On one photo, Syrus from Iran stands on the beach, his arms outstretched and a huge smile across his face. On another, Aval from Israel and Faran from Iran join their forefingers and thumbs together to create a heart shape, smiling at the camera. In fact the Facebook page ‘Israel loves Iran’ has photographs of people from all over the world in many different poses – in cafes, at work, in their living room – yet written across each of them is the same tagline: ‘Not Ready to Die in Your War’.
The photos form the basis of an online campaign that encourages mutual understanding between the people of Israel and Iran, for each to acknowledge respect and love for one another and to declare that they oppose going to war. It is a very different take on the political discourse that Israel’s leaders have entertained in recent months; dialogue that led people to believe war was inevitable.
The campaign, which began in March, started with a simple poster on Facebook depicting the site’s creator Ronny Edry, an Israeli graphic designer, holding his young daughter. Written across the image were the words, “Iranians we will never bomb your country we love you”. Since then Israelis, Iranians and people from all over the world have contributed their images to the campaign, the brainchild of husband and wife duo Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir. The Facebook page now has over 80,000 likes and 2 million hits per week.
The next stage of the campaign hopes to transfer the online pictures into posters to be displayed at bus stops around Tel Aviv, with the aim of reaching a wider audience beyond the Facebook community. To raise money, Edry is using the online fundraising platform Indiegogo, and at the time of writing has so far reached $9,295 of the $150,000 target needed to convert the photos into posters. They have 12 days to reach their goal.
It is no secret that the general public does not view Iran and Israel and their government’s agendas favourably. An opinion poll administered by the BBC world service between December 2011 and February 2012 ranked Iran as the country voted highest on the list of countries that have a negative influence in the world, and Israel the third, joint with North Korea. The ‘Israel loves Iran’ campaign will go some way towards separating government policy in a country and its people’s desires. Part of the campaign’s mission statement reads: “If you see someone on your TV talking about bombing you… be sure he does not represent all of us.”
Grassroots movements like this one prove that populations certainly do not unquestioningly toe the political line of their government. As recent events in the Middle East have shown us, in the end it will be citizens who can turn the tide when they are unhappy with governmental policy, if only a little bit at a time. People are far more complex than governments would like us to think.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.