“Israel and Iran- a love story.” This topic grabbed my attention in a list of most recent TED talks. In it, Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry describes how he kick started a campaign of posters to foster mutual understanding between Israelis and Iranians.
Edry began this online movement by accident in 2012, when it seemed war was imminent between the two countries. One night Edry posted a poster on Facebook with a photograph of him with his daughter and the words, ‘Iranians- we will never bomb your country. We (heart) you’. He woke the following morning to find an unexpected barrage of comments, likes and messages of support.
Using his graphic design training, Edry knew people were more likely to respond to images than messages alone. He started to make posters for anybody who wanted to share a message; family, friends, students; eventually recruiting more graphic designers to volunteer and help his cause. As well as Israelis, Edry was approached by lots of Iranians who wished to spread their message. One of the most moving pictures features an Israeli flag and the words, ‘I love that blue. I love that star. I love that flag.’ It is based on the story of an Iranian girl brought up to walk over the Israeli flag each morning. She wrote to Edry to tell him her mind had been changed about Israel since she’d seen his posters and how she hoped they would meet sometime.
Edry’s message spread far out of the Middle East as it was featured in many other countries. Edry reports every time a country picked up the story, a page on Facebook would pop up with the same logo and the list of people dedicating their love to their neighbours grew, until there was ‘Iran loves Israel’, ‘Palestine loves Israel’. Even today, a search of the words Israel and Iran on Google Australia reveals the Israel-Loves-Iran Facebook link on page one. As stress levels increased between the two countries towards the end of last year, Edry decided to ramp up the aggression in his messages by starting a new campaign where the captions were, ‘Not ready to die in your war.’
I feel this is a simple idea which thousands of people have related to. It’s worth reading the transcript of the TED talk to see the comments afterwards. As usual, there’s a mixed bag of people from outside Israel slating everything that the country has done in the past and condemning Edry’s actions as simplistic and pointless. Yet some forget that this is an ex-Israeli paratrooper who set this up in his own time, using his own resources in order to harness the will of the people to promote peace. Even if it served to change the mind of one person in a decision making position, wouldn’t that make it worthwhile?
In another example of peaceful resistance in the Middle East, Julia Bacha discusses her documentary film ‘Budrus’ in her talk, ‘Pay attention to non- violence.’ ‘Budrus’ is the story of a Palestinian village which in 2003 launched a 10 month long non-violent protest to stop a barrier being built across their olive groves. Bacha provides some footage from the movie in this talk. Clips include interviews with ordinary citizens, a Hamas member and an Israeli soldier. The people of Budrus were eventually successful in their cause as Israeli troops moved back behind internationally recognised lines.
Bacha is a Brazilian film-maker who has worked for over eight years to document the non- violent struggles between Israel and Palestine. At each conference she attends, she is met with questions such as, ‘Where is the Palestine Gandhi?’ and, ‘Why don’t they use non-violent means?’ She explains that many non- violent protests have occurred successfully on both sides following, ‘Budrus’. The lack of media coverage of such campaigns can impair motivation for others to carry out peaceful protests.
Critics of Bacha claim she is staunchly pro-Palestinian and state that non-violent campaigns are pointless. As with the previous TED talk, there are plenty of irate comments following this sensitive subject, despite the fact both speakers refrain from providing a political opinion. As a means of encouraging conversation on the topics and fostering understanding, I felt both ideas were stirring and their speakers inspirational.