Outrage was already widespread across the Arab world over the Israeli assault on Gaza when the bombing of al-Ahli Arab Hospital, which killed more than 500 people, tipped the anger over into new territory.
Protesters took to the streets to declare that enough was enough with the West and its dogged support of Israel that rendered it incapable of acknowledging the inhuman violence being meted out to Gaza around the clock and going back years.
In Tunis and different other capitals across the Arab world, crowds confronted tear gas and water cannon as they protested against what Tunisians called the “allies of Zionists”.
As popular anger took hold, crowds in the streets voiced their rejection of Western foreign policy especially coming from France and the US and its attempts to project its influence – or soft power.
Thousands of Tunisians gathered outside the French embassy in the capital, Tunis, last week on Saturday in support of the Palestinians and demanding the departure of the Ambassador. The anti-France sentiment seems at its highest.
Many Tunisians criticise Paris for supporting Israel in its war with Hamas armed resistance group.
Western soft power in the region comes in different forms, all intended to predispose people to the West through cultural centres, funding civil society, educational outreach, hosting events, and encouraging consumption of cultural products from the Western country.
Is France and the West on their way out?
Within Tunisia, as within much of MENA, Western influence is receiving pushback. In Tunisia, multiple organizations have severed ties with the West the past week. IWatch and at least three more Tunisian NGOs organizations are boycotting their western funders because of the horrifying double standards in the way the West deals with different countries and their position on Palestine.
Elsewhere in the North African country, a proposed law, limiting NGOs’ freedom to act independently, is receiving new impetus as the perception takes hold across society that many of the country’s local NGOs are in fact Trojan Horses for Western influence and double standards, an analyst said.
“I think it’s going to be very hard for the West to recover from this,” Tunisian essayist and commentator Hatem Nafti said.
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