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Commentary: Anti-American Sentiment in Egypt

By Ray Bissonette

Buffalo, NY – Having just returned from teaching in Egypt I have been reflecting on the mid east crisis and the contrast between what I thought I knew a couple months ago and the same set of facts seen through the eyes of Arab students, colleagues, acquaintances, their media, as well as many of the resident westerners. My brief but enlightening immersion in this vast and ancient belief system yielded my laundry list of their articles of faith. What I list below are views of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that appeared universally expressed or accepted by everyone I met, heard, or read wherever I went in that world, an Arab country often scorned for being soft on Israel. For me the lesson is less in the specific beliefs than in their existence and prevalence. The virulence, hatred, and threat they represent are matched only by our blissful and perilous ignorance of them. For that we have already suffered and will again.

The righteous indignation of the United States toward Osama Bin Laden has a cynical ring given the fact that we created him.

The Jewish control of the U.S. media fuels anti-Palestinian sentiment despite pro forma gestures of balance.

The Jewish lobby, well organized and funded, accounts for the deeply biased pro-Israel American policy.

The Holocaust has become a weapon to intimidate any with the temerity to question Israel's victim status.

Americans are fed an image of a vulnerable Israel standing alone amid hostile Arab nations but never reminded that it's a client state with overwhelming military power made possible by $8,000,000 a day from American taxpayers.

The United States and Israel are two sides of one coin. A popular cartoon depicting this belief shows Bush and Sharon in bed together wrapped in an American flag.

The post 9/11 film clips of Arabs celebrating were rigged. (In fairness, many will admit there were celebrations but believe the clips we saw were fabricated by pro-Israeli interests to fuel anti-Arab sentiment).

The recent media attention to pedophilia among Catholic clergy in the United States was timed and orchestrated to deflect public attention from the suffering and death of Palestinian children inflicted by the Israeli military.

President Bush's characterization of Ariel Sharon as a man of peace is either laughable or outrageous depending on its attribution to ignorance or deceit.

The U.S. could stop the war by using its power and influence but continues to blame Arafat who has neither.

Bush's insistence on Arafat's removal from leadership is a hypocritical contradiction of democratic principles. When he fails to serve our interests his election in a legitimate democratic process we endorsed is ignored.

America, the planetary symbol of the good life and democratic ideals, is allied with and principal sponsor of a country whose leader is routinely called a butcher.

And if this is not sufficient, you can spend your twelve-hour return flight reading the July issue of Egypt Air magazine containing a scholarly article that refutes the historical justification for a Jewish homeland.

This is my keyhole on the worldview prevalent in Egypt, a moderate among mid east countries. My experience is anecdotal, falling short of the standards of a scientific survey. But is it less valid than the so-called focus groups we are fond of using as proxies for public opinion and even the basis for public policy? And on the subject of proxies, what of the fact that a song called I hate Israel was one of Egypt's biggest musical hits this year? Sure, I may have been deluded by a radical minority and thus report a totally distorted picture of the prospects for peace in the Middle East. I'd like to think so, but I don't for a minute.

Commentator Ray Bissonette is an associate professor emeritus at the University at Buffalo.