By Natasha Phillips

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been posting videos on YouTube in the form of short messages, some directed at Iran’s government and others intended for Iranian citizens inside the country. The videos include offers of help and what appear to be shows of solidarity with the people of Iran.

Iran’s government has come under increasing pressure over the last few months from both inside and outside Iran to address national interests, as protests, water shortages and economic sanctions continue to affect the country.

Netanyahu’s latest video, which he posted on his YouTube channel last Sunday, features the Prime Minister talking about a day in the life of a fictional 15-year-old girl called Fatameh, living in Iran. The video attempts to highlight a range of issues inside the country,  attributing them to the Iranian government’s policies on the environment, education and freedom of expression. The YouTube message comes as the effects of Iran’s sanctions and water shortages take hold. The video, which runs at just over two minutes, has been watched over 20,000 times.

In the clip, Netanyahu describes the teenager’s day, which includes going for a run, travelling to school and reading the news. Netanyahu tells viewers that the girl is unable to drink clean tap water or attend school due to strikes, and has to breathe in polluted air as she makes her away across the city she lives in. He also tells YouTube viewers that the teenager is unable to access social media platforms and read independent, balanced news stories, as the Iranian government has censored the Internet, preventing her from accessing more information. The video closes with Netanyahu making a request:

“If you want peace, help Fatameh. Help the people of Iran to raise their voice against a regime that oppresses them and denies them a life of dignity, prosperity and respect.”

Comments on the YouTube channel suggest that reaction to the video has been mixed, with some viewing the short film as an offensive portrayal of the country. Others have welcomed the clip, seeing it as an attempt to highlight a range of problems inside Iran. YouTube commentator Sorena Espahbod expressed gratitude for the Israeli Prime Minister’s video:

“Dear Mr Prime Minister, As an Iranian I deeply appreciate your kind words. Many Iranians like myself can’t thank you enough for becoming our voice… Please help us to gain our freedom and let history and the Iranian people remember your name for thousands of years”.

Another commentator, John Owen, was sympathetic to the clip:

“Israel will save Iran God bless the Iranian people And god bless PM Netanyahu for being there for them.

Other commentators, like Zeynab Norozi, took a different view, calling Netanyahu’s portrayal of Iran inaccurate and hypocritical:

“Please don’t believe him, I’m Iranian and I  live inside, he’s just brainwashing,” wrote Norozi. She said that for many years, Israel and the U.S. had done the “worst things possible to the region and Iran. Come to Iran and visit my beautiful country.”

A commentator with the YouTube handle nervouss was also dismissive of the video:

“Is this a joke?” The comment began. It described Netanyahu as  “calling the kettle black” with Israel’s treatment of Gaza and its  “fake concern over the residents of Iran.” The commentator also told the Prime Minister to worry about the “instabilities” in Israel instead.

This video is the latest in a series in which Israel’s Prime Minister talks directly to Iran. A similar video posted on June 10th, in which the Prime Minister offers to help Iran with its water crisis, was aired several days before one of the largest water-related protests in Iran took place. The video begins with Netanyahu pouring himself a glass of water and then taking a sip. He tells viewers, “Today I’m going to make an unprecedented offer to Iran. It relates to water. The Iranian people are victims of a cruel and tyrannical regime, that denies them vital water. Israel stands with the people of Iran. And that is why I want to help save countless Iranian lives.”

The clip outlines Iran’s water shortage problems, and how Israel could help to alleviate the drought, including the creation of a Persian language website which Netanyahu claims will show Iranians how to recycle their waste water. The YouTube page for the video also features a link to a collection of water related articles translated into Persian, which have been uploaded onto Israel’s Foreign Ministry website. It is not clear whether these articles are the same as, or distinct from, Netanyahu’s offer of a site with detailed information on how to address the water crisis in Iran.

The video was not well received by Iran’s Foreign Ministry, which released a formal statement in response. Bahram Qassemi, a spokesman for the Ministry called Netanyahu a “deceitful showman.” Qassemi went on to say, “It is not the first time that he makes such remarks… The Iranian people and government are capable enough to resolve their problems, they do not need such magic tricks.”

Much like the latest video, YouTube viewers’ reactions to the June 10th clip were varied.  YouTuber Afshin Vlogs asked Netanyahu to match words with actions, inviting the Israeli Prime Minister to offer tangible help on the ground in Iran, and if unable to do so, to stop posting videos with offers of support. Afshin also commented that Iran’s government was selling its water to other countries and spending money on external interests inside Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Another viewer, commenting with the handleTeflon Don, was one of several commentators  who showed gratitude for Israeli support: 

“I am an Iranian and I love this guy. He is a real leader that stands for his people. I wish we had a leader like this. There are  lots of  antisemitic people in Iran that don’t understand the importance of the Jews in the region, but I am telling you, Israel will someday liberate Iran or at least moderate this self-destructive regime.”

Not all viewers were convinced that Netanyahu’s offer was genuine, or without strings attached. Commentator  Storm of Steel felt that any efforts to help Iran with its drought would lead to Israel lacing its water supply with hormones, while YouTube user Fernand V called the video propaganda, claiming that Israel was more interested in how it could use Iran’s natural resources for itself. YouTube goer Aamer Khan called the video an attempt at creating further unrest inside the country:

“This guy is trying to start a civil war in Iran. Just like America did in Iraq and Libya.”