A successful and timely addition to the MDC, the Doron Halpern Middle East Network Analysis Desk studies Middle East and North Africa networks, both online (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram), and off (networks of families, elites, and terror groups). Utilizing advanced technological tools that allow for the visualization and examination of sentiments in the MENA region, MENAD analyzes patterns, developments, rises, and declines in opinions, reactions, and trends. With this information, our understanding of current events in the region reaches far beyond official media and taps into true public discourse.
MENAD research is published across a variety of multimedia platforms. Beehive, a monthly publication released in both Hebrew and English, provides explanations and analysis for events and trends moving the Arabic-, Turkish-, and Farsi-speaking worlds on social networking sites. In order to provide various perspectives within the discourse of major current events, MENAD researchers comb through local articles, social media posts, trending hashtags, and other sources directly from the Internet users within these countries, rather than state-sanctioned media.
The Middle East-themed weekly radio show “Marha-beit” with Gal Berger and broadcast on Israel’s Reshet Bet, regularly features the members of the Desk who bring these themes and discussions to a greater audience within Israel. Such topics recently included the Iran-U.S. nuclear agreement and the June 2015 Turkish elections.
The members of the Middle East Network Analysis Desk have diverse research questions of their own, all of which work around the central theme of networking. Chorev uses the methodology of network analysis to study the integration and disintegration of Palestinian society. Dr. Raz Zimmt examines how social media reflects the growing gap between the Iranian people and their country’s regime, and how the Iranian public will react to the success or failure of the nuclear deal with the United States. Dr. Michael Barak looks to the Egyptian Azmiyya Sufi movement’s use of social media to counter radicalism. Hay Eytan Cohen-Yanarocak studies how different players in Turkish politics organize online by using hashtags and campaigns to drive the political conversation. Nachum Shiloh determines how social networks can be used in lieu of archives, access to which in the Arab world is limited; he also uses social networks to research opposition groups in the GCC states.
The IS sub-desk is the newest addition to the Middle East Network Analysis Desk. The IS sub-desk researchers study the online behavior of IS members and their supporters, including their conversations, publications, media, recruitment habits, the reactions to international discourse about them, and the way that they present the realities of life in their territories. The sub-desk keeps track of the varied technologies that the IS uses to hide their identities, to protect information from hackers, and to reach wider audiences. It also provides particularly rewarding research opportunities for interns, many of whom are comfortable with social media platforms and technologies that the IS employs.
Since the outbreak of the Arab Uprisings the world has turned to networks to understand how the Middle East functions from the bottom-up. Revolutions and protests from Tunisia, to Egypt, and to Iran have been coordinated on Twitter and Facebook, and the growing role of online networks requires researchers to stay one step ahead. The researchers at the Moshe Dayan Center’s Middle East Network Analysis Desk understand the importance of listening to these local voices in real time, and their analysis is invaluable vis-à-vis a changing Middle East.