Since 2013, Israel has been providing humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians near its border and has brought thousands of Syrians to its hospitals for treatment. It has also provided some covert military aid to Syrian rebels, in addition to launching sporadic attacks on Syrian and Iranian positions. As a result, many Syrians have changed their attitude toward the Jewish state. Elizabeth Tsurkov writes:
On a popular Syrian news group on Facebook, a Syrian activist recently shared a video of Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian teenager in jail for slapping an Israeli soldier. . . . But . . . most of the group’s members—all of them Syrian—reacted dismissively. [One] commentator, from Daraa, wrote, “If [Tamimi] had raised her hand in front of a Syrian soldier, he would have field-executed her.”
Far from outliers, these comments exemplify a changing reality among Syrians. The extreme levels of brutality meted out by the Assad regime and its allies against civilians in Syria have improved the image of the IDF by comparison across the Arab world.
On April 17, 2018, when Palestinians mark “Prisoners’ Day,” a popular Syrian opposition website decided to mark the occasion by posting an infographic comparing Israeli prisons and those of the Assad regime. The infographic shows that while 7,000 Palestinians are incarcerated in Israel, 220,000 Syrians are held in regime detention facilities. According to the infographic, 210 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons since 1967, while 65,000 Syrians have died in regime detention over the past seven years. Such irreverence toward Palestinian suffering by an Arab media outlet would have been unimaginable a few years ago. . . .
But it’s not just aid that’s caused the shift in perception. Views toward Israel among Syrians also changed thanks to its strikes on the Assad regime, Hizballah, and later Iranian targets in Syria. For the first six years of the civil war in Syria, Israel was the only foreign force to have bombed the Assad regime and its allies, the parties responsible for about 90 percent of civilian casualties in Syria. And while not all anti-Assad Syrians support the strikes, many do, and they are no longer afraid to express those views openly on social media.