Criticisms of some Arab states over Gaza are far from organic

The attacks are primarily directed at Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia and reveal a carefully orchestrated silencing campaign

Criticisms of some Arab states over Gaza are far from organic

While browsing X – or, as I still like to call it, Twitter – I came across a tweet from a political science professor attacking Al-Arabiya and describing it as “Ben-Gvir's channel” (referring to Israel's far-right national security minister). Although I don't follow this professor, my curiosity led me to visit his page. It became clear that he is a frequent tweeter; in the past 24 hours alone, he posted 20 tweets, 19 of which criticised “Zionist” media professionals, with only one retweet about a fire in Tel Aviv.

Since the onset of Hamas's 7 October attack on Israel and the subsequent war on Gaza, there has been an orchestrated campaign to label anyone with different views on the situation as "Arab Zionists". Some people found themselves on the list because of their opinions or affiliations, while others claim these people's names appeared on lists found on an Israeli computer shortly after the 7 October raid. The idea that Israel would keep a list of its “collaborators” in an Excel file on a computer highlights the absurdity to which some will go to smear their opponents.

On Twitter, I noticed a call to demonstrate in front of the Egyptian embassy in Paris to break the siege on Gaza and condemn the aggression. My first thought was: isn't there an Israeli embassy in Paris? Wouldn't it make more sense to demonstrate there?

Two months ago, journalist Tahar Baraka announced that he had been banned from visiting Lebanon for the past six months due to a complaint filed against him with the Military Public Prosecution for interviewing the Israeli army spokesperson on Al-Arabiya.

Baraka is neither the first nor the only Lebanese journalist at Al-Arabiya to face such a complaint. Lebanese journalists working for Arab and foreign channels have been interviewing guests from Israel for decades, yet no one has moved to “punish” them for doing their job.

These smears might appear to be an organic reflection of the mounting anger over Israel's war on Gaza, but a closer look reveals a carefully orchestrated silencing campaign.

Silencing campaign

You might think these campaigns are an organic reflection of the mounting anger in the Arab street over Israel's criminal offensive against Palestinians in Gaza over the past eight months. However, a closer examination of the behaviour of those leading these campaigns—including journalists, politicians, writers, academics, and media institutions—reveals a carefully orchestrated silencing campaign.

The attacks focus on specific countries—primarily Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, other countries, such as Turkey, which only recently severed its trade relations with Israel, or Qatar, which reportedly informed Hamas leaders of its intention to expel them if they do not agree to the initiative launched by US President Joe Biden, have been spared from criticism. To be clear, I am not suggesting that these countries should be criticised, but I am simply pointing out that scrutiny is unevenly applied.

Since 7 October, there seems to be a concerted effort against anyone who dares to address the geopolitical reality in the region. For instance, discussing Hezbollah's crimes in Syria is now seen as a "distraction" from the "resistance," and questioning Iran's role in the conflict is labelled as "collusion" with Israel.

Mentioning Iranian militia presence in four Arab countries is considered "treason," and remembering the hundreds of thousands of martyrs in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq killed by Iran or its affiliated militias is seen as "disregard for the blood of the Palestinians." Instead, these issues are framed as political disputes that should be put on the back burner for the time being.

This wave of criticism against Arab states, their media networks, and anyone who harbours an opinion different from theirs, combined with the extremism it brings, will have devastating effects long after the war in Gaza ends and will have a chilling effect on freedom of opinion and expression. Under the guise of solidarity with Gaza, young minds are being poisoned, which could lead to something far worse than any terrorism the region has experienced thus far.

If unchecked, this mind-numbing extremism will permeate through our societies for decades to come. Recognising, resisting, and fighting against this new kind of extremism is essential to prevent our societies from sliding into deeper divisions and violence.

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