Palestinians: Saudi Arabia behind anti-Palestinian smear campaign

 
FIFA World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup Qualifier - Palestine v Saudi Arabia - Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium, Al-Ram, West Bank - October 15, 2019 Pictures depicting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Saudi King Salman and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
FIFA World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup Qualifier - Palestine v Saudi Arabia - Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium, Al-Ram, West Bank - October 15, 2019 Pictures depicting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Saudi King Salman and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

Is Saudi Arabia behind a defamation campaign waged against Palestinians on various social media platforms?

Some Palestinians are convinced that the oil-rich Saudi Arabia is responsible for a hashtag that has recently been trending on Twitter titled, “Palestine is not my cause.” Others believe that some Israelis may also be involved with the anti-Palestinian smear campaign.
Recently, similar anti-Palestinian accounts and posts have also popped up on Facebook.
"There's no doubt that several people from Saudi Arabia are behind this campaign," said a Palestinian political analyst in Ramallah. "It's also obvious they are receiving help from Israeli activists."
Palestinians also believe that many of the offensive posts published under the hashtag do not belong to real people, but are Internet bots (also known as web robots) –  software applications that run automated and repetitive tasks over the Internet.
Several anti-Palestinian posts, however, do seem to belong to real people, particularly from Saudi Arabia.
The anti-Palestinian posts also target Qatar, which has been accused by Saudi Arabia of embracing various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. In 2017, Saudi Arabia officially cut ties with Qatar and banned the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television network from operating in the kingdom.
To “disgrace” Qatar, several Arab social media users posted photos of meetings between Qatari and Israeli officials. Those behind the posts used, as profile photos, images of Saudi monarchs and the current crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
The posts depict the Qataris as “traitors” for engaging in “normalization activities with the Zionist enemy.” The attacks on Qatar are seen by Arabs as proof that Saudis are behind the defamation campaign, which primarily targets the Palestinians.
The “Palestine is not my cause” hashtag accuses Palestinians of being untrustworthy, ungrateful, full of hatred, engaging in incitement against Saudi Arabia, and “selling” their land to Jews.
One post, by Abu Faisal, states: “Palestine is a cause for trade and livelihood. They [the Palestinians] sold their land to the Jews and got paid for that.”
A post by Fahed al-Jubairi includes a cartoon depicting a Palestinian mother bottle-feeding her baby. The bottle carries the label: “Hatred and Treachery.”
Using the same hashtag, Mohammed al-Dabian claimed that former PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat had pleaded with the late Saudi monarch, King Fahd bin Abdel Aziz, to forgive him for supporting Saddam Hussein in his 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The PLO’s support for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait strained relations between the Palestinians and most of the Gulf states back then.
An anonymous post with the photo of an unidentified woman addresses the Palestinians: “Sorry, but you guys brought it upon yourselves. We have sympathized with you emotionally and financially, but all we got is wishes for our countries’ destruction. You are very ungrateful!”
Palestinians and their supporters have responded to the defamation campaign by launching another hashtag titled, “Palestine is my cause.”
The counter-campaign accuses Saudi Arabia and Israel of being behind the anti-Palestinian hashtag and claims that the Saudi royal family had “sold Palestine to the Jews.”
Some of the posts denounced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a “Zionist,” on the pretext that he supports “normalization” with Israel. The posts also took Salman and other Arab leaders to task for allegedly supporting US President Donald trump’s recently unveiled plan for Middle East peace, also known as the “Deal of the Century.”
Palestinian leaders have rejected the Trump plan on the grounds that it aims to “eliminate” the Palestinian cause.
In recent years, many Palestinians have expressed concern over the apparent warming up of relations between Israel and some Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials maintain that normalization between Israel and the Arab countries should take place only after the Israeli-Palestinian issue is resolved.
The online altercation came amid mounting tensions between Saudi Arabia and Hamas over the arrest of dozens of Palestinians and Jordanians living in the kingdom on “terrorism” charges.
The PA leadership, for its part, has refrained from criticizing Saudi Arabia, insisting that relations between the two parties remain as strong as ever.
According to Human Rights Watch, Saudi authorities arrested in March 2018 some 68 Palestinians and Jordanians because of their links with an unnamed “terrorist organization.” Some of the detainees are known for their affiliation with Hamas.
Last month, the defendants appeared in the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, where they were charged with “belonging to” and “supporting” a “terrorist organization.” Hamas has repeatedly criticized the crackdown on its supporters and called upon the Saudi authorities to immediately release all the detainees.

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