Israeli leader does outreach to Iran through YouTube
Despite the Iranian regime’s efforts to censor or slow down the internet, Iranians seem to love viral videos as much as the rest of us. From a former game show host urging violent revolution to dancers lip-syncing Pharell’s “Happy,” the competition for YouTube clicks in Iran is fierce.I think it is a smart idea. Perhaps President Trump should try it too. The Ayatollahs have alienated themselves from much of the population. Give the people hope that people the Ayatollahs hate care more about them.
Now Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is getting into the act. His YouTube channel releases short videos, with Farsi subtitles, addressing the Iranian people directly — the most recent one, complete with prop, congratulating them on their team’s World Cup performance. His office also has a Telegram group, the popular messaging app the regime has recently tried to ban, offering tips on water conservation and other messages of peace.
Netanyahu’s approach is casual in tone, though he wears a suit and tie. His message is consistent: Israel has no quarrel with Iran’s people, only its leaders.
It’s hard to gauge their efficacy; the one about Iran’s soccer team only has a little more than 24,000 views. But the regime has nonetheless noticed. Earlier this month, for example, Iran’s defense minister took time to dismiss Netanyahu’s offer of water conservation technology in remarks at a cultural event in Iran. The pro-Iran Arabic satellite network al-Mayadeen has covered the videos as an Israeli attempt to meddle in Iran’s affairs.
But Netanyahu is actually engaging in a kind of reverse psychology. As Iranians engage in acts of civil disobedience against their regime, its legitimacy and credibility has plummeted. Paradoxically, says Alireza Nader, a consultant and former Iran analyst at the Rand Corp., “The regime’s anti-Israel propaganda can make Israel more popular among younger people.”