Israelis protest war with Iran

By our correspondent
28 March 2012

Saturday saw the first public demonstration in Israel opposing war against Iran.

Around 1,000 protesters demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the government’s threats to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. Placards contained messages such as “No to War with Iran”, “Talks, not Bombs” and “No to pre-emptive suicide.”

The protest was small, but its message reflects broader concerns. It was inspired in part by a Facebook and YouTube campaign opposing an attack on Iran that went viral. Ronnie Edri, a Tel Aviv graphic designer, and his wife, Michal Tamir, created a Facebook site with the aid of a student graphic design school.

The “Israel-Loves-Iran” Facebook group has attracted tens of thousands in response to its simple message opposing war and its slogan, “Iranians, we will never bomb you—we love you”.

One respondent posted a photo of himself and his daughter with a poster reading, “Iranians, we will never bomb your country, we [heart symbol] you”.

Another doctoral student posted a photo of herself and her cat, with a sign in Farsi, “We love you, people of Iran”.

Edri posted a video on YouTube that has had over half a million hits and spawned numerous response videos. Edri states, “I am not afraid of you. I don’t hate you. I don’t even know you … If you see someone on your TV talking about bombing you, be sure he does not represent all the people of Israel.”

Edri told Haaretz, “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. So I thought, ‘Why not try to reach the other side; to bypass the generals and see if [Iranians] really hate me?’ ”

The Facebook page of the demonstration’s organizers, Israelis Against War, states that “We will not agree to an irresponsible Israeli attack on Iran, leading to a war with an unknown end-date and casualty count … The billions that this war will cost will be paid by us—in health, education, housing—and in blood.”

An art exhibit was also mounted in Tel Aviv focusing on Iran and a Farsi website established featuring news of daily life in Israel.

One opinion poll showed that more than a third of Israeli respondents are against a strike on Iran under any circumstances, while another suggests that many more—58 percent—are opposed.

The hundreds of thousands of images sent in response to Edri and Michal’s initiative included many from Iran that were sent within hours. Many used their real names in direct defiance of the Iranian government.

According to the Jerusalem Post, one man who said he was in Tehran, Mohammad Rez O’Zar, explained, “You know Facebook is forbidden here. Having an account is a crime.”

A poster uploaded by one woman stated, “My Israeli friends, I don’t hate you, I don’t want war.”