Monday, April 9, 2018

What Arabs think about IDF Spokesman in Arabic - Mordechai Sones

by Mordechai Sones

Arab commentator Noam Benat teaches about Arab society through cartoons. This time: What do Arabs think about IDF Spokesman?

Gaza riots
Gaza riots
Middle Eastern studies expert and Intelligence Corps veteran Noam Benat of Window to the Renewed Middle East teaches Middle East studies, Islam, and pedagogy. His lectures are accompanied by caricatures, pictures, and films and he maintains an active dialogue with his audience.

In a video by the IDF Spokesman's Unit Arab media department head Major Avichay Adraee a week ago, he conveyed the message that Saudi clerics had decided Gaza residents should not participate in the "March of Return" demonstrations on the Gaza border, which he termed the "March of Chaos" (a play on words between "Oda" (return) and "Fauda" (Chaos). See the video here.

In response to the video, Gaza cartoonist Umaya Juha published a cartoon inspired by the poem by famous Egyptian poet Ahmed Shweki, in which he writes about a cunning fox. The title of the caricature is "One day Edrei appeared in preacher's cloak" while the line in the original poem was about a fox, known as a sly animal.

"The title tries to convey the puzzlement at how a person like Avichay Adraee, the 'IDF Spokesman in Arabic,' a person who, in their eyes is a liar and fraud (like the fox), could preach to them what to do while quoting Muslim religious rulings," explains Benat. "With a fox tail, skullcap, grey beard, and holding a prayer beads, Adraee is depicted saying the march is prohibited by Islamic law."

Gaza riots
Regarding IDF Arab world outreach efforts, Benat said "There's no doubt that Israeli entry into the space of Arab social networks and media is not convenient for Arab leadership. We'll continue to see attempts to ridicule Israeli elements trying to establish a connection, be they civilian bodies such as the Prime Minister's Office or Foreign Ministry, or of course the Arab media division of the IDF Spokesman's Unit."

Adraee, whose Facebook page in Arabic has over 1.2 million followers, has become a familiar figure in Arab social networks and even in the media, not only because of his interviews with them. This week, for example, he infuriated Al-Jazeera after he used a caricature by Alaa al-Lakta, a Gaza man.

 In the cartoon appearing on the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel, one sees an Arab Gaza family walking towards a fence. Their feet are depicted as roots of an olive tree, crudely symbolizing "Palestinian attachment to the land." The father holds the key to the return, whether the flag and their son. The fence is a barbed-wire fence and at its bottom two IDF soldiers with guns pointing at them.

Adraee published the cartoon with a few changes. He removed the IDF soldiers and put up an inscription "Hamas told us to come." The Qatari channel's anger was provoked by Adraee removing the illustrator's name and the place where the cartoon was hosted, Al-Jazeera.

Mordechai Sones


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