Last week, when graphic designers Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir decided to counter the war drums beating in Israel with a simple message of peace to the people of Iran, little did they know it would create a viral Facebook initiative which would help to inspire a massive anti-war rally in Tel Aviv.
On Saturday night, this is precisely what happened, as Israelis flooded Habima Square in Tel Aviv to protest the elevated war rhetoric coming from their leaders and to stand squarely against the hypothetical bombing of Iran.
It’s not difficult to trace much of the momentum for Saturday night’s rally back to the married duo of Edry and Tamir, who last week created images of themselves with the superimposed message, “‘Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We ♥ You.'”
Their images inspired countless Israelis to post their own Facebook versions, which in turn inspired Iranians to do the same, creating a virtual, imagistic message of love cycling between the two peoples. That message also helped to inspire Israeli activists – many of whom were involved with this summer’s social justice protest movement (J14) – to organize the county’s first significant anti-war rally concerning Iran.
Public opinion in Israel is squarely against the idea of an Israeli attack against Iran, something that protest organizers were quick to point out in promotional messages leading up to the rally. Organizers also made a point of arguing that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s war rhetoric and preparations were simply intentional diversions meant to distract citizens from the country’s pressing social and economic problems:
[W]e will not agree to an irresponsible Israeli attack in 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.
While a plurality of Israelis are not in favor of military engagement with Iran, the scene on Saturday night in Tel Aviv was, for the most part, a decidedly leftist one – a melding of social justice activists and those from Hadash (the Jewish-Arab party).
Where this anti-war momentum will lead remains to be seen. However, at the very least, the reverberating drums of war being pounded upon by Israel’s leaders are now being accompanied by discordant and oppositional vocals.
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