- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2006

U.S. officials expressed concern yesterday about a new rise of anti-American sentiment in the Arab world over U.S. support for Israel, particularly after the deadly Qana attack, and said they would try to calm the anger by pushing for a speedy U.N. resolution this week.

Meanwhile, diplomats and analysts said that the number of civilian casualties of Israeli bombardment and Washington’s reluctance to criticize its ally have put new pressure on friendly Arab governments but are not likely to affect their relations with the United States.

“The world’s perception right now is that we’d do anything to support Israel and go to any lengths to protect it,” one U.S. official said. “There is a sense that not only are U.S.-supplied weapons killing Arab children, but that we are co-conspirators.”

A European diplomat said people in the region feel that the United States has a double standard and does not appear to be concerned about Arab civilians as much as for Israelis.

Both the U.S. official and the European diplomat said they did not agree with those sentiments.

American, European and Arab diplomats pointed to the television images of dead Lebanese children and the newspaper headlines in the Middle East in the past two days, which placed some of the blame for the Qana incident on the United States.

“Israel’s murderous bloody attack [Sunday], using U.S.-supplied laser-guided missiles, represents a new low in subhuman depravity,” the usually moderate Arab News wrote yesterday in an editorial.

In addition, diplomats and analysts said, it did not help that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem at the time of the strike on the Qana building that turned out to be housing mostly women and children. Fifty-six were killed.

In the attack’s aftermath, along with the images of carnage and grief, TV stations around the world were showing pictures of Miss Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert smiling as they sat down for dinner on Saturday, the night before the incident.

The Arab press also criticized Miss Rice for calling for an investigation into the incident instead of condemning it. She also was admonished for failing to demand an immediate cease-fire and for condoning Israel’s military response to Hezbollah’s July 12 attack, which the United Nations and the European Union have labeled “disproportionate.”

On Sunday, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of Iraq condemned the “Israeli aggression” and warned that “Islamic nations will not forgive the entities that hinder a cease-fire” — a clear reference to the United States.

“Oftentimes, sticking by principle and operating on the basis of principle in policy will buy you some criticism. We understand that,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. “People should not, however, mistake that for the United States not caring about the loss of innocent life.”

Haim Malka, Middle East fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the anti-Hezbollah sentiment expressed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia after the July 12 attack has been “wasted” by the many civilian casualties in Lebanon.

“Many Arab regimes want to see Hezbollah defeated militarily, and if Israel can do the dirty work, all the better,” he said. “But as long as there are civilian casualties, it’ll be difficult for those countries to support Israel and criticize Hezbollah.”

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