REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- After months of revamping its social media sites, the Israeli army this week launched its official Arabic Facebook page. The Israeli Defense Forces has been a front-runner in employing user-friendly social media platforms as a way to get Israel's message out, approved public information in a timely manner.
Joining the military's English blog, Twitter account and (mostly English) YouTube channel , the Arabic site will provide information about the Israeli army's activities in the Palestinian territories and other related issues. It will also serve as a place for conversation with readers. (The Twitter account occasionally corresponds with other users but comments on YouTube are disabled).
Some might consider Arab public opinion of Israel and its military's activities a lost cause and believe outreach efforts should concentrate on public opinion in the West, which has greater international political clout. But that view could be seen as old school. As the regimes of many longtime leaders fall in the wake of mass uprisings, Arab public opinion matters more. And Israel, including the army, needs to engage it, as tough as it might be at times.
Spearheading the Israeli army's Arabic outreach efforts is Maj. Avichay Adraee, an Arabic speaker and well-known face on Al Jazeera and other Arabic-language media. Though pleased with increased visibility on traditional Arabic media, Adraee in a recent interview with The Times stressed the need to establish a presence in social media as well.
Adraee acknowledged that maintaining platforms with Arabic content that would be valued as a legitimate source of information and not dismissed as propaganda could be challenging. But he said the effort was necessary to ensure more balanced dissemination of information.
Having a media presence only when responding to crises doesn't build a relationship or trust, Adraee said. It's a relationship that needs to be nurtured and maintained on a daily basis both through traditional and new media, he added.
-- Batsheva Sobelman