- "israelis and Iranians, Get A Room!":Love, Hate, and Transnational Politics from the "Israel Loves Iran" and "Iran Loves Israel" Facebook Campaigns
"Get a Fucking Room!"
The "Israel Loves Iran" and "Iran Loves Israel" Facebook campaigns came about in March 2012 as a means to counter the pro-military rhetoric emanating from both the Israeli and Iranian governments. The online initiative was set up by Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry and his wife, Michal Tamir, in an attempt to connect pro-peace Israelis and Iranians. Edry posted a photograph of himself and his young daughter, clad in the blue and white colors of the Israeli flag, along with his daughter holding a small Israeli flag; the photograph was incorporated into an online poster with large colorful letters: "Iranians, We will Never Bomb Your Country, We ♥ You." Edry's pro-peace message gained momentum among fellow Israelis and both diasporic Iranians and those living inside Iran. A thirty-four-year-old landscape architect from Iran, going by the name of Majid, created the Iran Loves Israel campaign. He used the same green, pink, and white color scheme as the Israel Loves Iran campaign, replying, "Israelis. We Never Hate You. We ♥ You." As Majid indicated, "While the leaders threaten war and they want to bomb our countries, we (Israeli and Iranian citizens) are already bombarding each other—with love and peace."1
The campaign has generated much fanfare both on social media groups and traditional media ranging from the Guardian, Ha'aretz, New Yorker Magazine, and Tehran Bureau PBS, as well as many other local newspapers in many languages. Most excitedly welcomed the initiative. [End Page 143] Some noted the power of the "love" message to travel across religious and political divide; others congratulated the Internet for bringing people together, echoing the celebratory tone of the "Facebook revolutions" narrative so prevalent during the "Arab Spring."2 On the other hand, critical voices noted, for example, the inequality of Internet access and freedom of political participation; they also questioned the effect of Facebook love on the two countries' politicians. Critical readings were also evident in many "memes"—remakes and parodies of the original "love" posters—some doubting the intention of the love message,3 others mocking the possibility of friendship between the two peoples, yet others doubting the power of ordinary people to influence substantially the behaviors of their governments. Since the beginning of the love campaign the memes have mushroomed across the Internet and continue to emerge in response to various political events.
While a separate article could—and should—be written on the memes, one poster in particular caught our attention: "IRANIANS & ISRAELIS, GET A FUCKING ROOM! Thank you."4 This particular remake brings to the fore what was otherwise largely overlooked: the possibility of a sexualized reading of this Facebook "love story." "Get a room!" is an expression addressed to couples who display intimate affection in public, often because they have no other place to do so. The lack of space to have sex can be read metaphorically, to describe relationships that are out of place and/or struggling to develop. Indeed, as Israeli scholar Ruth Preser suggests, the Iranian-Israeli Facebook campaign can be read as a story of forbidden love, love that leads to some kind of death, whether real or symbolic—either through bombing and dissolution of bodies, or through "un-materialized Facebook calls of longing."5 In her queer reading, Preser compares the Iranian-Israeli love campaigns to the figure of the modern homosexual. Both, she suggests, embody an impossible desire that always fails to materialize or is thwarted by nation states that forbid or fail to recognize it.
Our own analysis follows Preser in that we approach the Israel Loves Iran/Iran Loves Israel campaigns as a queer matter. However, we are less interested in the two sides' alleged desire or longing for each other. Rather, we wish to address critically the mobilization of the language of love, thus moving away from the celebratory accounts of this initiative, and examine instead both the medium of the message—cyberspace—and [End Page 144] as its affective framing—politics in the...