Reconciliation on Facebook.
With the peace process stuck in limbo, hope for finding a solution to the
ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems more elusive than ever. Elusive, that
is, unless you consider the rapid growth of formal and informal connections
being made between ordinary citizens from both sides of the conflict via social
At a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult for Israelis
and Palestinians to interact with each other physically – social pressure for
Palestinians not to “normalize” with Israelis and physical barriers that prevent
the two from meeting face-to-face – Facebook and other online outlets have
become an excellent way to keep the channels of communication open.
potential of these platforms in paving the way to peace from the ground up has
not been lost on President Shimon Peres. During a live interview with Facebook
in March, the president caused quite a buzz by stating unequivocally that social
media are the new way to make peace.
“[U]ntil now, governments negotiated
peace,” Peres told interviewers. “I think the best way to achieve peace is when
the people negotiate peace directly by talking to each other.”
sounded like a nice, catchy line – which was picked up by media across the globe
– Peres’ comments were quickly backed up by statistics from Facebook
representatives who highlighted a special page on the social networking site
that tracks interactions between users in various conflict
According to the page, peace.facebook.com, more than 20,000
Israelis and Palestinians a day are typically interacting with each other as
friends on Facebook.
And these virtual friends are just the tips of the
In addition to the one-on-one conversations taking place on
the Web, there is a growing number of Facebook groups and online platforms that
are helping to bring together ordinary Palestinian and Israeli citizens for
discussion, debates and dialogue.
One of the most successful of these
platforms is YaLa Young Leaders, an interactive Facebook group that was set up
exactly a year ago by the Peres Center for Peace together with the
Ramallah-based Yala Palestine in a joint attempt to create dialogue between the
Now a fully-fledged movement, YaLa – a play on both Hebrew and
Arabic phrases – boasts more than 75,000 “likes” on Facebook and received
incredible feedback when it held its first virtual conference for Israelis and
Arabs on a Facebook platform called Shaker.
This week, to mark its first
anniversary, YaLa held another virtual peace conference on Shaker, which allows
individuals to create a cartoon-like avatar that can chat with other
“participants.” The movement also unveiled plans for an on-line academy that
will enable Israelis and Arabs to find common ground in different areas
ANOTHER FACEBOOK group, which goes a little deeper by bringing
together those who have been directly affected by violence from the conflict, is
“Crack in the Wall.” The group was launched just over a month ago by non-profit
organization the Parents’ Circle and has more than 1,600 “likes.”
provides simultaneous translations of all messages into Hebrew and Arabic,
fostering an even closer connection between the two peoples.
weeks another peace-orientated group is started on Facebook. Some aim to provide
a platform for dialogue, while others start out with a clear message of peace
and solidarity. One such group, which has perhaps garnered the most mainstream
media attention in recent months, is “Israel-loves-Iran.”
Started by Tel
Avivian Rony Edri on a whim, the group’s anti-war message garnered so much
support – today it has nearly 65,000 “likes” – that it is now a fully-fledged
movement. Of course, that would not have been possible if the group’s creator
had not cleverly harnessed the online fund-raising platform indiegogo, where it
raised more than $7,000 via crowd-sourcing methods.
While these groups
might seem populist to some and hopeless to others, the impact social media are
having on spreading messages of peace has not been lost on the international
Late last year, just before the winners of the Nobel Peace
Prize were announced, speculation mounted that Facebook or Twitter – two
platforms instrumental in propelling the Arab Spring – could be possible
While neither social media platform won Nobel prizes, less than
two weeks ago the World Peace Forum paid tribute to these outlets by dedicating
a session to examining the impact of Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Google on
Although the conclusion was that social media were not likely
provide an immediate solutions to world’s various conflicts, including our own,
like Peres, the World Peace Forum noted with enthusiasm the vital role they are
playing in helping to promote peace.