- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 21, 2001

This week, the Middle East exploded in violence again. On Wednesday, radical Palestinians gruesomely assassinated Israeli Minister of Housing Rehavam Zeevi, causing a very understandable retaliation from the Israeli government. This came as the Israeli and Palestinian leadership had been taking tentative steps towards each other as the world was bracing for the fight against terrorism. Though not directly connected with the war on terrorism now being fought in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the assassination is part of the bigger picture.

However, even without the Palestinian-Israeli struggle, the Islamic world would still be a seething cauldron of anti-Americanism. It has become quite fashionable in recent days to attribute the anti-American sentiment that seems so pervasive among the Islamic nations of the Middle East and South Asia to America's failure to explain its policies through public diplomacy. Unfortunately, such an explanation does little to identify the real sources of the profound anti-Americanism in that part of the world; rather, it is just another variation of the "blame-America-first" ideology.

In fact, the United States is routinely pilloried in the government-controlled media throughout the Islamic Middle East because of its special relationship with Israel. Since the collapse of the Camp David peace talks in July 2000, instant historical revisionism, holds the United States responsible for the failure to make progress in the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process." This is patently absurd. The pressure that Bill Clinton placed on then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David produced unilateral Israeli concessions so far-reaching that they were unimaginable before they were offered.

Despite the fact that Iraq has been permitted since the mid-1990s to sell oil in sufficient quantities to enable it to purchase all the food and medicine its civilians need, it is the United States that is blamed by Arab nations and Osama bin Laden for the dreadful plight of Iraqi children, whom Saddam mercilessly uses as pawns. Indeed, the capacity for self-delusion is so entrenched in the Arab world that much of it believes that Israel's intelligence service, the Mossad, was responsible for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Gratitude? Forget it. Fouad Ajami, an Arab-American who grew up in Lebanon as a Muslim and who is now a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, is exceptional for his courage to say what virtually no Arab government will acknowledge. "Where was Islamist gratitude for America's role in preventing Muslims from being slaughtered in Bosnia in 1995 and in Kosovo in 1999?" Mr. Ajami rhetorically asked, the New York Times recently reported. Adding Kuwait to the mix, Mr. Ajami continued, "American power was used three times between 1990 and 2000 to rescue Muslims from ruin, but no Islamist has ever thanked them."

Indeed, so rare is gratitude that the Times deemed it newsworthy when Kuwait's former oil and information minister assailed his government for its "shameful" betrayal of the United States through Kuwait's "hesitant and timid" support for America's war on terrorism. Indicative of Kuwait's lack of gratitude for America's Mideast peacemaking role at Camp David were the comments of Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Sabah in the wake of the June suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv disco that killed 22 young Israelis. "The Palestinian suicide bombing was legitimate," Sheik Sabah asserted, explaining, "This is a struggle, and struggle is legitimate." Just another misunderstanding between "friends" that can be resolved by public diplomacy? Not likely.

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