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Some Israelis and Iranians love each other online

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, March 19 2012

A Facebook meme campaign promoting peace between Israel and Iran started by an Israeli couple is catching fire in both countries. As +972 reported, the couple, graphic designers Ronnie Edri and Michal Tamir, came up with a slogan to superimpose over Facebook profile pictures that reads Iranians We [Heart] You. While some responses were initially more ironic, such as "Trojans We will never bomb your country We [Heart] You" over a photo of the Trojan Horse or "Iraqis We will never bomb your country We [Heart] You" over a picture of President George W. Bush, soon many Israelis began taking it seriously.

Edri and Tamir told Haaretz that they started the campaign together with "Pushpin Mehina," a small preparatory school for graphic design students, when they uploaded posters to Facebook depicting images of themselves with their children alongside the words, "Iranians, we will never bomb your country, we [heart] you." Attached to the posters was the 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 harm."

Haaretz reported:

"I thought that when you're constantly surrounded by talk of threats and war, you are so stressed and afraid that you crawl into a sort of shell and think to yourself how lucky we are to also have bombs and how lucky we are that we'll clean them out first," he said. "So I thought, 'Why not try to reach the other side; to bypass the generals and see if they [Iranians] really hate me?'"..."I never imagined that within 48 hours I would be speaking to the other side," said Edry, who explained that most of the Iranians' messages had been coming through in private, but that there had been some who invited him to be their Facebook friend. In a conversation that took place on Saturday evening, after a full day spent in front of the computer chatting to Israelis and Iranians, Edry was buzzing with excitement. "Something insane is going on here," said Edry. "I was just having a conversation with a few Iranians, trying to convince them to send me photos of themselves, and they told me that we [Israelis] might be able to publish photos, but they risk going to jail over such a thing." In the meanwhile, they conversed via private messages, with their identities concealed.

But nevertheless the page soon began receiving Iranian photos, Haaretz reported, with messages such as: "We also love you. Your words are reaching us despite the censorship. The Iranian people, apart from the regime, do not hold a grudge nor animosity against anyone, especially not the Israelis… We never saw Israelis as our enemies. As such, the regime cannot gain public support for war." The Iranian Facebook user continued, "The hatred was invented by the propaganda of the regime, which will die soon."

The Facebook page Love & Peace now has over 1,500 supporters. It is not clear how many are people from the region, as opposed to outsiders reading blog posts about the campaign, such as those by Andrew Sullivan and Robert Wright. Meanwhile, photos are also being published on the website www.israelovesiran.com. Haaretz noted that some Iranians were posting faceless pictures. The website was also encouraging supporters to tweet under the hashtag #israellovesiran.

Meanwhile, on different but related note, the Obama campaign is also eager to show it loves Israel, running an online ad on Haaretz through Google with the message "President Obama Stands with Israel" and the American and Israeli flags. The ad links to a page entitled "America & Israel: An Unbreakable Bond" that also features a seven-minute video, and encourages users to sign up for Jewish Americans for Obama.

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