Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Perceptions of U.S. in the Arab World

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Perceptions of U.S. in the Arab World

Article excerpt

An ADC Saturday morning panel on "Perceptions of the U.S. in the Arab World" examined America's image among Arabs and the reasons it recently has been the target of criticism among many in the Middle Bast.

Producer Saul Landau, whose 2002 film "Iraq: Voices from the Streets" featured candid interviews with Iraqis about the then- impending U.S.-led war, suggested that many in the Arab world "hate" the U.S. because of a perception that America displays an "I'm better than you" arrogance. "In less than three and a half years," Landau said, "Bush has gotten the rest of the world to hate us with a passion."

In relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict, he explained, Bush has caused damage to America's image by referring to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a "man of peace." "If I were Sharon's lawyer, I would have sued [Bush] for slander," Landau joked.

While conducting interviews for his latest film, "Syria: Between Iraq and a Hard Place," Landau learned that many Syrians see the U.S. employing a double standard when it comes to enforcing United Nations resolutions. They asked him why the U.S. "disrespected" the U.N. when it came to its numerous resolutions condemning Israel, Landau said, "yet it was so determined to enforce U.N. resolutions in Iraq."

There is a general cynicism about the U.S. in the Arab world, Landau revealed, apparent in widespread conspiracy theories, such as one about the CIA's and Israel's joint responsibilitv for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

There is also a sentiment that America "has no respect for Arab culture," according to Landau. For the most part, however, the main cause of resentment is Washington's support for Israel-which, Landau concluded, could be expressed in a simple bumper sticker slogan: "It's the Occupation, Stupid."

Following Landau's remarks, which included witty comments that frequently drew laughter from the audience, Ambassador Patrick Theros of the U.S.-Qatar Business Council provided an historical overview of Arab perception of America. Theros explained that, 90 years ago, during the Versailles Conference, a Syrian delegation to the historic meeting petitioned the League of Nations for the U.S. to take control of mandate Syria. Now, the ambassador noted, the Bush administration has "changed that perception to fear, contempt, and hostility."

Calling U.S. foreign policy "disjointed," Theros said it "reflects domestic, not international interests of the U. …

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