Shimon Peres On Twitter, Facebook And Snapchat: How Effective Was His Social Media Push For Peace? : Parallels Shimon Peres spent his final years as a grandfatherly figure, using social media to urge young Israelis toward his optimistic vision of peace. They liked him — but some were skeptical of his message.
NPR logo

How Effective Was Shimon Peres' Social Media Push For Peace?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/496122239/496196042" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
How Effective Was Shimon Peres' Social Media Push For Peace?

How Effective Was Shimon Peres' Social Media Push For Peace?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/496122239/496196042" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Shimon Peres of Israel died this week at the age of 93. In the years before his death, the statesman took on a new identity on social media, preaching peace to young people - and in a lighthearted way. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports that young people responded, to a point.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: In 2012, then-Israeli-President Shimon Peres became cool.

SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "BE MY FRIEND FOR PEACE"

ESTRIN: He was 88 years old at the time. But he wasn't too old to shoot a music video asking people around the world to friend him on Facebook. The video's called Be My Friend For Peace.

SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "BE MY FRIEND FOR PEACE"

SHIMON PERES: (Singing) Be my friend for peace. I want to hear your voice.

ESTRIN: It's hard not to chuckle at images of Peres in a suit and tie and snow-white hair - what was left of it anyway - looking straight at the camera with his signature stone-faced expression and imploring people to friend him on Facebook for peace. But Peres took it very seriously, says PR consultant Ron Shelli, who helped shape Peres's social media outreach.

RON SHELLY: He said that change today can be achieved through the young generation thanks to social media giving a voice to his vision of peace on his Facebook page.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "BE MY FRIEND FOR PEACE"

PERES: (Singing) Peace is needed for your future, for your future, for your future.

ESTRIN: Peres hosted Facebook chats with youth from Israel and around the world. And people from Iran and Arab countries watched his YouTube videos. Mind you, computers did not come naturally to him. His aides printed out the news for him in headline-sized font, Shelly says. But on his 93rd birthday, he opened a Snapchat account.

SHELLY: He became cool but not for the sake of coolness. That cool vibe opened the door for him to engage with kids, teenagers and have them listen to - you know, convince them to be more active about achieving peace or changing their lives.

OPHIR TAL: Well, he had this special groove. You know what I mean?

ESTRIN: This is Ophir Tal, a 22-year-old Israeli I met at a Belgian waffle joint in Jerusalem. He said he loved Peres's music video.

TAL: The way he talked, the way he moved - yeah, he knew how to, like, make people laugh and still be serious. You know what I mean?

ESTRIN: But did Peres convince him that peace with the Palestinians was realistic? Not for the time being, he says.

TAL: Situation in the territories is so complicated with the settlements and with Hamas in Gaza. I think that, right now, if something dramatic won't change, the two-state solution won't happen.

ESTRIN: You mean, Peres' dream won't come true?

TAL: Well, with the people currently in office in both sides, don't see - anything changes.

ESTRIN: The waffle maker behind the counter, Shaked Carmel, was equally pessimistic about peace.

SHARKED CARMEL: I don't see it happening in my lifetime, I mean.

ESTRIN: And how old are you?

CARMEL: I'm 23.

ESTRIN: You really don't imagine it happening in your lifetime, and you're only 23?

CARMEL: Yeah. I mean, I really want it. And I'll do, like, a lot of things for it to happen if it was in my hands. But it's not.

ESTRIN: Peres' target audience happens to be one of Israel's most pessimistic age demographics when it comes to peace. Young people don't remember a more optimistic time when Peres negotiated the Oslo Accord. But the youth still liked him. Political scientist Tamar Hermann of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank explains why.

TAMAR HERMANN: In a way, it was - how should I put it? - appreciation to the effort of your grandfather to text you.

ESTRIN: Hermann says recent polls suggest 70 to 75 percent of Israelis 18 to 25 years old do not believe peace with the Palestinians is possible in the foreseeable future. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.