Online organizing, social media campaign, storytelling

Can Positivity Stop a War? Israel Loves Iran

7 Comments 22 March 2012


Israel Loves Iran, the Facebook meme started by an Israeli graphic designer, does something unique: in one sentence it challenges historical thinking about the relationship between Israel and Iran, and at the same empowers citizens of both countries a way to make a difference. This campaign to prevent war is based on hope and goodwill. What is so refreshing about this is the positive spin on a very serious subject: nuclear and conventional war. It’s storytelling at its best, and begs the question posed by Stacey Monk and Vanessa Rhinesmith in their excellent South By Southwest Interactive session: Can positivity change the world?

That one question pushed me reconsider traditionally negatively inspired messaging campaigns, and how to rethink them into positively messaged campaigns. For example, the Humane Society ran a very effective online video and petition campaign to boycott Canadian seafood, supported by an extremely graphic video of how baby seals are clubbed and killed. Though the campaign garnered a lot of signatures and momentum, would it have been even more successful if it were positively messaged? What if it were a campaign that illustrated the beauty and joy of the baby seal, the cuteness of the baby seal, and how the world is more beautiful because of more seals? Katie Smith tweeted this session takeaway:


And this is where the internet meme Israel Loves Iran comes in.

Ronny Edry and his wife Michal Tamir are Israelis deeply concerned about an impending war with Iran. Ronny uploaded a poster (seen at the top of this blog post) to his Facebook Page with the message: “Iranians, we will never bomb your country, we love you.” Ronny’s poster hit a nerve with his message is that we are all one humanity, and the government does not speak as one voice for the people.

Ronny started a movement that has grown exponentially: over 16,000 people Like his Facebook page, thousands on Facebook have changed their avatars to include messages of peace and love, and other Facebook pages and groups that have arisen with similar messages. CNN picked up the story, Mashable, and the Israeli English-language paper Ha’aretz.

What is more, thousands of Iranians are doing the same.

This is slacktivism, true, but slacktivism with passion and energized activism behind it.

I lived in Israel from 2007 to 2010, and every single spring, friends and relatives would comment, “this summer, there will likely be war with Iran.” It wasn’t and “if,” but “when.” I lived and worked in a peace-loving community of Jerusalem, and though no one wanted war, we never discussed how we might prevent war. The old pattern of “Iran has nuclear capability, and wants to eliminate the State of Israel, so we must disarm this threat” was rarely challenged.

In one day, Ronny Edry changed the message and started something big. A movement, in fact.

I’ve been thinking about Israel Loves Iran and what makes it so powerful. I believe there are a few elements:

  • By simply reframing the message, Israel Loves Iran created hope where there was none.
  • Empowerment. Individuals feel empowered by the message and the hope; they feel that they may actually able to prevent war between the two countries.
  • Timeliness. As I said, every Spring this conversation occurs. Why does it have to be the same?
  • The truth. No one wants the war. Why does it have to happen?
  • The humanity of it all. Individuals having a conversation, messaging each other, and realizing that they share a common goal.

What could other causes learn from this?

  • Re-framing the messaging from negative to positive creates changes, hope, and momentum.
  • Individual to individual connection. What is it that connects people on a real and individual level to the cause?
  • Motivation. What is the motivation to act? Is there urgency and timeliness? How can you put pressure on the motivation to act?
  • Empowerment. How is your cause actually giving individuals the power to affect the outcome?

I welcome your thoughts on Israel Loves Iran, and what we can learn from it.

(For more on how the story unfolded, view this visual history.)


  • Thanks for this great round-up Debra. What a compelling story of great grassroots empowerment. I hope this campaign succeeds and becomes a model for people to reach out globally!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     Abby, I was really moved by Ronny’s video, and his positive messaging. It has certainly begun to reach globally – check out the two Facebook Pages mentioned within this blog post.


    Asksusiea Reply:

    The old ways of fighting from fear & anger instead of communicating from compassion and caring/love must be challenged!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     Thanks – couldn’t agree more!

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  • Debra – Thanks so much again for joining our conversation at SXSW!  I think sometimes messages of  love and peace are sadly perceived as impotent in some way – that causes that aim to “fight” and “fix” and “save” are somehow perceived by many nonprofits and would-be changemakers as more powerful, urgent or donation-inducing than those that urge us to simply love one another.  I couldn’t disagree more.   I believe, in the end, negative messaging yields sadness, anger, guilt, pity, fear and eventually apathy – the that comes when we turn off our TVs and tune or numb out because our souls can no longer bear the onslaught.   I’m so excited every time a beautiful movement like this spreads as a case study in what love makes possible .  My hope is that the messaging is only the beginning of a movement that results in real change.  Thanks for sharing it.  Love ya! Stacey


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Stacey, nothing to add to your beautiful comment. I learned so much at your SXSWi session – especially how it challenged my own messaging reactions and instincts. (Since this is coming from a someone who enthusiastically supports every Epic Change initiative, you’d think I’d have overcome the power of negative and “fix the problem” messaging appeal!)

    I was just notified that has created a petition to the Israeli Prime Minister and Iranian President, inspired b Ronny Edry’s To Iran With Love. It states that “we declare our love for one another and reject the war-mongering,
    violent escalation and threats emanating from our political leaders.” The petition draws out the campaign’s messaging of love and positivity beautifully. (FYI, the link is



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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