Supreme leader had called for Israel to be ‘removed and eradicated’
The Israeli embassy in the US poked fun at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in response to a series of bombastic tweets in which he described the fellow Middle Eastern nation as a “malignant cancerous tumour”.
The supreme leader tweeted that Israel “has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen”.
In a televised speech on Monday, he also warned Iran would “attack 10 times more if attacked by enemies”.
In reply, the Israeli embassy taunted Ayatollah Khamenei with a meme from the 2004 US teen comedy film, in which Rachel McAdams’s character Regina George asks: “Why are you so obsessed with me?”
The post was widely shared on social media, with many Twitter users praising the embassy’s response and others joking it embodied “diplomacy in 2018”.
Israel’s tweet echoed a tactic often employed by Russia’s UK embassy, which frequently uses memes to taunt or attack the British government and media – sometimes receiving thousands of likes and retweets in the process.
Corneliu Bjola, associate professor in diplomatic studies at the University of Oxford, said the intention was “to deflect challenges to your narrative in a way that keeps you ‘positive’ in the eyes of the audience”.
He told The Independent: “In the digital medium, memes are used to dilute/disrupt the message of the ‘opponent’ either because you don’t have facts to oppose it (as often in the Russian case) or the message is so inflammatory that fact-based responses will not be effective (as in the Iranian tweet).
“The idea is to provoke and in so doing to change the terms of the discussion in a manner that minimises online backlash.”
He added: “The quality of the tweet is also important. I find it particularly interesting that the Israeli tweet uses a meme with women to react to the Ayatollah Khamenei’s tweet.”
Israel’s Mean Girls gif had been retweeted more than 9,000 times and liked more than 27,000 times within a day of being posted.
The Twitter exchange came amid growing tensions in the Middle East since Donald Trump announced the US was withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions on Iran.
On Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, sought to convince European states to abandon the deal, claiming Tehran’s threats to increase uranium enrichment capacity showed it still planned to destroy Israel.
Britain, France and Germany are scrambling to save the accord, under which Iran promised to curb its nuclear programme in return for lifted sanctions.