army. “That term used to be unacceptable [in Arabic media]. . . . The change is slow and small, but extremely significant.”

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More about: Arab World, Hizballah, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Social media

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy