The campaign was started by two students from Hunter College in New York; Abraham Gutman, a 21 year-old Jewish Israeli and Dania Darwish, a 23 year-old Muslim. They created a Facebook page and posted a short video featuring the hashtag #JewsandArabsRefuseToBeEnemies, promoting co-existence between the two parties.
The recent air strikes two weeks ago by Israelis on Gaza City have left hundreds of Palestines dead — most of them civilians. With 100 strikes launched, it could be long term defense in response to rocket fire by the Palestinians.
The increasing death toll and fighting between the two groups has filled the news over last few months and is mostly likely to continue to do so. In a time when it’s so easy to point fingers and spread hate, the two young students have created a way to bring some sort of peace, and hopefully make it viral.
In an interview with Mashable, Gutman and Darwish say they were upset and frustrated with the hatred, generalizations and stereotypes. Originally, the two discussed holding demonstrations in an effort to do something useful rather than to merely become quiet spectators of the violence.
They realized it would be difficult, fearing violent backlash and tension between supporters of the two groups. So they decided that a social media campaign would be a better means of activism, using the hashtag to bring people together in their quest for unity.
In the interview, Gutman thought the use of the common slogan amongst peaceful groups in Israel, “Jews and Arabs Refuse to Be Enemies”, “would be productive to remind people that they are allowed to refuse to join the hateful discourse.”
Soon many people started supporting the campaign, Sulome Anderson, a half-Lebanese journalist and daughter of former Middle East bureau chief for the Associated Press– was one of them. Anderson posted a photo of her kissing her Israeli Jewish boyfriend, which later went viral, having thousands of shares and retweets.
More and more mixed couples and friends followed in her steps, posting photos posing together with the hashtag to show solidarity and love despite their ethnicity differences.
— Claire Hajaj (@clairehajaj) July 20, 2014
— Sally Mousa (@MousaSally) July 21, 2014
Gutman and Darwish found there were also many American Arabs and Jews who admired their efforts and supported them, but felt that they themselves could not show it publicly. They were afraid of what their communities might think, thinking that it might seem inconsiderate and insensitive.
Anderson also experienced a fair share of negative reactions. In her post in New York Magazine, [tweetable alt=”@SulomeAnderson says some have criticized her and her boyfriend for trivializing the situation in #Gaza.” hashtag=””]she says that some have criticized her and her boyfriend for trivializing the situation in Gaza and misunderstanding the real meaning behind it.[/tweetable]
She received aggressive comments and responses from some, at times being called a “bitch” and an “attention whore”. Nonetheless, the campaign has spread globally, with well-known figures showing support. Femi Oke, renowned Al Jazeera journalist was in of awe of this powerful image.
Although these inspiring posts have brought people smiles and a refreshing side to this grim situation, could it make any significant difference in Gaza?
Gutman and Darwish know that a stream of tweets and hashtags won’t make everything happening in Gaza go away, and don’t want people to think them naïve about the gravity of the situation overseas.
They do however, hope that it can shed light on the negative situation and give others a place to share and be open. Darwish believes if they’ve made one person see another as an equal human being then they’ve done their job.
The Israeli government said in an interview with a CBS reporter that the campaign is a good way to educate young people so that the two sides can live together, according to newsinc.com.
Anderson was overwhelmed by the retweets from people that she knows to have conflicting politic beliefs – people who she would normally disagree with. New York Magazine reports that She found that they were able to put aside their differences because they could relate to the message.
Her mother was concerned about the attention the post could create and was afraid at first, but then after watching the campaign grow, she came to realize it could change the world a little.
Although it might not end the war in Gaza, it has not only brought many people together and promoted a feeling of hope during this distressed time, but it has shown people that the two groups can peacefully exist while living together in the same community.
It is creating an idea of coexistence and solidarity for the supporters, and a peaceful platform for Arabs and Jews alike to communicate with one another for a better, nonviolent future.
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