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ABOUT
A Gannett News Service special report Posted July 14, 2002

 

 

 

 

 

RELATED STORIES
U.S. battling image as arrogant superpower

Strength of culture makes U.S. loved, hated on the Arab Street

INTERACTIVE MAP:
U.S. relations with the world

CONTINUE ON TO: PART 2

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Perception of U.S. and its policies lend to combustible environment


CAIRO, Egypt — On my first full day in Cairo, around the time American and Israeli flags burned in unison, I heard the dull thud of a policeman's fist slam into the face of an arrested protester named Ibrahim.

Three hundred Arab protesters were surrounded by an equal number of Egyptian police dressed in black riot gear. An escalating rumble of dissent was aimed directly at President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

And there were shouts to free Ibrahim, who soon reappeared with a red welt on his face but whose fists nonetheless shot into the air victoriously. He immediately resumed the chorus against Bush and Sharon, then added a verse to include Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is ridiculed as a pet of the West.

The mad chaos of it all was at first intimidating. Yet standing in this bullring of Arab rage and speaking to the people face to face, the angriest rhetoric was somehow diffused, scattered like buckshot, I suspect, by the vastness of its targets — the governments of Israel and America. I was asked in pleading tones, "Please put facts to words."

This was the same day that Fathi Arafat, the brother of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, bore into me with an exasperated stare.
“Is America controlling Israel, or is Israel controlling America?" he asked. "Believe me, this is a big question."

Even America's staunchest defenders in Egypt — a moderate Arab nation that has received about $50 billion in U.S. tax dollars since 1975 — scratch their heads. How does Israel warrant America's unabashed loyalty? Why is America willing to share in the assaults directed at Israel?

Sitting in the shade of a Tut tree on the outskirts of Cairo, about a mile from Egypt's largest pyramids, the Muslim wife of a peasant farmer believed it makes perfect sense that America backs Israel and vice versa.

"You come from the same clan," Sabah Sayed Ali said in Arabic. Her tone was neither warm nor hostile, but certain and matter-of-fact.
Few Egyptians seem to know, or care, that Bush is Methodist or that only 1.3 percent of the U.S. adult population is Jewish.

Egyptian intellectuals are far more likely to quote numbers such as the $41.3 million that the pro-Israel lobby has given since 1989 to U.S. federal candidates and political parties and the relatively paltry $297,000 given by Arab or Muslim lobbyists.

Or to quote our politicians — 36 members of Congress are Jewish; none are Muslim — who adopted a resolution of bipartisan support for Israel in May.

Or to quote the Southern Baptist leader who declared in June that the prophet Muhammed was a "demon-possessed pedophile."
Or to quote our president, who called Sharon a "man of peace."

RELATED STORIES
U.S. battling image as arrogant superpower

Strength of culture makes U.S. loved, hated on the Arab Street

INTERACTIVE MAP:
U.S. relations with the world

CONTINUE ON TO: PART 2

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©2002, Gannett News Service

 

 


An Egyptian man who would only identify himself as
Ibrahim waves his fists in
the air as he expresses his dissent at President Bush
and Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon, during an
anti-American demonstration
in Cairo, Egypt, in May.


More than 300 Egyptian riot police formed a ring around
a like number of protesters
during an anti-American protest in Cairo, Egypt, in
May. Several hundred more officers remained at the
ready in police trucks and buses.


“Is America
controlling Israel,
or is Israel controlling America? Believe
me, this is a big question."

Fathi Arafat,
brother of Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat

 

Gannett News Service
photos by Heather Martin
Morrissey