Government Recruits Gaza Border Youth to 'Promote Israel's Truth' on Social Media

Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri
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An Israeli soldier in Sderot, in southern Israel near the Gaza border, August 16, 2020.
An Israeli soldier in Sderot, in southern Israel near the Gaza border, August 16, 2020. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

The Strategic Affairs Ministry is opening a center in the southern city of Sderot to train volunteers to create videos about life in the communities near the Gaza border. The center, which will begin operating in the coming months, will try to recruit high school students from the area to create content that will serve the country.

The content is supposed to depict the challenges and hardships faced by local residents, such as coping with rocket fire and air raid sirens, or telling unique stories that illustrate what life is like there. The city of Sderot is a partner in the project, which will cost 1 million shekels.

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The center, set up in a Sderot high school, will offer professional training to volunteers for the project: high school students, college students, students in pre-military programs and other local residents. The volunteers will learn to create social media content with the aim of making it go viral. The ministry says the volunteers “will develop hasbara content that will show what life is like under the security tension in the south, will fight the discourse of hatred and delegimitization of Israel and represent the beautiful face of Israel online.”

Sha'ar Hanegev Council head Ofir Libstein, Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi at the launch of the Strategic Affairs Ministry's program, November 10, 2020.Credit: Benoam Photography

The Strategic Affairs Ministry will select companies that specialize in social media to participate in the project. The ministry’s director, former Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Ronen Manelis, says the center will have several guiding principles, one of which is that “the center will not be political.” He says the center will avoid publishing content expressing direct criticism of political figures in Israel, and the criteria by which the posts will be judged will be professional and will not allow for political intervention.

Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen of Kahol Lavan said in a statement that “This is another stage in the Strategic Affairs Ministry’s work to promote the truth and the legitimation of Israel on the social networks. This move joins the Center for Digital Influencers that we opened last month in the Julis Regional Council [in northern Israel] where Druze girls serve, and other centers that are being planned for the future.”

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