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The Facebook pages of public diplomacy & the Billboards of unbelief

[ by Charles Cameron — Facebook diplomacy between Israeli and Iranian individuals, atheist proselytizing in the US, popular media uses in a “monitory” world ]

I have long been intrigued by some of the unofficial ways in which we communicate with one another — some of you may recall an earlier post of mine on a spate of religious arguments carried out on “duelling buses“, while another more recent post noted some of the stencilled graffiti and at times quite sophisticated artwork featured on the walls around Tahrir Square during the demonstrations there…


In much the same spirit, I’d like to offer here for your consideration four thumbnails of images recently posted on Facebook by individual citizens in Israel and Iran, in response to a posting (above) by two Israeli graphic artists, Ronnie Edri and Michal Tamir, which seems to have triggered quite a response in both countries.

The two Israeli posters appear to have posted images of individuals, perhaps themselves. The Iranian posters, interestingly, used images of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, the “Iranian Schindler” (upper image), with a caption that reads in part:

Abdol Hossain Sardari, a junior Iranian diplomat, found himself almost by accident in charge of Iran’s mission in Paris in 1940 and went on to help up to 2,000 Iranian Jews flee France…

and an image of the tomb of Esther and Mordecai — the tomb in Hamadan, Iran, of the same Jewish heroine recently celebrated at Purim, and pointedly referenced by Netanyahu in his gift of a Megillah to Obama — and a popular site of pilgrimage for Iran’s present day Jewish population.

Apparently there has been quite an exchange of these graphics, although some have been on the more caustic side, expressing what I can only call .. strangelove


My other graphic examples are of a pair of billboards recently put up by American Atheists:

As we might expect, these were to be displayed (respectively) in or near Jewish (above) and Muslim (below) communities — the Jewish-oriented billboard in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, New York, and the Islamic-oriented billboard in Paterson, New Jersey.

According to the MSNBC report where I first ran across these billboards a couple of weeks ago, a Williamsburg rabbi said the sign in his district was “a disgrace. .. The name of God is very holy to us and to the whole world” — while the American Atheists’ president David Silverman reported he had not received “any blowback” from the Muslim Community in Patterson.

One imagines that some in each community would have had hurt feelings, while some in each community clearly had the good sense to show tolerance.


These images tie in, I believe, with John Keane‘s notion of “monitory democracy” [link is to .pdf] that our blog-friend David Ronfeldt discussed in his post today… with our discussions here [1, 2] of the wicked complexity of many of the problems that face us… and also perhaps of the Slaughter doctrine [1, 2, 3]of the responsibility to protect

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