"You have to understand that the bullets that are fired at us,
the missiles fired at our homes, and the Apache helicopters that
the Israelis use - we know that all these things come from the US,
and they are killing Palestinians," says Hani Jubah, a burly street
merchant in East Jerusalem.
His stall is around the corner from where some Palestinians
celebrated Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon. These outbursts have created a public-relations pitfall
for the Palestinian cause, but they also highlight what may be the
central motivation for the attacks: US policy in the Middle East.
The Middle Eastern origins of the attacks remain a matter of
speculation, but US officials have identified Saudi militant Osama
bin Laden as their main suspect. Authorities in Boston have
identified five Arab men as suspects, and have seized a car at
Logan Airport containing Arabic-language flight manuals, according
to a report in yesterday's Boston Herald.
At the same time, regional leaders from Palestinian Authority
President Yasser Arafat to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi have
condemned the attacks and sympathized with the victims.
Many Muslims and Arabs have been alarmed by Mr. bin Laden's
emergence as a suspect. Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the leading
cleric of the majority Sunni sect of Islam, yesterday added his
voice to a chorus of outrage. "Islam is a religion which rejects
violence and bloodletting," he said in a statement reported by the
Egyptian state-run news agency.
But analysts of the Middle East say it is likely that bin Laden
acted in concert with other groups and perhaps with the
acquiescence of one or more governments. If this scenario proves
true, they envision a multitiered US retaliation that would target
several entities across the region.
If the attacks on New York and Washington are indeed a reaction
to US policy in the Middle East, the next phase of the crisis may
presage a widening conflict between the West and the adherents of
Critics of the idea of a "clash of civilizations" are reluctant
to concede that such an era is upon us. Nonetheless, says Middle
East scholar Rosemary Hollis, "the likelihood has increased over
the past 24 hours." Abdel Monem Said, director of Egypt's Al-Ahram
Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says the attacks and
their aftermath will add "to the existing tension between Islamic
countries and the West in general."
Ms. Hollis, of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in
London, says she never bought the theory, advanced in the late
1990s by Harvard University political scientist Samuel Huntington,
that global conflicts would arise between different cultures. "Now,
I think it has elements of a self-fulfilling prophecy," she says.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, British Prime Minister Tony
Blair, and other leaders have contributed to the impression that
the New York and Washington events constitute "an attack on
civilization," as former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark told the
In this atmosphere it may be difficult for Americans to consider
how their foreign policies may have engendered the sort of malice
required to kill thousands of civilians in the space of a few
hours, but many people in the Middle East are begging them to do