“Riyadh is more important than Jerusalem” has been trending as Israel-Palestine emerges as a focus for the recent escalation in tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
If, as some have suggested, Saudi is testing the waters of Arab public opinion for making relations with Israel official, the backlash to this hashtag has exposed the regional rift it could cause.
The hashtag “Jerusalem is more important than the [Saudi] king,” launched by the Palestinian and Lebanese Twitterati in response, gained 40,000 tweets in 24 hours, according to the BBC.
It joined hashtags such as “against Al Saud” which have been used to express rage at claims Riyadh could normalize relations with Tel Aviv.
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The original tag emerged Tuesday as some Saudis attacked what they saw as Palestine’s failure to acknowledge efforts by the Gulf state towards resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Saudi Arabia has been a “pioneer in the defense of Palestine since 1948” said @sam112780, while @M_Aljabr accused Palestinians of being “treacherous and standing with our enemies.”
يوم كنت صغير كنت اتبرع بمصروفي المدرسة عشان فلسطين— عبدالكريم العنزي . (@Kmi_56) November 21, 2017
و لما كبرت شفت الفلسطيني يشتم و يوقف مع العدو ضد بلدي .
When I was young I used to donate my school allowance to Palestine. When I grew up I saw the Palestinian cursing and standing with the enemy against my country.
A former Saudi minister, Abdullah Al-Zulfah, even publicly declared his support for the hashtag.
He told Quds Press “Unfortunately, Arabs of the north [Levant and North Africa] do not recognise our efforts.”
“If they conspire against Riyadh with Iran, then Riyadh is better than all the Arabs.”
In fact, the heightened antagonism of recent weeks between Saudi Arabia and Iran seems to lie at the heart of the online mud-slinging.
On Nov. 19, the Arab league held an emergency meeting to condemn Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
The following day, however, Hamas “strongly rejected the designation of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah as terrorist.”
“We were shocked to see that the joint Arab statement was free from referring and designating the Israeli occupation and its crimes as terror acts,” it said.
Simultaneously, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir was forced to insist that “there are no relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel,” following Israeli claims to the contrary.
There have been renewed suggestions in recent weeks of potential cooperation between the Riyadh and Tel Aviv governments against their shared Iranian foe. The rumors have gained credibility from the remarks of multiple Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The claims have caused anger in particular among some Palestinians and Lebanese on social media, who allege that Saudi naturalization with Israel is on the cards.
The trend received a more muted response from nearby Jordan, where the majority of the population is of Palestinian descent. The Al-Aqsa complex in Jerusalem is controled by Islamic Waqf, according to an agreement between Israel and Jordan
Tweets on the hashtag called the Saudi royal family “guards of Zionism” and declared “the freedom of Jerusalem comes through resistance not naturalization.”
The Saudi foreign minister was keen to stress Monday that the “Arab nations’ position has always supported the Palestinian brothers.”
Jubeir insisted that normalization would only come through the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which was based on territorial concessions from Israel and Palestinian refugee rights.
Still, multiple commentators have indicated that Saudi foreign policy has shifted to focus on “the Iranian enemy” rather than “the Israeli enemy.”
If that means cooperating with Israel, that move is already proving itself to be unpopular among Palestinians, as well as many in neighbor Lebanon.
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