Saudi youth and the Palestinian cause

Saudi youth and the Palestinian cause
3 min read
29 Sep, 2015
Blog: Young Saudis appear not to care about Palestine - one of the most popular 'causes' in the Arab world. Bader al-Rashid finds out why.
Saudi support for Palestine increased during the latest Gaza war [AFP]

The Palestinian cause has inspired leftist and nationalist political movements in the Gulf since the 1950s. It spurred many Saudis to join the 1948 war.

But it spears to have become absent among Saudi youth today.

Other events have marginalised the central Arab issue, however the Palestinian cause made an appearance in a wave of public support and sympathy for Palestinians during Israel's most recent assault on Gaza - especially on social media which has become the main forum for Saudis to express themselves.

According to the Saudi writer Mansour al-Baloushi, when discussing the presence of the Palestinian cause among Saudi youth, one needs to be aware that the Palestinian cause holds the same relevance among Saudis as it does among other Arab populations.

However, one also needs to aware of the "situational presence of the Palestinian cause among Saudis", according to Baloushi, who believes political events in the region, the media coverage of the Palestinian issue and social media reactions all play a role in the situational presence of the issue.

     75 percent of Saudis believe that the Palestinian cause is a cause for 'all Arabs'

Baloushi believes that other issues in recent decades - including three Gulf Wars, the Arab revolutions and the sectarian conflict in the region - have stolen the limelight from the Palestinian cause.

This will likely be the case until an event takes place to refocus attention on Palestine, such as the repeated wars of aggression on Gaza, or Palestine being granted the status of an observer member state in the UN.

However, Baloushi believes that the Palestinian cause is ingrained in the Arab consciousness and thus never completely absent.

The cause changed location

The writer Suleiman al-Saikhan believes that the Palestinian cause was once very present in youth circles and student activities here, and was discussed using religious language.

That public presence, however, receded after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US for a variety of reasons, and shifted to new forums, most prominently social media.

"Social media sites have become more free than official institutions and more expressive of the public mood, therefore they have become where Saudi youths express themselves about the Palestinian cause," writes Saikhan.

According to Saikhan, the Israeli war against Gaza in the summer of 2014 that lasted for 50 days mobilised many Twitterers to show their support for Palestinians. The hashtag #gaza_under_bombing was appended to more than 1300,000 tweets, with 40 percent of those coming from Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, according to a survey conducted by the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies, 75 percent of Saudis believe that the Palestinian cause is a cause for "all Arabs" and not just Palestinians - while 91 percent of Saudi respondents were against the recognition of Israel.

Saikhan argues that such surveys prove that the Palestinian cause is still an issue for Saudis, contrary to the belief that it has receded from the limelight.

     Most Saudi youths do not have an interest in the Palestinian cause because they are generally uninterested in regional politics

Apolitical youth

The Saudi writer Abdul Rahim Bukhari has another opinion, believing that most Saudi youths do not have an interest in the Palestinian cause because they are generally uninterested in regional politics.

Bukhari argues that interest in the issue spikes when developments occur, or on special occasions such as the Nakba anniversary. These spikes of attention, however, are merely momentary and short lived.

Bukhari also believes that there are attempts to "Islamise the Palestinian cause" in Saudi Arabia, which he believes is detrimental "because Palestinian society is religiously diverse and that must be understood by those interested in the issue".

Bukhari believes that a good way of being involved in the Palestinian cause is to take part in the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, in addition to offering regular support for international organisations providing assistance to the Palestinian people.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.