Israeli Army Social Media Guru Poses as Obama in Brownface
For all its high-tech industries and self-promotion as a western-style democracy, Israeli public officials apparently still enjoy forms of entertainment that went out of fashion in the US with the end of the Jim Crow era.
A photo uploaded on September 29 to the Facebook profile of the head of the IDF’s social media unit depicts the lieutenant posing with brown mud on his face under the caption: “Obama style.”
Until today, when the photo began to circulate outside of Israeli circles, none of Dratwa’s friends or any of the 1,639 subscribers appeared to have expressed misgivings about the photo. Curiously, Gawker ran a story about Dratwa's public Facebook presence only yesterday featuring his photos – but omitted any reference to the brownface Obama one. Instead the media news and gossip site concluded: "Looking at all this, you probably wouldn't guess that he's running an ethically dubious, historically unprecedented Internet battle for hearts and minds. Mostly, it's a show of humanity, like any other Facebook profile. It's transparent. It's mundane."
A 26-year old “immigrant from Belgium,” according to a recent profile in Tablet magazine, Dratwa is in charge of the IDF’s Facebook, Twitter, as well as the widely disparaged Instagram campaign during the recent attacks on Gaza:
In the past two years, Dratwa has taken a small operation initially created during Operation Cast Lead to streamline the IDF’s YouTube and Facebook presence and turned it into the most globally visible arm of the Israeli military. In the past year, the new media desk has rapidly expanded into new terrain, from commissioning content designed for viral sharing to creating a Foursquare-style game for the IDF blog that rewards frequent visitors to the site with badges.
“The government still has to generate the talking points, what we want to achieve, and then we turn it over to the kids, and they translate it into this new language of social media,” said Daniel Seaman, deputy director general of the Ministry of Public Information and Diaspora Affairs, who ran the government press office during Operation Cast Lead. “I say it’s magic.”
For a poignant example of the pedestrian racism that Israeli public spokespersons can get away with – not only against Arabs and African migrants, but also against Israel’s American benefactors – look no further than the Facebook profile of the championed IDF social media guru.
He, in his own words, " 'want[s] to explain to people what happens in Israel, simply,' Dratwa said in a brief telephone interview late last week. 'We believe people understand the language of Facebook, the language of Twitter.' ”
Hat tip: ASG’s Counterhegemony Unit, who uncovered this.
Israeli reactions to Obama, shot in Jerusalem in early 2009: