Arab citizens outraged at Israeli assault on Gaza
The ongoing bloodshed in the Gaza Strip has unleashed a chorus of voices across Gulf Arab states that are fiercely critical of Israel and emphatically supportive of Palestinians.
The vocal opposition to Israel, expressed in street protests, on social media and in newspaper columns, comes just months after pacts were signed to establish ties with Israel — and complicates government efforts to rally Arab citizens around full-throttle acceptance of the deals.
Analysts said the conflict will also curb Israeli efforts to secure more normalization deals with other Arab states.
The criticism has not only put Arab governments that signed the diplomatic accords with Israel in a difficult position with their citizens, it also affirms that the Palestinian cause continues to resonate deeply with people across the Middle East.
“No matter what your national priorities are at the moment or regional priorities are at the moment, when stuff like this happens, the Palestinian issue comes back and hits you,” Emirati political analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla said.
At least 217 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 61 children and 36 women. More than 1,440 people have been wounded. Twelve people in Israel, including a young boy and a soldier, have been killed in Hamas rocket attacks.
The open calls for Palestinian rights and condemnation of Israel voiced by countless Gulf Arab citizens have largely mirrored official statements from their governments, all of which have condemned the violence in some form.
Some have gone further, and Abdulla said he’d hoped the United Arab Emirates’ most recent statement calling “on all parties” to cease fighting had been bolder and named Israel as the aggressor.
In speaking out, Gulf citizens are challenging the official narratives around normalization with Israel.
In Bahrain, civil society groups signed a letter urging the government to expel the Israeli ambassador. In Kuwait, protesters held two rallies and are demanding permission to hold more. In Qatar, the government allowed hundreds to protest as Hamas’ top leader delivered a speech. In the UAE, some have openly donned the black-and-white checkered Palestinian keffiyeh on Instagram.
Last year, the UAE became the first Arab country in over two decades to establish ties with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994. It was a brazen move that bypassed the Palestinians, who slammed it as treason and a stab in the back.