AKEED, Rasha Salamah
Hardly a day goes by without Edy Cohen flooding his Twitter page with posts on the Arab world in particular, specifically in relation to the ruling regimes. Cohen introduces himself as an academic and researcher specialized in Middle East affairs. He is Israeli (Jewish from Lebanese Arab origins). He uses fabrications, rumors, and half truths, which he believes can fool Arab peoples who suffer from a legacy of custodianship and media falsification.
He also uses populist rhetoric, which descends into vulgarity on many occasions, in terms of the ideas being discussed and the words that are used. He takes advantage of controversial issues, which attract the attention of Arab peoples, such as religious subjects, ethical matters, and security aspects.
According to an analysis of the propagandistic discourse employed by Cohen and in light of his résumé, what this activist does is nothing more than a superficial version of old Zionist propaganda, but with modern tools that take advantage of the poor media knowledge in Arabic societies and the complications of political conditions in them.
Recently, Cohen has focused on Jordanian affairs. He asked the following question on his page: "Where Is the King?" He claimed that press articles, specifically in Al Rai on 1 August 2018, were an attempt to reply to him and refute the details that he reported.
AKEED examined Cohen's biography and references. The following sheds light on the game of rumormongering that is flooding social media networks.
Who Is Edy Cohen?
In an interview in May 2017, Cohen answered questions by Fred Maroun (the latter says he is a Canadian of Arab origins and that he supports Israel's right to existence). Cohen spoke about his life and said that he was born in 1972 in Lebanon, that he belonged to the Jewish minority in Lebanese society, and that his father had worked as an accountant there.
He also says that he lived in Wadi Abu Jamil in Beirut and that his family never thought of leaving Lebanon, which it liked. He adds that he studied at a Christian school and that his Christian friends accused him of being responsible for the killing of Jesus Christ, while the Muslims accused him of causing the loss of Palestine. He adds: But we were still friends. The situation changed when Hezbollah became powerful in 1980. People who recognized me shouted: Here is the Jew! Sometimes, during the night, people threw stones at our windows. Beside our house, they wrote "Death to the Jews" and "Israel the Little Satan and USA the Great Satan."
He adds: "Towards the end of 1985, Hezbollah forces captured 11 Lebanese Jews. It wanted to exchange them for prisoners held by the occupation, but when this was refused, it killed them. They included my father, Haim Cohen Halala, who was 39. I left with the rest of the family for Israel. I was almost 20. That was in 1991."
Cohen continues to tell his story, saying that his father believed in coexistence between Arabs and Jews, and used to say that the Jews of Lebanon must not leave it despite offers to immigrate. "The result is that Hezbollah killed him and other Jews, thus ending Jewish presence in Lebanon," he said.
Cohen introduces himself in the interview as a researcher, political analyst, and unofficial spokesperson for Israel to the Arabs. He says: "I try to be Israel's voice in Arabic. I have a good life here, but I miss Lebanon greatly."
Cohen introduces himself on his Twitter page, which he created in October 2012 and which feeds the clamor around him by at least 20 tweets a day, as "an Israeli media person, academic professor, researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center, and founder of a human rights organization." On the professional website LinkedIn, he says that he holds a PhD and that he is a researcher, government adviser, and media analyst of Arab affairs.
The website of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies posts this about him: "Dr. Edy Cohen holds a PhD from Bar-Ilan University and specializes in inter-Arab relations, the Arab-Israeli conflict, terrorism, and Jewish communities in the Arab world."
The website of The Jerusalem Post has the following about him: "Expert on Arab affairs and author of the book The Holocaust in the Eyes of Mahmoud Abbas."
Cohen says that he is currently working with the Israeli Government and that he had worked previously with the Israeli Prime Minister's Bureau and the Israel Archives. He says that he did all his graduate and postgraduate studies at Bar-Ilan University and that his fields of research included Nazi propaganda in Arabic, Hezbollah and the civil war in Lebanon from 1975 until 1991, the role of the Mufti of Jerusalem, al Haj Amin al Husseini, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and the Jews in the Arab world (property, culture, customs, and displacement). He says that he is fluent in Arabic, French, English (Old English), Hebrew, and Spanish.
Endless Quarrels on Twitter
Cohen started his activity on Twitter in October 2012. He posted a few tweets in Hebrew or English, providing some news links of the Israeli Prime Ministry. The country that Cohen is currently picking on the most is the UAE. One famous example is his quarrels with Dhahi Khalfan, UAE deputy chief of police and public security. He also speaks about the ruling regime in Egypt; he does not stop lamenting the demise of the monarchy. He discusses other countries, such as Iran, Turkey, and Jordan.
On the UAE, Cohen concluded that Khalfan had suddenly changed his rhetoric when the latter stated that Israel was seeking the destruction of the Arab world. He started threatening Khalfan that he would disclose secrets, such as the allegation that Khalfan was involved in the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in 2010, that Khalfan visited Israel repeatedly and purchased surveillance cameras from it, that he stayed at a hotel near the Israeli Knesset, and other accusations. He did not provide evidence to prove these accusations, but he threatened that if Khalfan posted any other insult against Israel, he would produce evidence publicly. He invited Khalfan to a public encounter on any channel he chooses.
Meanwhile, Khalfan considered Cohen to be a fictitious character, linking this to the Qatari-Gulf row and saying that pro-Qatar cells stood behind him. Cohen quickly responded by posting a video of himself speaking about the matter. So far, the quarrels have not stopped on the pages of Cohen and Khalfan.
Any person following Cohen gets the impression that he is obsessed with falsification and fabricated videos. He recently focused on Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, assuming that those who are forging his signatures are generals in the Algerian army. The contradiction appears in the fact that he weeps over the Islamic movements that were suppressed by the Algerian regime, while he himself attacks these Islamic organizations in other tweets. This reinforces the conviction that this man embraces a populist rhetoric that panders to the wishes of the Arab street to attract more followers.
Edy Cohen and Jordan
Cohen has posted over 40 tweets on Jordan over the past three months. These include his own posts, tweets reported by Jordanians, and back and forth comments between him and readers.
Contradiction is the main feature of Cohen's posts about Jordan. He attacks the Jordanian state and its position toward the occupation entity, and then states that cooperation between the two sides is the strongest. He talked about the absence of the King, which he said was forced and was greatly significant. Then, he extended congratulations on the safe return of the King to Jordan.
To know the real attitude of Cohen toward the Jordanian state, we have to go back to The Jerusalem Post on 31 October 2016 when he published an article titled "Sorry, But Jordan Is Not a Friend." He says at the outset of the article that the UNESCO decision to deny Jews any connection to the Noble Sanctuary of Jerusalem was no coincidence and that it came about under the support and at the initiation of the King of Jordan. Cohen argues that this has to do with a Jordanian policy and that the intifada of knives in Jerusalem was instigated by the Jordanian regime, supporting his view by saying that this area in Jerusalem is run by the King's office. He concluded that Jordan was not a friend of Israel, as the Israelis have convinced themselves throughout the past years, and that Jordan was hostile to Israel.
Cohen has not stopped promoting fabricated rumors, which were proven to be false over the past months and which coincided with a firm position by Jordan vis-à-vis the decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
He was particularly active recently with regard to the King's absence on his regular annual leave. He speculated a great deal and posted fabrications, which have proven to be false. When the King returned and people posted videos and pictures of him, Cohen tried to prove that these pictures were fabricated and that the videos were doctored. He did that by publishing old and new pictures and showing how they match and reposting pictures by Jordanians in which they wondered about the change in the colors of the neckties of the King. He also quoted the French press, which published stories that conflict with those published in the Jordanian press on the King's meeting with the French foreign minister.
Cohen rode this wave specifically to send warning messages to Arab rulers who try to oppose Israel, as he says, citing the Pharaoh, Tsar of Russia, and Hitler.
As soon as any Arab posts a tweet lauding his prophesies and news, Cohen reposts it on his page. Recently, Jordan has dominated the scene. He even reposted lunch invitations that he claimed were received from Jordanians, promising them that he would accept their invitations in the coming days.
Even when it has to do with controversial stories inside Jordan, such as the arrival of singer Ahlam in Petra aboard a military helicopter, Cohen got himself involved and offered her a similar aircraft to visit the Negev desert if she wishes. Then, he expressed an opinion of the tobacco case, reminding people that the King was on leave. He supported his allegations that a U.S. team was investigating the tobacco case with a story published on a Jordanian website and taken from the London-based newspaper Rai Al Youm.
Anyone who follows Cohen's tweets will see that he is desperate to prove his knowledge of Jordanian geography and areas, and even restaurants. He inserts, without a logical reason, areas and places such as the Na'ur triangle, Al Manasir gas station, Salt Road, Sitteen Road, Jandawil area, City Mall, Hejaz Road, and Copacabana Restaurant in Dabouq.
When Jordanian journalist Jamal Haddad tried to refute this and respond to the insult in kind, he received a threat from Cohen that the Mossad was on its way to get him, according to a screenshot shown by Haddad to support what he said.
Superficial Propaganda and Vulgar Language
Cohen's posts on Twitter clearly reflect the feature of superficiality, which feeds on the crisis of confidence in Arab societies and its contradictions and regional conflicts and their impact on the weakness of communication and media systems. Other features are as follows: