Blogging for Sovereignty: An Analysis of Palestinian Blogs

Blogging for Sovereignty: An Analysis of Palestinian Blogs

Justin D. Martin (The University of Maine, USA) and Sherine El-Toukhy (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-744-9.ch009
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Blogs addressing political issues are often viewed as highly polarized online discussion spaces. To test the universality of this assumption, the authors evaluated 127 Palestinian blogs written in both Arabic and English languages. Blogs authored by Palestinians living in the Palestinian Territories and the State of Israel, members of the Palestinian Diaspora, and Palestinian advocates of other nationalities were analyzed in terms of the prevalence of political content, perceptions of the State of Israel, and differences in content due to language, nationality, and geographical location. Results of the analysis indicate that blogs in the sample were primarily political and that most blogs were critical of the State of Israel and its policies. The tone of discourse regarding the State of Israel, however, was not as reflexively visceral as one might have anticipated, particularly among blogs written in English and those authored by Palestinian advocates.
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Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa including Palestinian Authority are lagging behind the rest of the world, having only a 29.8% Internet penetration rate compared to other regions (Internet World Statistics, 2009). Despite that, the International Telecommunications Union quotes an impressive number of 64 million Arab netizens that surfed the Internet as of 2009 (International Telecommunications Union, 2010). The distribution of Internet users varies greatly within the Arab nations. Bahrain, for example, has the Internet penetration rate of 88% whereas Libya has only 5.5% (Internet World Statistics, 2009). The comparatively late adoption of new communication technologies and the fluctuation of penetration rates among Arab countries can be traced back to a host of reasons including Internet connection costs, a high adult illiteracy rate, the dominance of English language on the early World Wide Web, and a reluctance to loosen state controls over the flow of information (Hofheinz, 2007; Warf & Vincent, 2007). This explains why blogging is a relatively novel phenomenon for the Arabic Internet.

Abdallah Al-Miheiri, a blogger from Abu Dhabi, is credited with the Arabic translation of the word blog, “al-mudawwana” (Hofheinz, 2005). Arabic Network for Human Rights Information counted near 40,000 Arabic blogs (as cited in Hamdy, 2009). A more detailed tally identified close to 45,000 Arabic-language blogs and blogs with mixed use of Arabic, English and French (Etling, Kelly, Faris, & Palfrey, 2009).

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