As thousands marched in Iran on Friday to mark the regime-led Quds Day — an annual day of protest against Israel — some Iranians launched a Twitter campaign to express support for the Jewish state.
The effort, under the hashtag #WeStandWithIsrael, was a call for peace between the two peoples. A photo shared on the social media platform encouraged users to tweet the hashtag at 9 p.m. Tehran time on Friday.
A Foreign Ministry official on Tuesday said the hashtag had featured in tens of thousands of tweets.
“The Foreign Ministry implements digital public diplomacy in social media networks in various languages, one of them being Persian,” the ministry’s Persian digital media manager Sharona Avginsaz said.
Iranians run #WeStandWithIsrael at the same day as Iran’s regime celebrates the last Friday of Ramadan, calling Al-Quds Day by itself, to show its hatred towards Israel. The brave and peaceful citizens deny to participate the organized anti-semite rally. Good Job ???? pic.twitter.com/3nY7elHcQG
— Kaveh Taheri ???? (@TaheriKaveh) June 8, 2018
“In the last six months our Twitter page ‘Israel in Persian,’ intended specifically for Iranian civilians, has been gaining steam,” she told the Mako website, run by Hadashot news. “We have around 60 thousands followers, and our messages reach over 1.5 million people with that Twitter handle alone.”
She explained that though Twitter is banned in Iran, many Iranians have found ways to circumvent the restrictions.
As an iranian citizen I never saw a palestinian express friendship to iranian people but israelian citizens have sent messages several times about love
Israelian people believe that the true people of iran have no hostility to you❤️#WeStandWithIsrael pic.twitter.com/h0YEWUikTo
— داداجکایکو (@dadaj_kayko) June 8, 2018
“This year Iranian Twitter users informed us they intended to cause controversy [on Quds Day] with a viral hashtag that would support Israel and show that the Iranian people do not back the regime and its hatred towards [the Jewish state],” Avginsaz said.
“During this week our Twitter page reached 2.5 million Iranians. There were tens of thousands of tweets with the hashtag #WeStandWithIsrael, each stating their individual positions on why they love Israel.”
Our history is bound together. Our values have the same root. The Hebrew Bible was compiled in its final form under the patronage of the Persian Achaemenid empire, the Babylonian Talmud under the patronage of the Persian Sassanid empires.
We are brothers. #WeStandwithIsrael pic.twitter.com/Ud8HwzgXrN
— Borzumehr Toloui (@Borzumehr) June 8, 2018
It was not clear how many of the tweets came from within Iran itself and how many came from Iranians and people of Persian descent abroad.
Avginsaz asserted that “Most of the Iranian people oppose the regime and its policies towards Israel, and Iranians are always writing to us that they love Israel, that they don’t want their regime to use their money to support Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Before the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran was a close ally of Israel.
Avginsaz said many Iranians “still remember the good relations between Iran and Israel before the revolution.” She added that some of them saw Israel as a potential ally in the region, as both were non-Arab states in the predominantly Arab Middle East.
The truth is that we do not have the slightest problem with you. The people of Iran are different from the Iranian regime.#WeStandWithIsrael
— بلاتكليف (@belattakliff) June 8, 2018
The Twitter campaign was not the only friendly overture between the two peoples this week.
On Sunday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video in which he offered Israel’s water expertise to an Iran he said faces an environmental disaster due to persistent drought.
“The Iranian people are victims of a cruel and tyrannical regime that denies them vital water. Israel stands with the people of Iran,” Netanyahu said in the English-language video, which featured links to the State of Israel’s Persian website with information about water shortage, and to a Persian-language Telegram account.
“Iran’s meteorological organization says that nearly 96% of Iran suffers from some levels of drought,” he said. “Issa Kalantari, a former Iranian agriculture minister, said that 50 million Iranians could be forced out of their homes due to environmental damage. 50 million!
“Millions of Iranian children are suffering due to mismanagement, to incompetence, and the theft of vital resources by the Iranian regime,” he said.
Netanyahu told the Iranians that Israel faced similar water issues and found ways of dealing with them.
“Now, Israel also has water challenges. We’ve developed cutting edge technologies to address them,” he explained in the video.
“Israel has the know-how to prevent environmental catastrophe in Iran. I want to share this information with the people of Iran,” he said.
As Israel does not have ties with the Islamic republic, Netanyahu said it would launch “a Farsi website with detailed plans on how Iranians can recycle their waste water. We will show how Iranian farmers can save their crops and feed their families.”
He pointed out the contrast between the Israeli mentality and that of the Iranians.
“The Iranian regime shouts, ‘Death to Israel!'” he said. “In response, Israel shouts, “Life to the Iranian people!
“The people of Iran are good and decent. They shouldn’t have to face such a cruel regime alone,” Netanyahu said in the video. “We are with you. We will help so that millions of Iranians don’t have to suffer. The hatred of Iran’s regime will not stop the respect and friendship between our two peoples.”