Inside Israel’s social media campaign to woo the Middle East

(Reuters) – Working in close quarters, surrounded by maps of the Middle East, a small team based in Israel’s foreign ministry are focusing their sights on the Arab world.

Their mission: using social media to convince Arabs to embrace the Jewish state.

The team is spearheading an Arabic-language campaign via platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as part of a multi-pronged diplomatic effort to win over popular acceptance in the Middle East.

But overturning decades of hostility is no easy feat, despite Israel in recent months having secured landmark Washington-brokered deals with the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

The magnitude of the task was underscored by a recent online backlash after photographs of Egyptian actor and rapper Mohamed Ramadan partying with Israeli celebrities at a Dubai bar surfaced on social media in November, along with a video showing guests partying as the Jewish song “Hava Nagila” played.

The Israeli Arabic-language social media team re-posted the photos from its main Facebook and Twitter accounts, including one of Ramadan hanging an arm around the neck of Israeli pop star Omer Adam with the caption “art always brings us together.”….


Gonen says the aim is to create “engagement, interactions and dialogue” with Arab audiences. He said his team reaches 100 million people monthly via its social media accounts, which is double what it was a year ago.

It’s main Twitter account, which uses the handle @IsraelArabic and posted the Ramadan photos, has more than 425,000 followers.

Still, the Jewish state still faces widespread opposition to its reconciliation efforts across the region, which is home to more than 400 million Arabic speakers.

Michael Robbins of the Arab Barometer, a non-partisan research network that studies attitudes across the Arab world, said a post-normalisation survey by his group in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan and Lebanon suggested that the efforts of Israel and its regional allies “have had little if any effect on the views of ordinary citizens.”

He said they lacked data from Gulf countries, which did not permit them to ask questions that name Israel, but that attitudes in the countries they did conduct surveys had changed little from previous years.

“Overall, these results suggest that Israel’s strategy to win hearts and minds is failing. Few Arab citizens regardless of age or geography have positive views toward Israel,” Robbins said.

Read full article at Reuters