Israelis Love-Bomb Iran—Iranians Respond in Kind
Some Israeli peaceniks, frustrated by their prime minister's tone toward Iran, have taken matters into their own hands. Harnessing the peer-to-peer potential of Facebook, they've assured Iranians that they're lovers, not fighters. They've posted the message you see above and encouraged fellow Israelis to take the same message, personalize it with a photo, and spread it further. Some have complied, and some Iranians have responded in kind.
What's not to like?
Actually, I do have one complaint: Mightn't the "We will never bomb your country" note ring a bit false, coming from people who don't control Israel's air force? Still, my basic reaction to this is the same as my reaction to the Kony2012 campaign: I'll leave it for other people to do the critiquing; what I want to emphasize is that, whatever the fate of this particular project, the potential for online activism that it illustrates is worth pondering.
So let's ponder.
First, we shouldn't be naïve. This won't be a simple matter of belligerent politicians in both countries being pushed aside by tender-hearted masses whose will had previously been thwarted. Among the reasons these politicians talk belligerently is that there is a non-trivial constituency for that kind of talk in both countries.
But why is there such a constituency? This is the question that I think points to some interesting possibilities. The constituency for belligerence is diverse, and certainly includes some people possessed by nearly ineradicable hatred. Still, it also includes people of more fluid sentiment, people whose belligerence rests on such things as:
1) Fear of the other country, a fear that might be partly assuaged by seeing citizens of that country who reject war.
2) Demonization of people in the other country, which might be lessened be seeing a few non-demonic specimens.
3) An implicit dehumanization of people in the other country--an indifference to their fate that comes from not giving much thought to their actual existence.
As a rule, I suspect that overcoming these obstacles to peace will take more than nice little billboards on Facebook. The supplementary use of video could lend credibility to the love-bombing and could do much to de-demonize and even humanize an alien citizenry. And even that won't address the biggest challenge: getting the message beyond the most naturally receptive audience (that is, the people who barely need the message in the first place), and reaching people whose minds are more in need of changing.
But the night is young. In the evolution of online love-bombing, we are still in primordial times. I look forward to seeing new species develop.
Meanwhile let's close with some heartening love bombs from both the Israeli and Iranian side of the fence. These images are taken from the Israeli website 972, and I encourage you to go to 972's article on the subject and scroll down for a larger sampling.
[Update, 3/19, 12:30 a.m.: I see that Andrew Sullivan posted on this a few hours before I did.]
[Further update, 3/19 8:46 p.m.: Check out the video in Ron Kampeas's post on this subject over at JTA.]