Viral 'Jews and Arabs Refuse to Be Enemies' campaign inspires hope among violence
It’s the social media crusade that can be sized up in its mighty hashtag: #JewsandArabsRefuseToBeEnemies.
It began several weeks ago after two Hunter College students in New York grew weary of seeing their social media feeds load up with hateful comments.
The two students, Dania Darwish, a New Yorker originally from Syria, and Abraham Gutman, an Israeli from Tel Aviv, started a Facebook page.
They encouraged Israelis and Arabs to post photos and messages representing peace. People did, posting signs with the hashtag in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
The campaign went viral after after Lebanese-American journalist Sulome Anderson posted a picture of herself kissing her Jewish boyfriend to the Facebook site. She also posted it on Twitter, where it has been retweeted more than 2,400 times.
Anderson, 29, personally understands the impact Middle East violence can take on innocent people. She is the daughter of Terry Anderson, the former Associated Press Middle East bureau chief who was held hostage for nearly seven years by an Islamic militant group now known as Hezbollah.
Soon, individuals of mixed Israeli-Arab heritage began posting pictures to the Facebook page. So did people with cross-cultural friendships.
Like the #JewsandArabsRefuseToBeEnemies hashtag itself, Anderson, who wrote about the campaign for New York magazine after her photo went viral, said she has received a significant amount of pushback against the effort. She said some criticize the campaign for trivializing what’s happening in the Middle East.
The Facebook page that started the trend has picked up more than 9,000 followers since the site was created on July 10.
“We know the limitations of social media campaign. We know the limitations of a hashtag,” Gutman said Wednesday in a BBC interview. “Tweet doesn’t have to be the only thing that someone does. We want to believe that from the bottom up, hate and the dialogue and the way people talk to each other can change. And maybe that will also change policy eventually.”
Gutman said one photo his Facebook site received came from someone who captured the picture while in a Tel Aviv bomb shelter.
"For me that sums up a lot."