On December 1, for one hour, the Ministry’s Senior Deputy Spokesperson Lior Ben Dor responded to questions posted on the Facebook page by Arabic-speaking participants from all over the world.

 Chatting with the Arab world

 

(Communicated by the the MFA Spokesperson’s Bureau)

Followers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Facebook page in Arabic were recently given the opportunity to interact directly with the Ministry’s Senior Deputy Spokesperson. On December 1, for one hour, Lior Ben Dor responded to questions and comments posted on the Facebook page by Arabic-speaking participants from all over the world.

A few days before, the 95,000 followers of the MFA Arabic Facebook page, who frequently use this avenue to express opinions and ask questions, were informed that Lior Ben-Dor, Senior Deputy Spokesperson at the Foreign Ministry with responsibility for the Arabic media, would be answering questions on chat at a certain time that Thursday. Ben-Dor and Adel Hino, another MFA deputy spokesperson engaged in public diplomacy vis-à-vis the Arab world, were on hand at the set time to respond to the chats.

The Facebook page is part of the Foreign Ministry’s digital diplomacy network that includes youtube, Twitter and websites in several languages. The social media in Arabic were added to the responsibilities of Timora Shapira, who, as the administrator of the Arabic-language website Altawasul, has been editing and updating the site for the past seven years.

Despite fears that the invitation to chat would attract more than the usual amount of animosity and invectives (which she screens as part of her daily routine), the chat was a huge success. Dozens of questions were submitted; for example: What do you think about the Muslim Brotherhood’s election victory in Egypt and about the rise of the Islamist parties in Tunisia and in Morocco? What is your opinion on the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, and why doesn’t Israel establish relations with Iraq?
Some asked about the possibility of getting a visa to visit Israel; others asked why it is no longer possible to watch Israel TV broadcasts in Arabic.

Those who used abusive language were reproved by other chat participants. Some of the comments expressed the fear that the Islamist parties would seize control in their respective countries.

Following the chat’s success, the Foreign Ministry announced that it would hold a chat session every month.

"You could say that we are operating an embassy out of Jerusalem for the 22 Arab states, with their 350 million people, that bypasses censorship and crosses borders. It is especially important now, at a time of increasingly radical anti-Israel sentiment, to reinforce moderate voices in the region," commented Ben Dor.