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

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics