Regional Public Opinion Sees Palestinian Cause as Arab issue

Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies survey highlights an astonishing 77 percent of respondents naming the US and Israel as the biggest threat to regional security and stability.
Regional Public Opinion Sees Palestinian Cause as Arab issue
Image Courtesy: UNRWA

A first of its kind survey was conducted by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies to gauge public opinion from across the Arab region regarding the Israeli War on Gaza. The poll was carried out on a sample of 8000 respondents (men and women) from 16 Arab countries. The results of the public opinion poll were announced on January 10th,  2024, just one day before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Genocide hearing against Israel in the Hague. The survey demonstrates the locality of the war as felt by Arab public opinion.

It is noteworthy that the results highlighted that Arab public opinion does not believe that the military operation carried out by Hamas on October 7th, 2023 was in pursuit of a foreign agenda.

According to an Al Jazeera report, “Ronald Lamola, South Africa’s justice minister, said Israel’s response to the attacks by Hamas on October 7 in southern Israel crossed a line. No armed attack on a state territory, no matter how serious, even an attack involving atrocity crimes, can provide justification for or defence to breaches to the [1948 Genocide] Convention whether it’s a matter of law or morality.

The Qatar-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies survey further illustrates that 35 percent of respondents considered that the most important reason for the operation was the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, while 24 percent attributed it mostly to defence against Israel’s targeting of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and 8 percent saw it as a result of the ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip.

When asked about the responses of regional and international powers to Israel’s war on Gaza, 94 percent considered the US position negatively, with 82 percent considering it very bad. In the same context, 79 percent, 78 percent, and 75 percent of respondents viewed positions of France, the UK, and Germany negatively. Opinion was split over the positions of Iran, Turkey, Russia, and China. While (48 percent, 47 percent, 41 percent, 40 percent, respectively) considered them positively (37 percent, 40 percent, 42 percent 38 percent respectively).

In the same context, 76 percent of respondents reported that their position toward the United States following the Israeli war on Gaza had become more negative, indicating that the Arab public has lost confidence in the US. Furthermore, respondents demonstrated a near consensus (81 percent) in their belief that the US government is not serious about working to establish a Palestinian state in the 1967 occupied territories (The West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza).

About 77 percent of respondents named the United States and Israel as the biggest threat to the security and stability of the region. While 51 percent saw the United States as the most threatening, 26 percent considered the biggest threat to be Israel. While 82 percent of respondents reported that US media coverage of the war was biased towards Israel, only 7 percent saw it as neutral. The majority of respondents rejected comparisons between Hamas and ISIS made by predominately Israeli and Western politicians and media personalities.

Arab public opinion sees the Palestinian Cause as an Arab issue, and not exclusively a Palestinian issue. A consensus of 92 percent believe that the Palestinian question concerns all Arabs and not just the Palestinians. On the other hand, 6 percent said that it concerns the Palestinians alone and they alone must work to solve it. It is worth noting that this percentage is the highest recorded since polling began in 2011, rising from 76 percent at the end of 2022, to 92 percent this year. Some countries recorded significant increases. In Morocco, it rose from 59 percent in 2022 to 95 percent, in Egypt from 75 percent to 94 percent, in Sudan from 68 percent to 91 percent, and in Saudi Arabia from 69 percent to 95 percent, a statistically significant increase that represents a fundamental shift in the opinions of the citizens of these countries.

On assessing the negative effects experienced in the West Bank since October 7th, 2023, a further 60 percent of Palestinian respondents in the West Bank said that they had been subjected to or were witnesses to raids by the occupation army forces, while 44 percent said that they were subjected to arrest or interrogation by the Israeli army, and 22 percent reported that they were subjected to harassment by settlers.

The field work for this survey was conducted from December 12th, 2023 to January 5th, 2024 in Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and the West Bank, Palestine (including Jerusalem). The surveyed communities represent 95 percent of the population of the Arab region and its far-flung regions. The sample in each of the aforementioned communities was 500 men and women, drawn according to cluster and self-weighted sampling methods to ensure that every individual in each country had an equal probability of appearing in the sample.

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