Israel: would Israeli grassroots support harm the Iranian uprising?

In the past two weeks Israelis were following the tweets coming out of Iran with excitement, but were divided on the issue of participation in the “Twitter revolution.” Blogger Esther Yerushalmi, who was banned from Iran as a child during the Islamic revolution, writes [HE]:

“As I watch the news coming from Iran a wave of memories takes me back to 1979: my little brother and I cuddled in bed listening to the frightening gun shots and screams from the streets: “death to the Shah, death to America, death to Israel”. Overnight we became unwanted and had to run away from Iran. At the time I was busy with the ties in my hair and being in love with the neighbor's son, so losing my childhood innocence and the comfort of my little world so abruptly shocked me too much to even feel the pain.

The Iranian people are now closing that cycle for me: the young people, whose parents drove me away from my home, are identifying with my pain now. When I talk to the people there now, they're so warm and sympathetic, ashamed of Ahmadinejad, apologizing for his crazy remarks, remembering the time our countries lived in peace and they too want to be a free nation now, united with the world. They reach out to me and talk to me like a sister, dreaming of the day I can come visit and their words make me cry.

What happened to these young people that made them open their hearts and see clearly? They were oppressed. When you're oppressed for a long time you either die out or become stronger. And they chose the strength because the aspiration for freedom is in the Iranian DNA and unity is in the Islam DNA, not the ayatollah Islam, but the real original Islam. And when these two aspirations don’t materialize, they [Iranians] are ready to die for it.

Regardless of other interests, so many people online support the fight for these aspirations but only a few hundreds of Israelis are among them. Could we leave the distrust behind and support these people as people, who want and deserve exactly what we want? They cry out for our support. Yes, ours too. They want to join us and want us to join them. Can we be generous now?”

Elad Rosen, an Israeli art student, forwarded an email stating ways to help the Iranian people online and his email appeared on many blogs and was quoted in the Israeli press. He writes:

“At this pivotal historical moment, the notion of a global village is becoming most relevant. For the first time we can do more than just watch the events, we can actively and almost effortlessly help people fighting for their freedom and democracy under an oppressive cruel government”.

Some of his suggestions included:
• Setting up safe international proxy web addresses for Iranians
• Seeding torrents of Iranian videos and re distributing videos and images to help decentralize the information flow and make it hard on the Iranian censorship
• Changing our twitter location to Tehran to confuse Iranian government officials trying to locate and close twitter accounts

Indeed, many Israelis changed their Twitter location to Tehran and some haven't changed it back yet. That phenomenon resulted in a conspiracy theory that the revolution tweets are ALL coming from Tel Aviv as part of the efforts to deny the magnitude of the Iranian uprising or blame Israel for it.

As Iranian freedom demonstrations were organized all over the world, a local group of Web activists and Iranian Jews tried to organize such a demonstration at Rabin square in Tel Aviv on 27/6/09. Over 600 people registered as ‘attending’ or ‘maybe attending’ at the Facebook event, however less than 20 people showed up. The organizers were disappointed by the small number of protesters.

Some of the Twitter and Facebook conversations in Hebrew may shed a light on the reasons Israelis hesitate to engage. This short twitter conversation took place on June 18th between llana Tamir, the community manager of Israblog, the biggest Israeli blog hosting platform, and Gal Mor, a famous technology blogger and until recently the content manager of Ynet website: (translated from Hebrew)

@ilanatam: I'm not sure Israeli participation in the online campaign is the right thing to do. The revolution shouldn’t seem like an Israeli intervention.
@galm: I think there's a difference between an action initiated by Israel as a country and an action of Israeli people, as citizens to citizens, not identifying ourselves as Israelis
@ilanatam: there is a difference all right but does it exist for the average citizen of Tehran who sees that Israelis are interfering with his internal affairs? They have an issue with Persian independence, you know

A different voice was expressed by Shachar Laudon on the wall of the Facebook event created for the Israeli protest:

“It's a futile protest. Iran was and will be Israel's enemy. Only if the ayatollah's rule will fall things might change but meanwhile I don’t want to support Mousavi (which is an Ahmadinejad dressed as a lamb). I think we should stand behind the IDF, which will protect us from Iranian imperialism”.

According to Yair Lapid, a popular Israeli columnist on Yedioth Acharonot newspaper, the IDF almost prevented the Iranian uprising. In the weekend print edition (26/6/09), he writes:

“what is happening in the past two weeks in ‘freedom square’ in Tehran – the wonderful accumulation of young people, internet culture and women power- wouldn’t have happened if two months ago we would have listened to our regular bunch of boisterous hysterical voices trying to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities. If that were to happen, the Iranian people would have done what we do in times of crisis: stand behind their government washed with patriotic anger, so Ahmadinejad wouldn't have needed fraud to get reelected. We would have lost this one time chance to see a real internal change bringing about the collapse of an evil empire and we wouldn't have even known we lost it”.


  • MERC

    To quote Gush Shalom’s latest weekly ad:

    Those who oppress/ Millions of Palestinians/For 42 years/ Rave about the freedom fighters – In Iran.

    Those who rejected the results/Of the palestinian elections – /Are shocked by the thwarting/ Of the people’s will – In Iran.

    Those who shoot & kill/Palestinian demonstrators/ In Wadi Ara, Bilin & Nialin/ – Shudder at the sight of/ The police shooting protesters – In Iran.

    • i do not write about Israeli government and Israel as a country i bring the voices of people who live in Israel as human beings.

      so if you’re going to respond to EVERY post with the notion of “you have no right to even think about smth else as long as you didn’t solve the Palestinian problem and brought world peace” than excuse me for not responding to that from now on.

  • MERC

    Touchy. Who elects the Netanyahus, Liebermans, Livnis, Baraks etc? Nor do I seek your response.

  • MERC

    You seem to be implying that the Israeli vote has been stolen by Netanyahu et al. Where then are the mass demonstrations in Israeli cities?

    • there’s a general politics fatigue in Israel. ppl would barely demonstrate if someone burned their house. maybe that’s why the Iranian uprising was found so intriguing. i dunno where you live that you’re so obsessed with us, but try living here, you might have a more complex view on the weak connection between people and the policies of the countries they live in.

  • MERC

    So Netanyahu & Co didn’t steal Israeli votes. Are you suggesting then that when Israelis vote they do not exercise a deliberate and conscious choice? That they really don’t want Netanyahu & Co? That they’re not really responsible for the governments that perpetuate the 40+ year-old occupation? Maybe they’re more than happy with them and the occupation? Oh, & BTW, I’m “obsessed” with you lot, but you’re just “intrigued” with Iran?

    • no what I’m suggesting is that this virtual entity called “Israelis”, like “Iranians”, “Palestinians” or “Americans” doesn’t’ have one voice. the purpose of Global voices is to bring such diverse voices so it’s quite irrelevant to attack these voices with macro-policy questions.

  • MERC

    Are you serious? Iranians are speaking with one voice: Give us freedom and democracy. Palestinians too: End the occupation, end the siege. What about Israelis?

    • i’m serious. i don’t know 2 ppl who speak with one voice. a famous saying says “where there’s 2 jews there are opinions”. mass media likes to reduce millions of people to one voice, that’s why we need global voices. i’m sure there are irnians who love Ahmedinijad and Iranians who couldnt’ care less about both options given to them. i know there are palestinians who suppoprt terror attacks and that’s thier idea of freedom, and others who just wanna be left alone to live their lives…one voice is a twisted idea. i don’t represent “Israel” and it doesn’t represent me. i wouldn’t dare say too much about Israelis as a whole either. i think we spoke enough about this. see you on the next post when I’ll write about the Gilad Shalit twitteration and you will most likely write how dare we fight for one soldier when we hold an entire nation under siege. i hope you agree that you and i can’t solve the middle east problems.

  • The new wave of using social media ,are effecting deeply the world opinion,and I think in the case of middle east, it’ll take tragedic sides ,the first victim will be is truth because ,governments don’t let the press do the job.

  • MERC

    Sorry, your thinking sounds typically Israeli: the reference to Palestinian “terror attacks” gives you away. These have no context? What about the shelling/bombing/shooting/arresting/imprisoning/torturing of Palestinians? Is this not terrorism? What about Israelis who occupy & steal their land/demolish their houses/cage them? Is this not terrorism? And what about Israelis who sit around twittering about Iran while Palestine and Palestinians burn? What are they?

    • hehehe this is a closed-cycle argument. at least you acknowledge that the Israelis who demolish houses and the Israelis who tweet about Iran might actually be very different people. that’s enough for me for now. as i don’t know and don’t represent anyone, and i have no idea what you represent either, this is my last word on the subject for this post and for the next ones.

  • And you, MERC sound typically like yourself. Give it a rest, and let’s use this space online to understand one another better. You may not agree with what Carmel is saying. The idea is to show fragments of conversations occurring in Israeli blogs. These are not monolithic voices. If you are curious, you can read them, if not there are plenty of other things to read on the internet. As you know, the authors on Global Voices come here in friendship, and to encourage dialogue, not to be harassed about things that are beyond their control.

  • MERC

    A few relevant questions arising from this post constitute harassment? You have no problems with Palestinians being labelled supporters of terrorism, but when I ask if Israelis do terrorism, that’s harassment?

  • i know a lot of people in israel who were very supportive..

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