It’s not unfamiliar to see many Arabs blaming Israel for the recent escalation between the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the IDF, but what’s unprecedented and worth noting is the growing renunciation among the Arab youth for the Islamic Jihad and Hamas behavior in Gaza and against Israel.
After the Abraham Accords agreements and other steps taken by the Arab countries, like the recent formal opening of Saudi skies to Israel, more young Arabs are condemning the Islamic Jihad and Hamas usage of Gaza to start a new war with Israel.
Despite the traditional Arab government’s statements that condemned the Israeli strikes on Gaza, a significant Arab popular discontent with PIJ was seen, especially with the IDF reports that the PIJ misfired rockets may have killed over a dozen in Gaza’s latest battle.
Even before the recent reports about PIJ missed rockets, the Arab public was generally aware that the civilians of Gaza are victims of Hamas and PIJ behavior that puts the Islamist ideology and political interests above the civilians. Moreover, these behaviors deepen the Palestinian divisions and complicate any possible political solution that may improve the lives of the people in Gaza.
The Abraham Accords played a role in encouraging the youth in the countries involved in the accords to speak up against Hamas and PIJ, but others in countries controlled fully or partially by Iran like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq also have strong reasons to oppose the PIJ’s recent aggression.
The fact that the PIJ is ideologically influenced by Khomeini’s ideas and has close connections with Tehran has broadly triggered Arab youth in countries where people are paying a heavy price for Iran-backed militias’ activities.
The war in Syria
The war in Syria, the emergence of the Houthis and Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Hezbollah’s control of Lebanon have shifted the dynamic of who is considered the enemy in the Arab world. Iran-linked groups that have called for armed resistance against Israel for the last two decades have since engaged in a bloody confrontation with Yemenis, Syrians and Iraqis, which raised serious doubts about their narrative of resistance against Israel as their only motivating factor.
Amid the Hamas and PIJ support for Iran’s narrative in Syria and Yemen, many Arabs leaned toward viewing the PIJ as just another Iran-linked militia. To many Arabs, Gaza militants are considered as one of the groups which control territories and take civilians as human shields to serve Iran’s grand expansionist strategy that led to the killing of thousands of Muslims in the region.
During the latest clashes between Gaza and Israel, two different events were trending in Syria and Lebanon. The second anniversary of the Beirut port explosion and the Assad regime’s attacks on a rebel-held city of Tafas in Daraa, southern Syria. Many Syrians and Lebanese chose to focus on their issues rather than participate in the propaganda campaigns waged by the PIJ, which Hezbollah and other Iranian affiliates champion.
The fact that the countries controlled by Iran have daily suffering regarding their basic needs while the Arab countries that signed the Abraham Accords enjoy a better quality of life is an eye-opener for the Arab youth. People in the region are questioning the old assumptions about the so-called resistance against Israel more than ever.
The Abraham Accords were an excellent opportunity to break the political taboos once considered unbreakable in the Arab world. Still, it was not alone the reason for the new trend of opposing the Islamist groups in Gaza. The poverty, infrastructure collapse, and lack of job opportunities and quality education in the countries close to the Iranian axis are forcing the next generation to question the legitimacy of the absurd wars orchestrated by the Islamist groups linked to Iran.
The rejection of this model is not limited today to criticizing the PIJ or Hamas aggression. It’s demonstrated in active ways when thousands of Lebanese and Iraqis protest the influence of the Iranian-backed militias, but achieving any tangible wins against Iran’s destructive influence in the region is beyond the capability of the Arab youth, and requires a US coherent plan and active engagement in the region, which doesn’t exist so far.
The writer is a research fellow at the Philos Project.