Muslims and Arabs who openly identify as Zionists are growing in number — powered by the freer flow of information and ideas made possible by social media and the search for answers in the wake of the Arab Spring and Islamist terror.
A new Facebook page for Arab supporters of Israel has attracted about 20,000 followers. The page, which shares content in English, Arabic, and Hebrew, was founded by a religious Jewish woman and an Arab man. It posts examples of Israel treating Arabs and Muslims with kindness and shares surprising Arab support for Israel from across the Middle East, including Tunisians who created an Israeli flag after being unable to buy one, and who have faced threats for their views.
Muhammad Zoabi entered the spotlight as a proud Arab, Muslim Zionist in the summer of 2014. Just 17 at the time, Zoabi began to advocate for Israel in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. He posted a video demanding that Hamas release three Israeli teens who had been kidnapped a few weeks before Operation Protective Edge. Death threats soon forced Zoabi into hiding, and he found shelter with Kay Wilson, who had survived a brutal 2010 terrorist stabbing attack.
Zoabi became so popular that he reached his maximum friend limit (5,000) on Facebook, where there is even a page calling for him to be prime minister of Israel. Zoabi's Zionism is hardly surprising, given his upbringing. His mother, Sarah Zoabi, revealed her Israeli patriotism on national television. She introduced herself on the popular Israeli show "Master Chef" as an "Arab, Muslim, Israeli, proud Zionist" from the northern city of Nazareth. "I believe in the right of the Jewish people to have their own country, which is the state of Israel, the Holy Land .... I want to say to all the Arabs of Israel to wake up," she continued. "We live in paradise. Compared to other countries, to Arab countries — we live in paradise."
Zoabi also has some fierce Israel haters in his family, like his cousin Haneen Zoabi, who is a member of Israel's parliament but regularly uses her position to defame Israel and side with its enemies.
Another young Muslim Zionist is Mahdi Satri, a 17-year old, Israeli Arab, whose Gazan father helped the Shin Bet (Israel's domestic security services) and received political asylum to live in an Arab village near Acre. When neighbors learned that his father had helped Israel's security services, his family became a target. "After 3 years of violence against me after coming out publicly with my Zionism and I'm still the last man standing, standing against my village," he wrote last month.
"I regularly get threats. I get threats from people in my village and they say they will put two bullets in my head If I'm not gonna stop. I also get threats from Gaza, and from Ramallah, and from my mother's family."
A day earlier, Satri published critiques of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, blaming each for Israel's 2014 war with Gaza and defending Israel's use of force to protect "all the Israeli citizens: Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheist, Gays, Lesbians." He proudly notes that "Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East."
He also attracted international attention last month with a social experiment in which he blindfolded himself and held a sign identifying himself as an Arab and inviting Tel-Avivians to embrace him. His heartwarming video (with nearly half a million views) reveals Israeli tolerance and was shared by the pro-Israel group StandWithUs.
Satri even paid his respects to the parents of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, who was stabbed to death in her bedroom by a Palestinian terrorist (Israeli TV news covered Satri's remarkable visit). "When they murdered her, they also took a piece of my heart, of me." He brought a yarmulke and an Israeli flag to his condolence visit.
Ahmed Meligy, who identifies himself as a proud Egyptian and Muslim, is another passionate advocate for Israel. Meligy has endured death threats and police arrest for his activism, which includes blogging for the Jerusalem Post, and supporting democracy in Egypt and warmer ties with Israel.
Another Egyptian-born, pro-Israel activist is Nonie Darwish, the founder of Arabs for Israel. In an interview, Darwish told the Investigative Project on Terrorism that her Zionist convictions were most strengthened by "the decency, humanity and integrity of the Jewish people in the face of adversity." She is friends with about a dozen Muslim Zionists and "will not have Muslim friends who do not support Israel."
Darwish left Islam for Christianity, as recounted in her book, Now They Call Me Infidel. Speaking to IPT, she said that "at the core of Islam is a deep envy of Jewish culture...Islam has violated all 10 commandments for the sake of jihad and to repel and destroy whom they envy. Islam...wants to destroy the competition."
Qanta Ahmed, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants to the UK, is a devout Muslim who has also warned about the risk of allowing Islamists to use Islamic blasphemy laws in order to monopolize the marketplace of ideas: "Americans and anti-Islamist Muslims everywhere must ensure that ... freedom of ... speech prevails, if religious freedoms and liberal democracies are to be preserved." An accomplished physician who practiced medicine in one of Islam's most conservative societies, she published "In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom." Ahmed, who is now based in the U.S., has also eloquently supported Israel in her writing and decried the double standards applied to Israeli victims of terror.