Jews & Arabs Refuse To Be Enemies Facebookpage was started after the Israeli attack on Gaza and popped up on Facebook on July 10 – 16 day ago. In these 16 days the page has literally exploded with followers and people posting their own photos and comments, promoting friendship and love in a time of war. The page took many people by surprise, I included. Who were the people behind the page? I just had to find out, and the initiators were happy to share about themselves.
Abraham Gutman from Israel and Dania Darwish from Syria were classmates at Hunter College in New York and took a class in National Model United Nations together. They were both enjoying discussions about Middle Eastern politics even though they not always shared the same views.
“(We) don’t always agree but we never felt that our different opinions changed our friendship or caused any contingency between us”, Abraham says when I get in touch with them by e-mail.
They tell me that the goal of the page is to diffuse some of the hate and tension on social media platforms:
“In addition, this initiative aims to create a space for civil discourse between people who identify with divergent political ideas.”
I ask about how the page is a response to the current Israeli attacks on Gaza.
“We feel that the escalation between Israel and Gaza caused an escalation in the language that people use on social media. In regards to the conflict, political commentary became more hateful and more violent. Unfortunately, it is easy to hide behind a keyboard and say extreme statements. Although on some things we disagree, we both believe that it is important to support a cease fire and non-violent resistance.”
And how has the feedback been so far?
“We got a lot of criticism from various sides of the political spectrum but we were lucky that all the criticism was civil and respectful. We did get a lot of positive feedback from Israelis, Palestinians, and many types of people that fit into different ethnic and religious groups.”
Well, not everyone likes the page. After my e-mail exchange with Abraham and Dania, there have been a few hateful messages and photos posted by others on the page. Someone has written:
“Don’t tell me love between us… Love don’t exist between Arabs and Terroriste fuck you Isra-bitch”.
The same person ha uploaded a drawing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahi butchering Palestinians, receiving an anti-comment from someone saying:
“Aww poor Hamas, everyone is against you… stop crying, stop exploding your silly weak bombs, and Israel will stop defending Israel. It will save you some poor civilians.”
But among the overwhelming photos, comments and followers on the page – 31.450 at today’s date, – probably more when you read this – those are an absolute minority. The photos consist of people of different religions and ethnicities, most Jews and Muslims, who in one way or another are doing what the states on an international level are failing to do: coexisting. Photos showing couples kissing each other; mixed families with their children; people with one Jewish and one Muslim parent; best friends hugging each other. Most are holding up sheets with hand-written statements: “Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies”; “Jew, Arab, both Semitic. Most importantly, both human”; “Mother Jewish, Father Palestinian, whatever we suffer hate makes it worse”.
With the announcement of today’s ceasefire of Israel’s attack on Gaza, the Jews & Arabs Refuse To Be Enemies page uploaded the following statement:
“With nearly 900 devastating deaths, a 12 hour humanitarian cease-fire is now in effect. We hope that our leaders can implement a solution in the Middle East that results in a permanent cease-fire in Israel/Palestine and an end to the siege in Gaza. The lives of all innocent civilians are too precious to be compromised by the reprehensible political nature of this conflict.”
After the ceasefire, maybe the world leaders could follow the path given of the success of a simple Facebook page, the path of coexistence?
Photo credit: Jews & Arabs Refuse To Be Enemies Facebook page