Ninety Percent of Arabic Social Media Chatter About Israel-Gulf Deals Negative, Report Finds

Popular hashtags against agreements with UAE and Bahrain reached over 100 million people in less than a month, according to Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed after a signing ceremony at the White House, September 15, 2020.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed after a signing ceremony at the White House, September 15, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Tom Brenner
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Ninety percent of the Arabic-language social media conversation about Israel’s agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain has expressed a negative view of the deals, according to a report by the Strategic Affairs Ministry.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will bring the normalization deal with the UAE accords before the Israeli government for approval, and on Thursday for a discussion and a vote in the Knesset.

The study examined conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube between August 12 and September 8, before the official signing ceremony at the White House. It found that around 90 percent of participants voiced opposition to the normalization of relations, while just five percent had clearly positive views of the process – and that was after the ministry decided to treat any use of the word “peace” as “embodying a positive attitude.”

The main argument made against the agreements, the report said, was that they betrayed the Palestinians. This sentiment appeared in 45 percent of comments. People also objected to signing agreements with Zionists in general (27 percent), accused the UAE of hypocrisy (10 percent), accused it of capitulating to the U.S. (five percent) and accused it of craving profits (four percent).

The most popular hashtags were “normalization is treason” and “Bahrainis against normalization.” According to the report, these hashtags reached more than 100 million social media users during the period studied.

Only 10 percent of the comments had anything good to say about the agreements. Of these, the vast majority – 61 percent – cited their security advantages. Another 33 percent deemed the deals economically beneficial, while six percent said they simply formalized the de facto situation.

Iraqi social media users were particularly prominent in the positive comments, the report said. The main sources of negative comments were Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, along with “a series of civil society organizations that promote the delegitimization of Israel.”

It listed several such organizations, including a Palestinian institute for national security studies. On September 27, that institute organized a conference to promote the establishment of a network of Arab bloggers against normalization.

Both the UAE and Bahrain had prepared a series of normalization initiatives in advance to promote support for the agreements on social media, the report said.

But Israel must also work to counter opposition to normalization on Arabic social media, the report said, particularly in the Gulf States and other countries with which agreements might be signed. This effort should highlight the advantages of normalization for these countries and be coordinated among various government ministries, it added.

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