REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM AND LOS ANGELES -- Israel and Iran are at loggerheads over the disputed Iranian nuclear program, spurring talk of war. Yet some Israelis and Iranians are saying something very different:
We love you.
Israelis opposed to attacking suspected Iranian nuclear development sites have started an Internet campaign deluging Iranians with love, flashing peace signs and smiles behind phrases such as “We will never bomb you” and “We (heart) you.”
“To all the beautiful Iranian people ... We love you! We do not want any war with you ... Big hugs from Israel, HAPPY NOWRUZ!!” an Israeli identified as Roni Parnass wrote from her Facebook account.
Some Iranians feel the love too. Facebook user Pirmadtanha Abdan wrote (in somewhat fractured English), “i am an iranian and i love all people dose matter where they are come from, all we need peace if our politicians let us.”
The loving logo was created by Tel Aviv graphic designers Ronny Edry and wife Michal Tamir and spread through the website israelovesiran.com and Facebook, where it has gained more than 4,000 “likes.” The couple are raising money to spread their message through billboards and ads.
"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 and think to yourself how lucky we are to also have bombs and how lucky we are that we'll clean them out first," Edry said to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "So I thought, 'Why not try to reach the other side; to bypass the generals and see if they [Iranians] really hate me?'"
The campaign has spurred skepticism from Israelis who call it naive. One parody of the slogan has emerged: "Iranians We *Heart* You SO MUCH we are coming over," CNN reported.
Iran has argued that its nuclear program is purely for peaceful civilian energy purposes. But Israel and the West believe the Islamic Republic, which has called for the destruction of Israel, is enriching uranium to develop nuclear weapons.
Israelis are split over whether to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, a University of Maryland poll found in late February. Only 19% said Israel should attack Iran even if the United States doesn’t back them, 42% said Israel should attack if it has U.S. support, and 34% said it shouldn’t attack at all.
-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Image: Ronny Edry and a girl with the slogan he made popular on the Israel-Loves-Iran Facebook page.