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Insight into post Arab Spring

By: Jamal Kanj*

March 26, 2012

The results of a 2011 polling study conducted by the Arab Center for Research & Policy Studies in Doha offer a great insight into post Arab Spring.

Covering 12 Arab countries, the Center interviewed 16,173 citizens, with margin of error plus or minus 3.5 %. The broad survey stretched from Western Asia (Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq,) to al Sham area (Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan) traversing to most of the North African Arab countries.

The polled citizens demonstrated profound understanding of the underlining cause leading to the Arab Spring. It further revealed that democratic values were not alien notion to mainstream Arab citizens as 81 % clearly articulated the requisites for successful democracy.

A majority of the surveyed emphasized on the political aspect defining democracy as civil freedom, pluralism, egalitarianism and rotational elected government. Even with its potential pitfalls, more than two thirds of the respondents deemed democracy to be an ideal form of government, while 15 % rejected it.

Another revealing insight: while most Arabs consider themselves moderates to very religious, 71 % felt that religion had no bearing on whom they associate with socially, economically or politically. Two thirds majority rejected the interference of the clergy in politics or election.

On their views of government, a whopping 83 % felt corruption was very rampant in their countries. In clear disconnect, less than 50 % were satisfied with their governments, and even less percentage approved of their legislatures’ performance. Only one third approved of the performance of their governments’ foreign policies.

On questions related to Arab identity and national security, the results were overwhelmingly in unison.  For a large margin, 71 % believed that Arabs have shared collective identity, while 17 % disagreed.

The collective identity hypothesis was corroborated as the vast majority of the respondents, 81 % were able to recognize the same common challenges facing the Arab world.

A large sample, 84 % opined that the problem of Palestine is a shared cause for all Arabs, not just for the Palestinians. Reflecting on Arab resentment towards US support for Israel, 73 % lumped US with Israel as a major threat to regional security.  While only 5 % felt Iran was a threat.

Regarding nuclear weapons, 55 % supported a Middle East nuclear free zone. The same percentage believed nuclear Israel justifies for other nations to seek similar technology.

In summary, the Doha polls reaffirmed two important facts: First, it refuted much of the American [Israeli] Think Tanks’ disingenuous assertions that the conflict with Israel was not a collective Arab issue, but rather limited to Palestinians and other small number of Arab antagonists.

Second, it showed that the Arab Spring has finally flung the clad of fear and intimidation while revealing serious disconnect between the perception of Arab populous and their leaders. Especially, when dealing with perceived outside threats and lack of internal justice.

Internationally, the US has much convincing for the two thirds of Arabs who support democracy but can’t decipher daylight between Israel’s villainous policies and the US image in this region.

As governments will become more attuned to the sentiments of their voters, the US must decide whether its national interest lay in their relation with new Arab democracies, or else continue to surrender its values- “blackwhite”- to its most powerful parochial foreign lobby.
 
 *Jamal Kanj writes frequently on Arab World issues and the author of “Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America”, Garnet Publishing, UK. Jamal’s articles can be read at www.jamalkanj.com, his email address is jkanj@yahoo.com