Young Arabs learn about Israel on Arabic Facebook

By Jessica Elgot, December 1, 2011
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A Facebook page which discusses the latest Israeli pop culture, music, sport and arts has become an internet sensation - in the Arab world.

Israel Uncensored, an Arabic Facebook page run by The Israel Project (TIP), has around 250,000 people who "like" the page on Facebook and has had over 30 million views since April.

The charity, which was set up to promote a positive image of Israel in the international media, has a team of five Arab and Jewish Israelis working in Jerusalem, posting several times a day on Israeli culture and popular topics of debate.

Shimrit Meir, director of Arab media for TIP, said: "During the Arab Spring, we thought it might be an opportunity to start a dialogue with young people in Arab countries interested in democracy and freedom of speech. We particularly wanted to reach out to young Egyptians."

TIP was keen to try social media. "It was a battle for the first two or three months, we had a lot of hate posts and we were often reported to Facebook, trying to get the page shut down," Ms Meir said. "But now it's mainly people asking questions, and sharing what we post. We had no idea it would become such a phenomenon."

TIP's executive director Marcus Sheff said: "There is a fascination with Israel in the Arab world. This gives us the opportunity to talk about the real Israel to Arabs across our region – about society, diversity, sport, music – Israel as it actually is, rather than the demonised, ugly version that people in the Arab world have been exposed to for so long."

Around 100,000 people who "like" the page are Egyptian and the other top countries are Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. There are more than 8,000 "likes" from people from the Palestinian Authority.

Ms Meir said: "We post CV interview advice and tips on setting up a business. There's no sites in Arabic like that.

"We do profiles of different families living in Israel, Muslim, Christian, Druze or strictly Orthodox. Posts on music are very popular, especially if the music is Israeli with an Arabic beat. Most people have no idea that there are many Arab footballers in Israel who play in the league and we post profiles and videos of them. The top 10 Israeli models were also very popular."

Last updated: 12:16pm, December 1 2011