Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Spreading Peace Across Cyberspace - The Israel Loves Iran Campaign
With perennial saber rattling on both sides, the animosity between Iran and Israel rarely leaves the front pages of the world’s newspapers. Iran dislikes Israel, and likewise, Israelis don’t like Iranians, right? Well actually, despite the heated exchanges by the countries’ leaders and a history of hostility between the two nations, not every Israeli is anti-Iran, and vice-versa. Recently, what started as a Facebook page initiated by an Israeli couple wanting to spread messages of peace and love, has now turned into a internet phenomenon, with messages of friendship being exchanged by both Israeli and Iranian internet users.
While many people use the internet as a tool for social networking, shopping and looking for services such as income protection insurance, it can also be a force for good. Ronny Edry and his wife Michal Tamir started Israelovesiran to let the people of Iran know that despite what the politicians say in the heated exchanges of international diplomacy, the people of Israel don’t necessarily dislike the people of Iran.
“We love you. We mean you no harm ... On the contrary, we want to meet, have some coffee and talk about sports,” the couple wrote on their Facebook page, sparking a huge amount of similar comments from both Iranian and Israeli internet users. While the couple doubt politicians from either nation will take much notice of their campaign, they say it demonstrates that the people have plenty in common with each other.
Israel Iran Relations
Israel and Iran did once have a much more cordial relationship. From the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 up until Iranian revolution of 1979, both nations maintained close ties. It was only when the Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, with whom Israel had relatively warm relations, did the relationship between the two nations cool, with Khomeini declaring Israel an "enemy of Islam."
After the Iranian revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, things got progressively worse between the two countries. All official relations between Israel and Iran ceased and Iranian foreign policy became particularly anti-Zionist, culminating with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2000 saying: “Palestine belongs to Palestinians,” and that Israel was a: "cancerous tumor" that should be removed from the region. A sentiment shared by current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who remarked that Israel should be: "Wiped off the map.”
Recent Saber Rattling
Israel can hardly claim to be innocent in all this saber rattling, either. While obviously provoked by remarks such as those made by Ahmadinejad, and the instance of to procure nuclear technology, Israeli politicians have repeatedly made statements regarding Iran that do little to help. Warning that unilateral military action would not be ruled out if the international community failed to act and with Vice Premier Shimon Peres saying: "The president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map," will do nothing but inflame tensions. Furthermore, this year saw a war simulation conducted by both Israeli and US forces, aimed at predicting what would happen if coalition forces were to attack Iran, which was a move widely regarded as provocative to those outside the region.
It was against this background of animosity that graphic designer Ronny Edry decided to set up his Facebook page. On it, he said that while he and his wife weren’t official representatives of Israel, they felt like their voice was important. He wrote: "To all the fathers, mothers, children, brothers and sisters, for there to be a war between us, first we must be afraid of each other, we must hate."
Initially his page received criticism from people suggesting he was betraying his nation, but messages of support soon flooded in, with Israelis as well as Iranians sharing and liking his page hundreds of times, whilst adding their own messages of peace and love.
Such was the popularity of the Facebook page, Ronny Edry and his wife Michal have now set up a dedicated website: www.israelovesiran.com/ that urges readers to send in their thoughts, pictures and messages of peace, which the couple post online. So far, the website has attracted thousands of messages of support, not just from Israelis but also from Iranians too. While many posters from Iran prefer to keep their identify secret for fear of reprisals, their messages of peace provide much needed friendliness between two nations that are going through such uncertain times.