Israel is using social media to change the way the Arab world perceives the Jewish state, this time with an eye on Iraq.
By: Yona Schnitzer/TPS
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has launched a Facebook page aimed at creating dialogue with citizens of Iraq. The page, titled “Israel In the Iraqi Dialect,” aspires to be a “digital embassy”, aimed at creating ties and dialogue between the two countries, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
The page shares stories told by Iraqi Jews who made Aliyah to Israel, information that attests to the similarities between Iraqi and Israeli societies, as well as general information aimed at exposing Iraqi citizens to the multicultural makeup of Israeli society.
Posts already up on the site include Iraqi Jews singing their favorite Iraqi folk songs, a profile on Mobileye co-founder Amnon Shashua who is of Iraqi Jewish origin, as well as a video commemorating 70 years of Israeli history, presented in the Iraqi dialect.
“The digital embassy is intended to address the increasing interest that the Arab world is expressing in Israel,” said Yuval Rotem, director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “Social networks allow us to reach this audience, our neighbors, and to expose them to the true faces of Israel, in a manner that was impossible beforehand,” he added.
According to Rotem, there is a growing interest in Israel within Iraq, as well as a fascination with the community of Iraqis who have emigrated to Israel in the early years of the state.
‘Fruitful and Positive Dialogue’
“We chose to start with Iraq in light of the rich history of Iraqi Jews in Israel, and the great interest that the local population has shown in Israel, especially in recent years. We saw this through sympathetic responses reaching our pages in the social networks from Baghdad and throughout Iraq,” he explained.
“We believe that the digital embassy will promote fruitful and positive dialogue and lead to a deeper acquaintance between Israelis and Iraqis from all walks of Iraqi society – Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and other population groups,” he added.
A central reason for the growing interest in Israel from Iraqis is a growing sense of nostalgia for the Jewish community, who were very instrumental in shaping modern Iraq, but were forced out of the country after the establishment of Israel, says Linda Menuhin al-Aziz, an Iraqi native, who serves as an advisor for Arab social media at the foreign ministry.
“The Jewish community that originates in Iraq and today lives in Israel embodies a human bridge between the countries. I have no doubt that we are experiencing a seismic shift in terms of Iraqi public opinion towards Israel in comparison to when I lived there during the Ba’athist period, when Jews suffered from hostility and harassment,” she said.
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