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Israel's chief tweeting officer

You have never heard of them, but every day they spend hours in front of the computer, uploading Israeli hasbara content to social networking sites. Meet the Foreign Ministry's 'Internet commando unit'

Itamar Eichner
Published: 09.15.10, 14:30 / Israel News

Every day, and sometimes every hour, thousands of people follow his every word. His coworkers have nicknamed him the "head tweeter" or "chief tweeting officer." Meet Haim Shaham from Beit Shemesh, Israel's official tweeter.


Shaham's formal title is "head of the Foreign Ministry's Information and Internet Department." Despite the obscure title, Shaham's position is highly important, as he is responsible for Israel's online PR war. He surfs the web every day, uploading content to various sites including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Youtube.


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Shaham is assisted by a small staff of 10 comprising the Foreign Ministry's "Internet commando unit,"  responsible for Israel's online hasbara presence inside the country and for Israeli embassies throughout the world.


The "commando unit" operates the Foreign Ministry's websites in several languages, includng: Hebrew, English, Arabic, Persian and Russian. They also provide Israeli embassies around the world with the technological infrastructure to facilitate the operation of websites in 90 different languages.


The department's most prestigious activity is its social networking, which is highly popular among surfers around the globe. Shaham and three other staff members are responsible for uploading content viewed by tens of thousands of people. In the run-up to renewed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Shaham tweeted: "Behind the news – renewed talks" with a link directing the readers to the Foreign Ministry's website, where they can find more detailed information.


"I happened upon this line of work," Shaham, married with three children, said Tuesday. "The social networks usually direct surfers searching for information on Israel to the content we provide."


Shaham's department has recently been noticed by the Clout Index, which awards ranks to social networking sites. The American company has ranked Israel's Foreign Ministry in 76th place, only two spots behind that of US President Barack Obama's White House, which is considered a top dog in social networking.


According to Shaham, despite the high ranking, Israel does not do enough to convey its position to the world.


"We must be present in every place where people are consuming news and information. Israel operates efficiently, yet we are not generating enough volume," he said. "The Palestinian lobby is more radical and thus its messages are more shocking. Social networks highlight radical information because of their shock value. What we project is more reasonable."


Beyond presenting Israel's position, Shaham's department also tries to present another side of Israel to the world by dispensing information on the Israeli economy, high-tech industry and its achievements in science and medicine, as well as culture and tourism.



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