The Jerusalem Post reports that an Arab language Facebook page posted by an Israeli Arab citizen that paints the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) in a positive light has attracted favorable feedback from Arab youths across the Middle East. The Facebook page, called “The IDF is worth it,” features praise for Israel and the its defense forces, along with anti-Hamas images.
The site’s author is an IDF veteran. He says he created the page as a response to a campaign by the Arab nationalist Balad Party, which employed the slogan “The IDF isn’t worth it.”
The goal was to counter anti-IDF sentiment among Israel’s Arab population. But according to the JPost, the message has resonated with young Arabs outside of Israel’s borders, including countries that are still technically at war with the Jewish state.
An Iraqi from Fallujah wrote:
I support the State of Israel, and their army and nation, but in our country we are not allowed to express our opinions or we will get killed by doing it. I hope there will be peace between our nations, we love Israel, their people, and it’s army.
A Saudi woman wrote:
I am a member of one of the better-known tribes of the Hijaz, and I am showing you Darajeh Square, a famous landmark in Jeddah. I’d like to send a message of peace and love to Israel and its dear citizens. I know it is surprising that a Saudi Arabian citizen sends a message to the people of Israel, but it is a basic principle of democracy that everyone is free to voice an opinion. . . .
We shouldn’t read too much into the success of “The IDF is worth it” — peace, love, and understanding are not about to break out. However, the page’s success may be another indication that Arabs are beginning to view Israel in a more favorable light.
There are two reasons why they may be doing so. First, as the Arab Spring showed, there is pent up pro-democracy sentiment in the Middle East. Israel is a democracy. During the recent Israeli election, even some Arab critics of Israel praised it for holding free and fair elections in which Arabs voted. One of them called Israel “the worlds’ most vibrant democracy.”
Second, the rise of Iran and the sense that it will soon become a nuclear power have caused the interests of states like Saudi Arabia to align with those of Israel. In this setting, one would expect many citizens of these states to view Israel more favorably.
Notice that, thanks to these developments, Israel’s standing in the Arab world seems to be improving even though the “peace process” has broken down completely. This cuts against the conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C., but I doubt that it comes as a surprise to anyone in the Middle East.