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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arabs Lay Blame on U.S. Policies

DAMASCUS, Syria -- A morgue assistant pulling out drawers holding the mutilated corpses of Palestinians killed in clashes with Israelis. Doctors pummeling the chest of a dead Palestinian in a desperate attempt to revive him. The body of a tiny infant, swathed in bloodied blankets, held up by a grieving parent.

These raw images -- aired almost daily on Arab television since the Palestinian-Israeli clashes erupted a year ago -- haven't lost the power to touch the hearts of Arab viewers.

Indeed, they have fed a great buildup of Arab anger -- not only against Israel but also against the United States, its chief ally, already resented throughout the Middle East for imposing 11 years of sanctions and launching repeated airstrikes on Iraq.

Many also see the invasion of American culture as an assault on the Arab way of life, from Hollywood movies sneaking in by satellite to women demanding greater rights.

That anger has left many Arabs grappling with conflicting emotions over the Sept. 11 suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

On the one hand, they denounce the attacks as a massacre that Islam shuns. But on the other hand, many wonder whether the United States deserves sympathy when, they argue, it has alternated between playing the role of supporter of Israel and of mere spectator in the yearlong Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"We feel outraged by what happened in the United States, but we want the world to feel the same for the daily Israeli killings of Palestinians, the demolishing of houses and the humiliation of the people," said Wafa Mohammed, a shop owner in Jordan.

"If the United States had sympathized with the Arabs, the destruction that took place in the United States wouldn't have happened," said Mohammed Tohami, a 22-year-old Egyptian frame maker.

"There's a feeling among Arabs that the United States is totally responsible for what's happening in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," said Imad Shueibi, a Syrian political analyst.

Taking such resentment into account, most Arab governments, including key U.S. allies, have been careful about giving the United States the Arab and Islamic cover it needs for its war against terrorism.

U.S. President George W. Bush, who has threatened to punish Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia for harboring suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, is assembling U.S. forces in the Gulf region for a retaliatory strike.

Arab leaders urged the United States -- which so far has offered little public proof of bin Laden's involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks -- against hasty military action before the culprits are identified without a shred of doubt.

"What I don't stop telling the United States is: Don't rush into it. Wait until your investigation is completed," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the French Le Figaro newspaper in an interview published Saturday.

Mubarak offered Egypt's cooperation in hunting down the assassins, calling for an anti-terrorism coalition under UN auspices. But he warned that any U.S. retaliation resulting in the deaths of innocent people would fuel greater hatred of the United States and any allies who participate in the coalition.

Syrian President Bashar Assad and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh also said the best way to fight terrorism is through an international effort under the auspices of the UN Security Council.

United Arab Emirates President Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has told Bush that the Emirates is ready to cooperate to fight terrorism.

But at the same time, he said, the United States and the international community must examine all forms of terrorism -- and "must stop the Israeli terrorist attacks in occupied Palestinian lands."

Adding to the pressure on the mostly secular Arab governments are fatwas, or religious edicts, issued by Moslem clergymen warning the governments against joining the anti-terrorism coalition.

Al-Azhar Ulama Front, a group of hard-line Moslem clerics in Egypt, said in a fatwa issued Friday that Arab and Moslem countries should be alert to the "Jewish, Zionist" scheme that is being created in the name of fighting terrorism "and that has been prepared to attack national and Islamic forces in different countries."

Such words have struck a chord among many Moslems, who believe the U.S. campaign is really a war on their religion.

"The infidel and evil U.S. military buildup in the region is an attempt not to target one person only or a specific Islamic or Arab country, but in fact, it is a crusade targeting our religion," Bakir Abdul-Razak, an Iraqi preacher, said in his Friday sermon.

"We say, 'No,' to those who have gathered their forces to fight the [Moslem] nations," he added. "By God's will, the Americans will not have the upper hand."