Not to overstate its significance, given the intractable and byzantine nature of the quest for peace between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East — but this could well be the beginning of something new and exciting; the instant, generational rapport, a communion between young Arabs and Israelis in a language they understand far more intuitively than their backward-looking elders. It is the language of the new social media — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube — and in the ease with which it creates a common culture, it transcends ancient tribal rivalries and blood feuds. It is an internet culture with a language that is spoken and created by 30-somethings and under, one that recognizes no artificial boundaries created by European colonial powers and knows little of ancient enmities and religious wars, or Jihad. It is a culture and a language that empowers Lybian youth to embrace a video created by an Israeli as a symbol of their struggle for freedom against the tyranny of Qaddafi's dictatorial rule. With no pride or prejudice of ownership — what a radical concept!
The closest historical comparison that comes to mind is America's opening to China in 1972. When President Nixon set foot on Chinese soil he might as well have been a visiting dignitary to an alien world at the other end of the galaxy. It was such an amazing thing that a close-up of Nixon's handshake with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai "was at least as powerful as Armstrong's lunar step. It sent the world a clear message that the two countries were resolved to move forward with relations." But the first glimmers of a thaw in relations really began with a much more random occurrence between the young people of both nations:
The rapprochement process was stalled by U.S. actions in Indochina until on April 6, 1971 the young American ping pong player, Glenn Cowan, missed his U.S. team bus and was waved by a Chinese table tennis player onto the bus of the Chinese team at the 31st World Table Tennis Championship in Nagoya, Japan. Cowan spoke with the Chinese players in a friendly fashion, and the Chinese player, Zhuang Zedong, a three-time World Men's Singles Champion, presented him with a silk-screen portrait of the famous Huangshan Mountains. While this had been a purely spontaneous gesture of friendship between two athletes, the PRC chose to treat it as an officially sanctioned outreach … According to sources of information from the PRC, the friendly contact between Zhuang Zedong and Glenn Cowan, as well as the photograph of the two players in Dacankao, had an impact on Mao's decision making.
The U.S. table tennis team was invited by the PRC to tour mainland China for a series of exhibition matches in a nation that prides itself on its ping-pong prowess. The tour was dubbed “ping-pong diplomacy.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Like those young athletes who forged a bond of friendship based on the common language of their sport, the video created by a young Israeli has become a symbol of the Arab youth's quest for freedom and dignity quite apart from official sanction or artificial cultural differences at the geopolitical sphere. Then, as now, the kids were way ahead of the "grown-ups." They ended the war in Vietnam and paved the way for a thawing of the Cold War. Who can say what history is yet to be written by this new generation of protesters in these heady days of deep social and political transformation? Their message for the "grown-ups" and tyrants is, resistance is futile. The time is now for America and our UN allies to stop Qaddafi's bloodshed and jump aboard the freedom train blazing its way through the Arab world. They're asking us: "America, whose side are you on?" Our values demand that we stand with the people. That is our answer.
Not to overstate the significance of a video satire, created by an Israeli, that went on to become the symbol of aspirational Arab freedom — but it could be the start of something big. Something profound.