Social media have become one of the main platform where people can connect and express their opinions freely, both publicly and privately, via what is known as “direct messages,” and this dramatically contributed to changing people’s mutual perceptions and prejudices. One of the latest examples that made headlines was the collaboration between the Israeli IDF veteran and singer Yair Levi and the Lebanese singer Karin Basili, who published last February a duet performing a prayer song composed by Levi. In a live stream on Instagram, which Basili titled “It’s time to come together and raise our voices louder than ever before for Lebanon and for peace,” she recounted that her connection with Levi started after she found his song on social media: “I sent him a direct message and asked him to translate the song into Arabic,” she recalls, “later we heard about the peace agreement between Israel the U.A.E. and Bahrain, then Sudan and Morocco and knew that I was going in the right direction to connect people with each other through singing.” Basili knew that she would get harsh reactions from the Lebanese side; nevertheless, she decided to persevere in this direction, declaring on an interview for the Alhurra TV channel that she will not return to Lebanon, from the U.S. where she resides, since it’s a crime in Lebanon to connect and do business with Israelis.
A survey that was made in Lebanon to check public attitude toward the negotiations between Israel and Lebanon and the peace agreements between the U.A.E. and Israel, which was published on the “Washington Institute” in December 2020, showed that “two-thirds of Sunnis (70%) and Christians (67%) agree that those talks are ‘a positive development;’ half (51%) of Shia agree, with a mere 19% of all Lebanese expressing ‘strong’ disagreement.” Moreover, “two-thirds of Christians and three-quarters or more of both Sunnis and Shia label the peace deals as at least ‘somewhat’ negative.”
Radical changes have already occurred in the Lebanese public opinion in favor of some sort of agreement with Israel. Social media platforms have their own ways to show positive reactions for Israeli gestures toward Lebanon, such as: the lighting of Tel Aviv city hall with the Lebanese flag; Israel’s offer for aid to Lebanon after the Beirut explosion; and the will of the Lebanese people to make connections and collaborations on a personal level with Israelis, such as Basili.
Following the latest round of fights between Israel and Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza, Israel launched “Operation Guardian of the Walls” on 10 May 2021, after Hamas started shooting rockets towards Israel. News hit all over the world and did not skip Lebanon as well. The Lebanese Singer Elissa published an Arab supporting Tweet, following these events on 12 May, “It is true that this year Eid al-Fitr falls on the blood of precious martyrs in the Holy Land, but we wish and pray that martyrdom blossoms in love and hope for the peace of our Arab countries…” On the other Hand, the Lebanese reporter and news anchor for Skynews in Arabic, Nadim Koteich, published a video op-ed on 20 May 2021 titled “The fraction of Peace or the fraction of the weapons?” arguing that “The area [Middle East] is between two centers, center of a constant War or a center of constant peace, between the center of weapons and the center of peace. Israel is not Netanyahu, and the Palestinians aren’t Hamas, adding to this [equation] the new language in The United States… and this Language is an opportunity to the U.S.A and the Center of Peace to all leave Gaza [Lebanon as well], for a final initiative for peace.”
Moreover, Claudine Aoun-Roukoz kept silent during the recent events. Likewise, the Lebanese president General Michel Aoun’s Twitter account was not active on this subject. This might hint to the will of keeping Lebanon out of this international issue, since the country is still negotiating with Israel to settle their disputed maritime borders.
Meanwhile Israeli-Lebanese negotiations are still on track after 5 meetings that where held at the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) in South Lebanon’s Naqoura region.
Undoubtedly, the Abraham Accords substantially supported the Arab public opinion toward Israel, including the Lebanese audience. This is reflected also in the social media, with people increasingly demonstrating courage in expressing their positive attitudes toward Israel. While in the U.A.E. and Bahrain the normalization with Israel was a top-down decision, the changing public opinion in Lebanon and the growing calls for normalization with Israel hopefully will lead to a bottom-up transformation at the political level.
Jonathan Nizar Elkhoury, of Lebanese origin, is an Israeli commentator and speaker on Israeli-Arab relations and Arab LGBT affairs.
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 “Lebanese Singer Elissa: I Support Peace With Any Country; Israel Being Our Enemy Is ‘The Biggest Lie We Have Been Living,’” MEMRI TV, 12 November 2020.
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