by Kelley Kidd
Recently, Facebook has been bombarding me. Not with its usual memes and Spotify updates, but with a slew of politically oriented statuses and photos. This is usually fairly inevitable, but lately it’s transcended the typical circle of acquaintances who regularly post items from political blogs or links to news articles. In fact, certain messages have become trendy. First it was the mass movement against SOPA, aided by Google and Wikipedia. Kony 2012, an Invisible Children campaign, became the next hot topic. People get excited to be a part of a movement, to make their voices heard, and to stand in solidarity about something worthy of passion.
The latest of these explosive trends is the newly blossoming Israel Loves Iran campaign. Founded by Ronny Edry, the campaign began with a simple poster he created to send a message of love and understanding from Israel to Iran. Quickly, his modest gesture took off, giving birth to a widespread and large-scale exchange of message, images and discussion directed toward forging a connection between two politically estranged peoples.
The hope, ultimately, is to make an impression in politics—Iranians and Israelis want to make their leaders see that war is not an option in their eyes. Of course, the people with the power are not the same as those posting warm messages. For many, the potential for this movement not to affect anything on a grand political scale makes it a failure, worthless—another example of “slacktivism,” activism that refuses to move beyond the comfort of the couch and the safety of a computer screen. For many movements, such a complaint may be applicable, as it devolves into memes and likes from people who have no goal beyond being a part of whatever passion is trending. However, this cynical view, if it applies to any such movements, does not hold for the case of Israel Loves Iran.
First of all, it is inherently significant that Iranians, whose contributions to the site have been meaningful but commonly anonymous, are contributing at all, as many have said “they feared for their lives if they used their real name.” Iranians who have posted share messages of love, compassion and support. The posts note thousands of years of coexistence, express gratitude and love, and show us that, as one Facebook user in Iran promises, the sense of hatred between the two nations “was invented by the propaganda of the regime” and that the “Iranian people, apart from the regime, do not hold a grudge nor animosity against anyone, especially not the Israelis.” The mere act of sharing these messages demonstrates how committed the Iranian people are to communicating them; these people are not able to voice their complaints and defy their regime openly and freely, and their commitment to doing so clearly indicates their commitment to the cause. There is no slacktivism when even making your voice heard puts your life at risk.
The movement is a positive one, regardless of its direct political impact. The challenge, but also the beauty, of grassroots movements is that you do not see results immediately. The change is inherently bottom-up, and therefore slow to be enacted. Nonetheless, any eventual change has massive strengh and enormous support—a loud, clear voice that cannot be ignored. In this case, the change is a fundamentally meaningful one. People are learning to see one another as real people, to meet and connect with the “Other.” The hope is to influence political decision by taking a clear stance against war, but even if the movement fails to grow to that scale, its impact within the people is significant. Alliances and wars are usually decided by the powers that be, but Israel Loves Iran may give us a chance to see how much change the Powers that Become can make.