Oct. 8, 2019
How the Syrian War Shifted Attitudes towards Arab-Israeli Rapprochement – Hadeel Oueis (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The Syrian civil war has slowly shifted the dynamic of who is considered an “enemy” in the Arab world. The war has reinforced the conviction of a broad group of Arab governments and peoples that Iran and political Islam are real enemies that pose an existential threat.
Arab meetings and summits still continue to focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But the crimes committed against Arabs by the axis of resistance – Assad’s Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, Iran, and Islamic Jihad – have been far worse than the stereotypes depicted in “resistance” literature about Israel.
For example, more than half a million Syrians have been killed at the hands of Iranian agents and other local Syrian groups. In contrast, Israeli hospitals during this period provided displaced Syrians with health care away from Assad’s barrel bombs and Iranian militias.
At the grassroots level, open access to the Internet has also expanded young Arabs’ access to and understanding of Jews, Israelis, and Israel. Ironically, Ahed Tamimi’s experience in Israeli prisons as recorded online has become a major point of comparison between Israel and youth jailed in Arab countries.
Moreover, Arab youth can access positive as well as negative images of Israel for the first time through social media – including the Israeli government’s creative Arabic-language outreach.
There is an increasing recognition that “resistance” rhetoric has been a tool used to achieve political gains irrelevant to the Arab-Israeli conflict that serve instead the leaders of the resistance and their militias.