CAIRO – One of the Israeli military’s most visible spokesmen is under fire for a photo he posted on his Facebook page captioned “Obama style” in which his face is smeared with mud. Sacha Dratwa posted the photo in late September, but since the furor he has restricted access to his account. A screengrab of the original post circulating online showed that it drew mixed reactions, with one commenter saying, “You know this is racist, yeah?”
In the photo, Dratwa appears to be smeared in mud from the Dead Sea, a popular activity for many visiting and living in Israel. Dratwa responded to a user on Twitter accusing him of racism saying, “I’m not a racist, please stop [spreading] lies about me.” He also posted a response on Facebook saying the firestorm around the photo misrepresents his opinions and is a “cynical use of the information” on his profile.
“I am, and have always been, completely candid about my beliefs and have nothing to hide,” wrote Dratwa on Sunday. “The aforementioned photos do not reflect my beliefs and have no bearing whatsoever on my position in the IDF.”
Dratwa, 26, is originally Belgian and heads the Israeli Defense Forces new media desk, active in engaging Israel’s supporters and critics on social media. The IDF’s Twitter account and various web sites were regularly updated during Israel’s operation “Pillar of Defense” against Hamas in the Gaza Strip last week, distributing the latest numbers and highlighting Israel’s efforts not to kill civilians.
“What we try to do is to be fast and get information out before the old media,” Dratwa told Tablet Magazine last week. “We believe people are getting information from social media platforms and we don’t want them to get it from other sources. We are the ones on the scene, and the old media are not on the scene as are the IDF.”
The IDF declined a request to comment.