print
memri
November 30, 2017 No.
7203

Twitter Clash: Saudis vs Palestinians On Palestinian Cause, Palestinian Resistance

The concluding announcement of the November 19, 2017 emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo included the description of Hizbullah as a terror organization and the accusation that it "supports terrorism and terror organizations in Arab countries by means of [providing] advanced weaponry and ballistic missiles."[1] This announcement prompted condemnation from Hamas, which released its own announcement vehemently objecting to Hizbullah's designation as a terror organization. Likewise, Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq tweeted messages opposing the designation, and warning that Hamas and other "resistance forces" are likely to be the next in line to be designated as terror organizations. 

In the wake of these reactions from Hamas, furious arguments broke out on Arab social media, especially on Twitter, and particularly between Palestinians and Saudis. They focused on the importance of the Palestinian cause today, and on the behavior of various Palestinian elements, particularly Hamas. These arguments included harsh criticism of Hamas on the part of Arab social media users, particularly Saudis, with claims that it is like Hizbullah, serving Iran and exploiting the Palestinian issue for Iranian purposes. Some even called Hamas itself a terror organization, saying that it has betrayed the Palestinian people, and that it is ungrateful despite all the Arab countries and peoples had done over the years to support the Palestinians.

As part of these disputes, a hashtag, "#Riyadh is more important than Jerusalem," was circulated by Saudi Twitter users, and was used in tweets condemning the behavior of the Palestinians in general and of Hamas in particular, and in tweets calling on Saudis to stop focusing on the Palestinians and to focus instead on their own country. The Saudi tweeters included members of the media, intellectuals, and liberals such as Saudi journalist and author Turki Al-Hamad; Saudi lecturer on media at Dubai's Zayed University, Najat Al-Saeed; and Saudi political commentator Khaled Al-Dakhil.

In response to the Saudi tweets condemning Hamas and the Palestinians in general, Arab Twitter users, primarily Palestinians, tweeted objections to these claims and stressed that the Palestinian issue still concerns every Muslim in the world and that such claims serve only Israel. 

Another Palestinian-Saudi argument emerged on Twitter following many media reports that at the November 26 meeting in Riyadh of the Islamic coalition against terrorism, a video showing Palestinian gunmen in the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo was screened, and it described them as terrorists. Enraged Palestinians tweeted that this labelling of "Palestinian resistance" members was "very dangerous" and "shameful in every sense of the word."

Additionally, the uptick in media reports on warming Saudi-Israel relations that appear to be progressing towards normalization, and statements by a number of Saudi journalists in praise of closer relations with Israel, have created fertile ground for online Saudi-Palestinian tension.

This report will review the Palestinian-Saudi disputes that have emerged recently on Twitter.

Saudis On Twitter: Hamas And Hizbullah Are Traitors And Terrorists

As noted, following the concluding announcement of the Arab foreign ministers meeting, Hamas released an official condemnation of the description of Hizbullah and other "resistance organizations" as terrorist organizations. In it, Hamas stressed its "surprise" at the announcement's failure to include "reference to the Zionist terrorism that is implemented daily towards the Palestinian people, their land, and their holy places."[2]

Additionally, Hamas political bureau member Moussa Abu Marzouq tweeted, from his personal account: "Hizbullah is not a terror organization, and if this designation is accepted, we can all expect a similar fate. We must all agree to direct the Arab political focus [at] Palestine and Jerusalem." He also tweeted: "The Arab foreign ministers' decision to designate Hizbullah as terrorist does not lie in [Hizbullah's] involvement in dear Syria, but is aimed at confronting Iran and elements connected to it. He added: "This trend is problematic for two reasons. One, diverting the [Arab] focus from Israel and allying with it; [Israel] is certainly not Sunni. Two, next time, the resistance forces – Hamas, [Palestinian Islamic] Jihad, and others – will be the ones on which [they] set [their] sights, for the same reason."[3]


Abu Marzouq's tweets 

Abu Marzouq's tweets prompted thousands of angry reactions from Twitter uses from Saudi Arabia, among them well-known Saudi writers, as well as from other Arab countries, expressing opposition to him and to Hamas. They criticized him and Hamas for defending Hizbullah, stressing the great destruction Hizbullah has wreaked in the Arab countries, and said that it has done nothing for the Palestinians. Moreover, they said, both Hizbullah and Hamas have betrayed the Palestinian people and exploited the Palestinian cause. 

For example, veteran Saudi writer Khaled Al-Dakhil tweeted, in a reply to Abu Marzouq: "It is truly amazing that Hamas is in the same trench with Hizbullah, which has wallowed, and continues to wallow, in the blood of the Syrian people for the Rule of the Jurisprudent [in Iran] and which sets its terror sights on the Arab countries. Is it in the Palestine interest to stand in the same trench, against the Arabs, with a sectarian party [Hizbullah] that is an [Iranian] agent?! This is the deviation [of the Arab focus] that must be rectified."[4]


Khaled Al-Dakhil's tweet

Najat Al-Saeed, a Saudi lecturer in communications at Zayed University, Dubai, tweeted: "Hamas and the Palestinians who support it think that the Arabs have sold out the Palestinian cause and are pinning their hopes on Iran to liberate them [from the Israeli occupation]. Then, please, they should turn to Iran for it to liberate them and make their lives a paradise, as it has done [for those who live] in Syria and Lebanon."[5]


Najat Al-Saeed's tweet

Dr. Shaleh Al-Harbi, of the Saudi Foreign Ministry, tweeted on his personal account: "After Hamas failed when it expressed its condolences to [commander of the Qods Force in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)] Qassem Soleimani for the death of his father two weeks ago, and sent a delegation to Iran to console him, today a [Hamas] member published this peculiar nonsense and defended the 'party of Satan' [i.e. Hizbullah, 'Party of God']. Hamas is very keen on provoking the Arab peoples. I think that [Hamas] has reached a stage in which it has no way back to the Arab fold."[6]

Majid bin Fahd, another Saudi, tweeted: "Traitors defend traitors, and your treachery, oh Moussa [Abu Marzouq], is not only in one element. The catastrophe is that you betrayed your people and the most important cause of the Muslims [i.e. the Palestinian cause]. Hizbullah and all of you are ignoble terrorists. May Allah's curses come upon you and your fate be evil and bitter."[7]


Majd bin Fahd's tweet

Another Saudi Twitter user, Yahya Al-Qassem, tweeted: "Oh you who trade in the Palestinian cause, by God, you are traitors. Hizbullah and Iran have killed more of the Palestinian people than the Jewish imperialists have in over 70 years. Where is your zeal for your people and their cause? What has the Party of Satan [i.e. Hizbullah] done for you in Palestine? We can only say that Allah should settle accounts with all those who abandon [their people, and throw them] onto the ash heap of history."[8]

Saudis' Anti-Palestinian Tweets Under Hashtag "#Riyadh Is More Important Than Jerusalem"

In the days after the Arab foreign ministers' meeting, and following Abu Marzouq's tweets against its description of Hizbullah as a terrorist organization, a new hashtag, "#Riyadh is more important than Jerusalem," went viral. Tens of thousands of tweets were posted under it by Arab Twitter accounts, many of them Saudis enraged at the ingratitude towards Saudi Arabia, which, they said, had done so much for the Palestinians, as well as at the Palestinians in general and at Hamas in particular.

Saudi researcher Muhammad Al-Hadla tweeted: "We, as Saudis, are asked to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians. Without Allah and Saudi Arabia, Palestine would disappear from the map – nevertheless, every Palestinian you find only reviles and resents Saudi Arabia!"[9]


Muhammad Al-Hadla's tweets

Saudi Twitter user 'Amar Al-Ghunaim tweeted: "Did you know, my dear Palestinian, that the [Saudi] kingdom gives Palestine $1.7 billion a year in monetary support, and funds to the tune of $300 million [as part of] a development plan by means of the Saudi Development Bank, for health, education, and other areas? And the result is exemplary hostility, hatred, and ingratitude!"[10]

Saudi Twitter user Sa'ud Al-Sabi'i tweeted: "For 40 years, the children of Saudi Arabia have donated their pocket money to the so-called 'riyal of Palestine.' Even mothers and wives donate their gold for Palestine, in addition to the millions of dollars that went to Palestine. The result? The Palestinian comes and says: Saudi Arabia has sold out the [Palestinian] cause.'"[11]

However, other Twitter users, mostly Palestinians, expressed anger at the denigration of the Palestinian cause, stressed the overall Arab and Islamic solidarity with Palestine, and accused the Twitter users who criticized the Palestinians of having adopted a foreign agenda. They also circulated new hashtags, such as "#Riyadh and Jerusalem are dearest to us" and "#Jerusalem is more important than Riyadh" – the opposite of "#Riyadh is more important than Jerusalem."

Gaza journalist Radwan Al-Akhras tweeted: "[This is] a hashtag aimed at igniting fitna [internal strife] among the Arabs and Muslims. The only ones who are benefiting from it are the Zionists and their supporters, who want to eradicate the matter of Jerusalem from the conscience of the [Islamic] ummah. But this is inconceivable, and it is they [the Zionists and their supporters] who will be eradicated, together with their words. The Quran, and Allah's words, which have blessed the Al-Aqsa mosque and its environs, will remain."[12]


Radwan Al-Akhras's tweet

Twitter user Rakan Al-Asiri also tweeted a message against those who insisted that Riyadh is more important than Jerusalem: "Your love for your homeland and its interests do not contradict the aspiration that things will be good for your Muslim brethren, particularly for [the residents of Jerusalem,] the third holiest place [in Islam]. Any attempt to create a contradiction between all of Riyadh's and Jerusalem's interests is a desperate attempt by the enemies..."[13]

Another Gaza journalist, Ibrahim Al-Madhoun, who is associated with Hamas and writes for its mouthpiece Al-Risalah, tweeted: "Whoever thinks that a million tweets and thousands of hashtags can separate the Palestinian people and its resistance from the Saudis and their young people is delusional. This is because we are one and no one will divide us. Riyadh is like Jerusalem, Gaza is like Mecca, the Galilee is like Jeddah, and Israel is our enemy."[14]


Ibrahim Al-Madhoun's tweet

Saudi Liberal: "The Palestinian Issue Doesn't Interest Me"

Saudi liberal Turki Al-Hamad also recently tweeted frequently in condemnation of Palestinian behavior over the years; he tweeted, under "#Riyadh is more important than Jerusalem": "Sorry, friend, the [Palestinian] issue doesn't interest me. It has become uninteresting. [It is just] a source of income for some people and a false stamp of legitimacy for the activities of others."


Turki Al-Hamad's tweet

Hamad's tweet about his indifference to the Palestinian issue generated numerous reactions. For example, Dr. Najat Al-Saeed of the Zayed University in Dubai expressed support for Al-Hamad's view, tweeting: "Whoever follows the Palestinians who write for American research centers and others in the U.S. see that they completely support Israel and oppose Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. And whoever watches Israeli television sees exactly what he sees in the Arab media. Even the governor of the West Bank [sic] supports Israel. So who do we support and who do we oppose?" In a different tweet she wrote, inter alia: "All the Arab peoples liberated themselves without assistance. Why does this [Palestinian] issue continue without a solution?"[15]

In contrast, Dr. Walid Al-Sha'bani, a lecturer at King Saud University in Riyadh, tweeted a response to Al-Hamad: "The [Palestinian] cause is the cause of every Muslim... Al-Aqsa is part of the Muslim identity that you abandoned a long time ago..."[16]


Dr. Najat Al-Saeed's tweet

In other tweets on the Palestinian issue, in which he did not include "#Riyadh is more important than Jerusalem," Al-Hamad wrote: "The history of the Palestinian issue is one of missed opportunities. The goal was full liberation before 1967, and after that the goal became a return to the pre-June 5 borders. The approach to this issue was ideological, not practical..."[17]

Another tweet read: "In 1948, the Arabs opposed the partition decision that granted them most of the lands of Palestine and 'a statelet of Zionist gangs' arose. In 1965, they rejected the proposal of [Tunisian president] Habib Bourguiba to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the [Gaza] Strip and he was accused of treason.[18] In 1980, Arafat refused to be present at the Mena House talks[19] and many other things."[20] He also tweeted: "I feel solidarity with the simple Palestinian people for humanitarian reasons, just as I feel solidarity with every oppressed and wronged person in this world. I oppose the Israeli occupation just as I oppose any other occupation in the world. However, Palestine is not 'the cause' anymore, and we see that the interested parties are manipulating it while we pay the price."[21]


Al-Hamad tweet's tweet

This tweet by Al-Hamad sparked many and varied reactions. For example, Saudi author and journalist Hani Naqshabandi tweeted in response: "No sir. In this instance I do not agree with you. We are all manipulating [the Palestinian] cause. I am not Palestinian but I would be proud to be. But Palestine is the victim and we, like the Jews, are the executioners. I have said in the past that if the Palestinian rises up, we say he is a terrorist, and if he keeps silent, we say he is an agent."[22]


Naqshabandi's response to Al-Hamad

Al-Hamad also tweeted: "How hypocritical are the Arabs! In their heroic speeches they publicly call for doom and disaster for Israel, while at the same time they are secretly courting it. They curse America publicly while at the same time, in secret, they risk their lives so that it will let them join its ranks. They celebrate Arab brotherhood and its beauty when they gather, but each one sharpens his knife, ready to slaughter the other, when they are divided."[23]

Palestinians Rage On Twitter About Riyadh Islamic Coalition Meeting's Labelling Armed Palestinians As Terrorist

On November 26, 2017, in Riyadh, the defense ministers of the countries participating in the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition came together for their first official conference, under the heading "Allied against Terrorism."[24] At the opening session, a video was screened that showed an armed Palestinian fighter and labelled him as a terrorist.[25] Palestinian Twitter users expressed their rage at this, under various hashtags such as "#Islamic Military Coalition," "#Uniting against terrorism," and "#Resistance is not terrorism."

The Hamas-associated Palestine Online Twitter account tweeted that at the defense ministers' meeting "a video was screened that showed many images of the Palestinian resistance as images of terrorists."[26]


Tweet by Palestine Online

Palestinian journalist Suheib Al-Assa, who works for Al-Jazeera TV, tweeted the photo with the Al-Jazeera logo from his personal account, along with two similar photos, and clarified that the image in the video at the conference was from 2011 and was of "Palestinian resistance members clashing with the occupation army at the Gilo settlement that is situated on the lands of southern occupied Jerusalem."[27]


Suheib Al-Assa's tweet

In response to this image, Twitter user Al-Maqdisi tweeted: "There should be a distinction between resistance and terrorism. Every operation against the Israeli occupation is resistance, but it seems that the Islamic Counter-Terrorism Coalition is a coalition against the struggle of the Palestinian resistance. The videos that they screened today are shameful in every sense of the word."[28]


Al-Maqdisi's tweet

Twitter user Mahmoud Al-Shajrawi, who identified himself as "a Palestinian temporarily residing in Turkey," tweeted: "The image of a Palestinian resistance member was presented at the opening session of the defense ministers' counter-terrorism [conference]. Has the fighting Palestinian become a terrorist? This is very dangerous."[29]

Adham Abu Salmiya, from Gaza, spokesman for the National Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza tweeted his objections to one of the videos shown at the conference that depicted "Palestinian resistance" gunmen firing on Gilo as terrorists, and added: "The moral deterioration continues."[30]

 

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 20, 2017.

[2] Hamas.ps, November 20, 2017.

[3] Twitter.com/mosa_abumarzook, November 19, 20, 2017.

[4] Twitter.com/kdriyadh, November 20, 2017.

[5] Twitter.com/Najat_AlSaeed, November 20, 2017.

[6] Twitter.com/shaleh21, November 20, 2017.

[7] Twitter.com/M_F_lion, November 20, 2017.

[8] Twitter.com/Q1389W, November 20, 2017.

[9] Twitter.com/drmohamadalhdla, November 21, 2017.

[10] Twitter.com/dieskee, November 21, 2017.

[11] Twitter.com/BviGol, November 22, 2017.

[12] Twitter.com/rdooan, November 21, 2017.

[13] Twitter.com/RaKaN_Asiri, November 22, 2017.

[14] Twitter.com/ibmadhun, November 25, 2017.

[15] Twitter.com/Najat_AlSaeed, November 21, 2017.

[16] Twitter.com/walshabani, November 21, 2017.

[17] Twitter.com/TurkiHAlhamad1, November 22, 2017.

[18] President Bourguiba proposed that if Israel a) accepted UN Resolutions 181 and 194, conceding a third of its territory; b) granted the right of return to the Palestinian refugees; and c) agreed that in peace talks the Arab side would be represented mainly by Palestinian figures, then the Arab states would recognize it, and after that would present demands for further concessions. Michael M. Laskier, "“Between Bourguibism and Nasserism: Israeli-Tunisian Relations and the Arab-Israeli Conflict in the 1950s and 1960s,” Iyyunim bi-Tkumat Yisrael, XI. (2001): 46-79.

[19] The reference is to peace talks held at the Mena House Hotel in Cairo in 1977.

[20] Twitter.com/TurkiHAlhamad1, November 22, 2017.

[21] Twitter.com/TurkiHAlhamad1, November 22, 2017.

[22]  Twitter.com/haninakshabandi, November 22, 2017.

[23] Twitter.com/TurkiHAlhamad1, November 23, 2017.

[24] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 27, 2017.

[25] The video can be viewed at Youtube.com/watch?v=K9_8K1l_YUI.

[26] Twitter.com/felesteenonline/media, November 26, 2017.

[27] Twitter.com/SuAlassa, November 267, 2017.

[28] Twitter.com/jubran_za, November 26, 2017.

[29] Twitter.com/mahdshajrawi1, November 26, 2017.

[30] Twitter.com/adham922, November 26, 2017.