Around 90 percent of Twitter discourse in Arabic was against Abu Dhabi’s recent treaty with Israel, but pro-Emirati news outlets cite polls showing most Arabs supporting the deal.
An Israeli government study has found that the overwhelming amount of Twitter chatter in Arabic on Twitter was against the recent deal between Israel and the UAE.
A report released by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs found that 90 percent of Arabic language tweets and hashtags concerning the treaty were negative with just five percent positive.
The research by Israeli officials, which covered the period between August 12 and September 8, found that 45 percent of tweets characterised the deal between Israel and Abu Dhabi as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause, while 27 percent objected to the signing of any agreement with ‘Zionists’.
The findings run contrary to a Zogby poll published by the pro-Emirati news outlet, Sky News Arabia, which found majorities in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE in favour of the deal.
It should be noted that with the relative exception of Jordan, the remaining states closely monitor their populations for dissenting views.
A separate study by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS), which ran between November 2019 and September 2020 and found that overwhelming majorities in all Arab countries rejected normalisation with Israel, including in Saudi Arabia.
The findings released earlier in October, said 88 percent of Arabs were opposed to normalising relations, with just six percent in support.
Reasons for opposing normalisation
Many across the region refuse to accept normalisation so long as Israel continues to occupy Palestinian land, including the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
The founding of the state of Israel in 1948 involved the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and the appropriation of their land and homes by Zionist forces.
Seven decades later, these refugees and their descendants are still not allowed to return to their homes, with a majority living in neighbouring Arab states.
Military occupation comes coupled with frequent abuses against the Palestinian population, including arbitrary arrests, restrictions on movement, and frequent killings of protesters.
Israel has entrenched the occupation with its policy of illegal settlement building and expansion, which has created a two-tier system in the occupied West Bank, where Jewish settlers enjoy privileged access to roads, arable land, and water resources.
These conditions have long kept Arab public opinion on the side of the Palestinians and despite most Arab states functioning as autocratic dictatorships, rulers were cautious not to be seen as too close to Israel.
That situation has changed in the last decade with Gulf states in particular first establishing clandestine ties with Israel and later establishing full relations.
Leading this paradigm shift has been the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
Bin Zayed initially established backchannels with the Israelis as the two states' interests converged on the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme but grew stronger with the advent of the Arab uprisings of 2010 and 2011.
Spooked by the overthrow of allies, such as the Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Bin Zayed sought to shut off the fledgling democratic experiments in other Arab countries by attacking and undermining the well organised Islamically oriented parties that were benefiting from the opening up of the political sphere.
Israel for its part feared the loss of dependable allies, such as Mubarak, and worried that the democratic process would usher in more antagonistic governments, which would be more assertive about Palestinian rights.