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Hizbullah winning over Arab street

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"These events put pressure on Arab governments to take action, and they haven't," says Nadia Hijab, a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington. "Shouldn't they be recalling their ambassadors? That's what the people on the street would be thinking."

That gap, fed by support for Palestinians, hatred of Israel, and anger at its close alliance with America, is already being exploited by the region's Islamist movements, turning TV images of dead civilians into political opposition to their own regimes. In particular, the peace deals signed by Egypt and Jordan with Israel make these governments less popular with their people.

"The Arab leaders are traitors who work for the Americans and the Israelis.... [Hizbullah leader] Hassan Nasrallah represents Arab and Islamic dignity," says Ahmed, an Egyptian mechanic who asked that his full name not be used.

"The regime claimed that peace with Israel would create prosperity and jobs. But we have been at peace for over 20 years and have not seen any prosperity. We can't watch our Palestinian and Lebanese and Iraqi brothers be slaughtered every day and do nothing."

In Saudi, too, the regime's position isn't shared by its public. "I don't think the Saudi government's statement is in tune with how most Saudis feel about the Lebanese situation," says Bassem Alim, an activist lawyer based in Jeddah, and frequent government critic.

"The way they said it was extremely damaging to their reputation in the Islamic world."

Anger at Saudi Arabia's close relationship with the US, and by association Israel, has long generated support for Al Qaeda among many Saudis, so the government has taken a risk by speaking in a manner that jihadists view as supporting Israel.

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