War, Peace and Facebook: Social Media’s Diplomatic Side

Posted by · March 20, 2012 4:48 pm

It’s common knowledge that the tension between Middle East neighbors Israel and Iran has been elevating quite rapidly lately. And at the risk of editorializing, the vitriolic rhetoric being hurled by their respective heads of state has hardly served to alleviate any of the pressure. Nevertheless, this is not to say that the prospect of peaceful coexistence and eventual reconciliation between the two countries is without hope.

The source of that optimism, though, does come as somewhat of a surprise.

Meet Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir. They’re just an ordinary Israeli couple. They’re both graphic designers. And most importantly, they both don’t want war.

Putting their creative expertise to work, Ronny and Michal decided to build a Facebook page and accompanying blog simply entitled, “Israel-Loves-Iran.” Little did the couple know, however, that by publishing a couple of posters on the page over the weekend, a global movement would be afoot just days later.

Beneath each poster, visitors to the couple’s Facebook page found the following caption:

To the Iranian people, 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. I’m not afraid of you, I don’t hate you. I don’t even know you. No Iranian ever did me no [sic] harm.

“Making posters is my way of reacting to things, so I just made this poster because it’s what I wanted to say,” commented Edry rather matter-of-factly. “I didn’t think it would be this big or this crazy, but so many people relate to the message. I was under the impression [that] I was the only one.”

In an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Edry recounted the initial reaction to the posters:

After the first poster, people started criticizing me, saying I’m an idiot, that I’m naïve. “Why are you telling them you love them? Why are you giving up before the war has even started?” But very quickly the posters became a hit: the first image gained hundreds of “Likes” and “Shares,” and numerous people asked to join the initiative.

It didn’t take long for the social media-based movement to morph into “something insane,” as Edry characterized it either. Less than two days after the Facebook page went live, the couple had already established contact with their heavily censored Iranian neighbors. And at the risk of imprisonment, Iranians began contributing their own faceless posters.

Without so much as shaking hands with an Iranian before in their lives, the couple has managed to establish a relationship with the Iranian people whose effects may well wax historic.

Still apparently bewildered by the growth of the movement, Edry observed, “As a man of peace, I’m like, ‘[M]aybe we started something big, just maybe.’”

But “maybe” may be just a bit of an understatement. On Monday, Israeli President Shimon Peres celebrated the Persian New Year by sending Iran a message, which included a clear desire for “peace and coexistence.”

While such a gesture by the Israeli President is by no means an end in itself, its close proximity to the launch of this Facebook movement does send a clear message of hope that anyone is capable of making an impact on global affairs. Thanks to social media, an average Israeli couple has proven that even when governments appear poised to throw in the diplomatic towel, ordinary people can pick it back up and do extraordinary things.

Got a point-of-view on social media involvement in diplomacy? Share your opinion in the comments below.