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Cablegate: Internet Showing Grassroots Dissention About

VZCZCXRO9803
PP RUEHDE
DE RUEHJI #0478/01 1961435
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 151435Z JUL 06
FM AMCONSUL JEDDAH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9341
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1474
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1552
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 6669
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 JEDDAH 000478

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

RIYADH, PLEASE PASS TO DHARAN; DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP AND
AMBASSADOR JOHN HANFORD; LONDON FOR TSOU; PARIS FOR ZEYA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/15/2031
TAGS: KISL PGOV PINR PREL SA SOCI
SUBJECT: INTERNET SHOWING GRASSROOTS DISSENTION ABOUT
OFFICIAL SAUDI POSITION ON LEBANON

Classified By: Consul General Tatiana Gfoeller for reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Public opinion is divided regarding the
July 14 Saudi Press Agency statement on the situation in
Lebanon. While local newspapers have reported the government
line, websites show a wide variety of opinions that both
support and attack the position. Those who support the
statement generally are opposed to Hizballah and have praised
the Saudi government's stand, while those who hold stronger
anti-Israeli views have labeled it as being "cowardly" and
"weak." Initial press reports show that Saudi clerics seem
to have avoided the issue during their weekly Friday sermons.
ConGenOffs will be following up with religious scholars in
Jeddah to further assess the views of the religious
community. END SUMMARY.

THE INTERNET

2. (SBU) Although Saudi Arabian press has remained in step
with the July 14 official Saudi Press Agency statement
regarding the situation between Israel and Lebanon,
grassroots reactions are showing broad differences of
opinion. Several websites in the Kingdom, including the
fundamentalist "Al Saha" and more moderate "AlQuma" pages,
have become outlets for a wide range of opinions, many of
whom conflict with the official Saudi position. Hits on
those websites have sky-rocketed, according to counters
listed on the webpages, with more than 22000 hits on Al Saha
in the first 24 hours after the release of the statement.

3. (U) Grassroots anger toward the government has been
fueled by what many are calling a surprisingly weak
government position vis a vis Israel and Lebanon. The
official statement, which opponents claim contradicts itself,
begins by noting that the Kingdom supports "the right of
people under occupation to fight this occupation in all its
forms" and maintains support for "legitimate Palestinian
resistance which aims at resisting military occupation and
avoiding harming the innocent." However, in later sections,
the official missive said that with respect to "the bloody,
painful events currently taking place in Palestine and
Lebanon, the Kingdom would like to clearly announce that a
difference should be drawn between legitimate resistance and
miscalculated adventures carried out by elements inside the
state and those behind them without consulatation with the
legimate authority in their state and without consultation or
coordination with Arab countries, thus creating a gravely
dangerous situation exposing all Arab countries and their
achievements to destruction with those countries having no
say."

4. (U) The website posters who support the government's
statement have voiced strong anti-Hizballah views, praising
the Saudi government and noting that "Hizballah made a
mistake and Lebanon is paying for it." Others seem to be
using self-preservation and anti-Shia views as the basis for
their opinions. For example, according to one anonymous
writer, "we should concentrate on our own welfare and
well-being;" adding that the government has finally "learned
from our old mistakes and (is) aiming for the future."
Another poster criticized Hizballah saying it "was planted by
the Iranian revolution" and "If we don't stop them now, they
will spread all over our region."

5. (U) Much stronger views have emerged from those who see
poor leadership at the root of the Kingdom's official
position. Many posters have described the government
statement as "cowardly" and "weak", with one writer even
calling it a "scandal on all aspects" and daring to suggestthat "we should prosecute whoever was in charge of ssuing
this statement at this critical time." Aother annymous
poster added that "the statementclearly indicates how weak
our leaders are. Ourleaders are obviously following
instructions fro the West."

6. (U) Some website postings have addressed what they view
as inappropriate changes in Saudi Arabia's foreign policy.
For instance, one writer claimed that the statement used "new
language" to address regional connections and claimed that
because "it came out so quickly and prematurely condemned
Hizballah more than the Israelis" the statement was really

JEDDAH 00000478 002 OF 002

"more of an American position supporting Jews than an Arabic
position."

CLERICS

7. (C) As an interesting counterpoint to the internet
activity, Saudi clerics seem to have avoided discussing their
political views regarding the Lebanon crisis during this
week's Friday mosque sermons. Initial press reports of the
sermons from clerics in Mecca and Medina reflect no mention
of the hostilities in Lebanon or of Israel. That omission
has also been a target for internet posters, who have
criticized the religious community for overlooking such an
important issue. NOTE: ConGenOffs plan to meet with several
religious scholars in Jeddah during the next few days and
will report on their views, as available. END NOTE.

8. (C) COMMENT: Although internet criticism is not uncommon
in Saudi Arabia because of the anonymity it offers, these
postings are examples of the continuing divide between the
government and the views of the general Saudi populace. END
COMMENT.
Gfoeller

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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