A new poll shows Israel’s war on Gaza is taking a heavy mental toll on people across the Middle East and North Africa with a growth in the region’s rejection of Israel’s recognition.
The Israeli war on Gaza has caused psychological stress among an overwhelming 97% of the Middle East and North Africa’s population, a survey by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies revealed on Wednesday.
Conducted by the Qatar-based institute, the survey is the first of its kind since the beginning of Israel’s brutal war on Gaza on October 7. The poll included 8,000 respondents from 16 Arab countries between December 12, 2023, and January 5, 2024.
The poll included citizens from the region, including ones in Qatar, Algeria, Mauritania, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Yemen.
The poll displayed the heavy mental health toll that the war has taken on the Arab world’s populations, with 84% expressing “a sense of great psychological stress.”
Distressing images and videos emerged from the Israeli genocidal war on Gaza, where occupation forces killed at least 23,357 Palestinians within nearly 100 days.
Around 80% of respondents in the Arab Center’s latest poll said they have been regularly following the news in Gaza.
A total of 54% of others said they have relied on television for news and 43% others cited the internet as their source, possibly including social media where the content is being widely circulated.
There has long been a great sense of Arab solidarity with the Palestinian cause, especially following the genocidal war on Gaza — which also triggered wider global solidarity including in the West.
The Arab public opinion survey found that 92% of the region views the Palestinian cause “as an Arab issue.” A total of 6% of others said “that it concerns the Palestinians alone and they alone must work to solve it.”
The figure of Arab solidarity with the Palestinian cause is the highest that the institute recorded since it started polling the overall Arab opinion in 2011. In 2022, the total perception of the Palestinian cause as one that concerns the region was 76%.
Notably, there is a large Palestinian diaspora in the region due to the mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza by Zionist militia in 1948 to establish Israel. The 1967 war, or the Naksa, forced another major exodus of Palestinians of around 400,000 people.
While the figure of Palestinian diaspora has yet to be properly documented, academics believe at least 600,000 Palestinians live in the Gulf region.
Other estimates suggest Palestinians in the Arab region represent 44% of the global diaspora, a figure that likely excludes Palestinians who have been nationalised in their countries of residence.
There has been a growth in the region’s rejection of Israel’s recognition, with 89% of those surveyed saying they are against it, up from 84% in 2022.
“Of particular note is the increase in the percentage of those who rejected recognition of Israel in Saudi Arabia from 38% in the 2022 poll to 68% in this survey,” the centre said, despite recent reports claiming Riyadh is still open to normalising ties with Tel Aviv.
In Morocco, 78% said they disagreed with normalising ties with Israel — up from 67% last year — as 81% of those surveyed in Sudan voiced the same opinion.
Both countries had normalised ties with Israel as part of a regional wave of normalisation that started in late 2020 with the signing of the Abraham Accords. At the time, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed the controversial accords.
A total of 36% of respondents said their governments should suspend all ties with Israel or normalisation processes and 11% said that the “Arab governments should use oil as a weapon to assert pressure on Israel and its supporters.”
Western agenda and backing of the Gaza war
Israel and its Western allies, namely the United States, have cited used the Hamas surprise attack of October 7 as the pretext for the genocide in Gaza.
The operation saw the Al-Qassam Brigades – Hamas’ armed wing – infiltrate the occupied territories through air, land and sea while returning to Gaza with at least 240 captives.
Al-Qassam said at the time that the operation was in response to the increased raids of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and settler violence towards Palestinians living under 75 years of occupation.
A total of 35% of respondents in the Arab poll believe the Hamas operation was in response to the 75-year Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, whereas 24% said it was in response to the targeting of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Another 8% saw the operation as a result of the ongoing Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip.
A total of 67% of respondents agreed the Hamas operation “was a legitimate resistance operation” while 19%others said “it was a somewhat flawed but legitimate resistance operation.”
Another 3% described it as “a legitimate resistance operation that involved heinous or criminal acts” and another “5% said it was an illegitimate operation.”
“The majority of respondents rejected comparisons between Hamas and ISIS made by predominantly Israeli and Western politicians and media personalities,” the report added.
The polls displayed regional frustration towards the U.S. and Western policies towards the war on Gaza. The survey found 94% of the region view the U.S. position negatively, with 82% considering it “very bad.”
“In the same context, 76% 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 U.S,” the Arab Center said.
A total of 81% said the U.S. “is not serious about working to establish a Palestinian state in the 1967 occupied territories” whereas 77% named Washington and Tel Aviv as the region’s biggest threat.
When commenting on the U.S. media coverage of Gaza, 82% of respondents said American media has been biased towards Israel and only 7% perceived it as neutral.