Video chat with 'Israel loves Iran' founder: Can Facebook meme end nuclear standoff?

Ronny Edry's Facebook page, 'Israel loves Iran,' has become a social media sensation. In a Google+hangout interview, he explains how his page 'is changing minds.' Who knows? Maybe Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu will 'like' it.

YouTube screenshot
Ronny Edry is pictured in this screenshot during his conversation with the Monitor's Pat Murphy. In his interview, Mr. Edry said that war dehumanizes the enemy so it's easy to kill. 'Sometimes you have to remember that even on the other side, we’re dealing with people, with human beings.'
Courtesy of Ronny Edry
Ronny Edry and his daughter are seen in this photograph, used in his Facebook peace campaign.

Last year, when talk about war with Iran was particularly loud, a graphic designer in Israel had a simple idea. Ronny Edry decided to make a poster of himself, holding his little girl, who was holding the Israeli flag. He put the words “Iranians we will never bomb your country. We [heart] you” on it, and posted it on Facebook.

This one act blossomed into a social media sensation, with Iranians responding with their own “Iran loves Israel” images. Edry's page, "Israel loves Iran," has more than 115,000 "likes" and more than 1.3 million people have viewed Mr. Edry's Ted talk. His effort has spawned offshoot Facebook pages such as “Palestine loves Israel” and “Israel loves Palestine.” Recently, the Monitor's Pat Murphy spoke via Google+hangout with Edry, who was at his home in Tel Aviv. While the video's short introduction is a bit clouded by background noise, you can hear Edry very well in this 7-minute interview. Here are some typed excerpts from the video, which can be viewed below.

On whether something as simple as love can impact something as complex as nuclear talks with Iran:

"One of the basics…of going to war is trying to dehumanize the enemy…so it’s easy to destroy, it’s easy to kill. Sometimes you have to remember that even on the other side, we’re dealing with people, with human beings. You know, they were babies at one point in their life. And maybe sometimes love can defuse the situation.” 

On why communicating through images can be helpful:

We live "in an era of images....The idea as a graphic designer is to make new images and to try to convince you there are other [positive] images of the Middle East. Not just the ones you see every day on the news. It’s quite a simple idea."

On how a social media campaign can affect talks with Iran – i.e., the real world:

"I don’t know if we are actually changing things, you know, here and now, but we are [changing] minds. The fact that it’s happening on the Internet is no different [than] if it was happening on the street.” 

On how average people can help further his effort:

"The best thing to do is just to ‘like’ the page, and to comment on the post. The whole idea of that page is to give a voice to the people....Find somebody on the page you like, somebody who is not from your country" and friend them and get to know them. Someone from Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, "all those places that you just know from the news."

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