By Sahar Namazikhah
WASHINGTON DC: Iranians and Israelis should mark March 14, 2012 on their calendars — it is the day that the “Israel loves Iran” campaign began to unify the voices of Israelis and Iranians through the path of peace, despite the messages of war that political leaders have conveyed.
Since last week, inspired by Israeli graphic designer and teacher Ronny Edri’s “Israel loves Iran” campaign, Iranians as well as members of other nations have reframed the narrative of war to one of a “love bomb”.
Edri designed posters that read “Iranians: We will never bomb your country. We [heart] you.” And Iranians responded in kind. This messaging is changing nightmares of war into hope that there will be solidarity between the people of Iran and Israel — creating a movement to wipe out fear, instead of each other.
The unique characteristic of this campaign is how ordinary people have succeeded in reframing government narratives. Under pressure from fear of a war — initiated by governments — people began efforts to rescue each other from fright and apprehensiveness; they sought to make each other feel secure. Here, even as an observer, you can see how people employed the most advanced skills from conflict resolution without even knowing it; they simply used the power of compassion, empathy and care. They unconsciously employed these conflict resolution methods to help create their own future and shape their realities.
When a popular movement of solidarity and unity like this is launched, it makes it clear that governments do not have their people’s support in threatening the other side with war. Remarkably, the movement is succeeding in raising public consciousness and global awareness that people in both countries hate war — not each other. As an Iranian observing this popular solidarity, I feel pride that people who have been surrounded by the nightmare of war for decades now find themselves powerful enough to change the future of the two countries as they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with friends and allies in the campaign.
If you spend even a few minutes on social networking sites, you will see that not only are Israelis and Iranians powering the campaign, but citizens of other nations, from Italy to the Philippines, are participating and want to counteract an attempt by Israel to strike Iran. This has truly become a messaging campaign from our global society.
It has grown to include a Facebook forum for individuals to connect. There, people from multiple countries have shared ideas, and the hunger for connecting across divisions and overcoming fears is clear. “Friends of Israel, we love you…before, there was no place to say [this]”, said one Iranian participant. “I hope the soldiers of this earth can see what’s happening here, between all [these] people…I hope they can say okay, let’s stop the war”, wrote another participant.
The “Israel loves Iran” campaign will be more powerful and effective when it builds bridges to more Iranians inside Iran. Bridging the people of Iran and Israel is not just preventing war, but re-bridging thousands of years of common history between the Iranian and Jewish peoples, dating back to the sixth century BCE. This is the period when the Persian king Cyrus shaped the foundations of modern Iran through his achievements in politics and the military. He is described by Jewish sources, such as the ancient historian Josephus, as the “anointed of the Lord” because of his efforts to promote religious freedom and help the Jewish people return to their homeland.
The people of Israeli and Iranian can build this trust and respect again — this campaign is a step in that direction.
Sahar Namazikhah was a journalist in Iran for 15 years. She is Director of Iran Projects at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, and a Ph.D. student at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).