Arab youth across the Middle East including from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and other countries are posting photos and videos on Facebook expressing their love for Israel.

In a new and surprising trend, young Arabs from around the Middle East, including Muslims, are expressing love and support for Israel on social media, the Al-Monitor news site reports.

The trend, which has been around for over a year, began by chance as a personal project by a young Israeli-Arab Muslim who lives in northern Israel. He wanted to use social networking to convince others from his community that the IDF is not a force of evil and that its soldiers are not the bloodthirsty animals depicted in Arab propaganda.

His project soon transcended Israel’s borders and he began receiving messages of peace and love from young men and women from across the Arab world, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Mohammed, who initiated the trend, is an Israeli-Arab Muslim who served in the IDF. He spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.

Last year, he came across a series of billboards sponsored by an Israeli-Arab party as part of its campaign against the recruitment of Israeli Arabs into the IDF. He decided to fight back. “I saw the signs that were hung in Arab villages, and I kept track of the Facebook campaign being run by activists of Balad and the other Arab parties under the name Tzahal ma bistahal [‘The IDF isn’t worth it’ in Arabic]. It infuriated me,” he told Al-Monitor.

“Activists would show up in the main square of Shfaram [an Arab village in northern Israel] with bits of rubble, as if the rubble were from Gaza. They carried big signs too, as if they were trying to say, ‘Look what the army that is calling on you to enlist is actually doing in the Gaza Strip.’ Some of the activists would even paint their faces red, as if they were injured, while they tried to relay their message of ‘Don’t enlist!’ to young Bedouin, Druze, Christians and Muslims. I decided to respond to them on Facebook, so I made a page called Tzahal bistahal [‘The IDF is worth it’], but instead of getting responses from the young Arabs to whom I was directing my personal campaign, I started to get photos and texts from young people around the Arab world. My jaw dropped.”

‘Israel Also has Rights to the Lands’

Sent from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and other countries, the photos and clips were posted on the Facebook page BeTzahal (“In the IDF”), and there are lots of them.

One young woman from Saudi Arabia took a picture of a green Saudi passport. She addresses the Israelis: “Good evening. I am a young woman from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. 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. I hope the Arabs will be sensible like me and recognize the fact that Israel also has rights to the lands of Palestine.”

A young man from Iraq shot a picture of his passport along the Tigris River. “I want to send a message of peace and love to the dear Israeli people,” he says. “I decided to shoot this video and tell you, ‘True, we are two countries that do not have friendly relations, but that doesn’t matter. I believe that the number of people who support Israel here will grow consistently.’”

Always the Same: ‘We Love Israel’

Other young people sent photos of handwritten messages in Hebrew, Arabic and English. It is always the same: “We love Israel.”

One Egyptian police officer took a step forward by including his police cap along with his passport. “We love, love, love Israel and its army,” he wrote in Arabic. He even added a picture of a heart with a Star of David in the middle of it.

Mohammed told Al-Monitor that the whole thing began with a young Coptic Christian woman from Egypt who immigrated to the United States, where she experienced racism and manifestations of hatred toward Copts. “I quickly learned that she also speaks Hebrew, like many young people who studied Hebrew at Cairo University,” he said. “So I said to her, ‘Why don’t you do a little something to spread the message, so that people in other countries will see and hear that there are other voices in the Middle East?’ She sent a photo of her passport, and pretty soon I started getting pictures of passports from all across the Arab world. The very next photo came from Iraq.”

Mohammad also engages supporters of Israel in private conversations. “After I got the video from Baghdad, I asked the person who sent me the clip what it was that caused him to express support for Israel. He responded, ‘You’d be surprised. I’m not the only one. There are a lot of young people here who think like me. Everything that is happening to us here in Iraq — the killings, the terrorism, the veritable bloodbath — showed us that Israel has nothing to do with it. There are many young people living in Iraq today who have no religion. They are fed up with the religious wars between Sunnis and Shiites and want to live their lives without religion,” he told Al-Monitor.

By: United with Israel Staff
(With files from Al-Monitor)

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