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The Jeffrey Group

Nov. 1, 2002
‘ANTI-AMERICANISM'
IS ON THE RISE
IN THE MIDDLE EAST
 

U.S. support for Israelis over Palestinians, President Bush's ‘crusade' against the Taliban and the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia contribute to the rising anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, Yvonne Haddad, a professor at Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, told a PRSA symposium on Oct. 31.

Yvonne Haddad & Lee Hamilton
Dr. Yvonne Haddad, left,
and Lee Hamilton

"Every city and town in Palestine has a ground zero," noted Haddad. While Palestinian suicide bombers are given front page coverage in U.S. papers, Israeli tank aggression is hidden in the back pages, said Haddad. "There is a distinct feeling of a Judeo-Christian conspiracy against Muslims."

She called the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia and U.S. policy toward Iraq motivating factors behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Haddad faulted President Bush for the use of "crusade" to describe the war on terror. That term led many Muslims to believe that Americans were waging war on Islam.

Haddad explained that many Muslims were offended by the U.S. destruction of the Taliban in Afghanistan because the Taliban stood for Islam.

Furthermore, the U.S. explanation that we were trying to help the Muslim women oppressed by the Taliban actually worked against us according to Haddad. She explained that Muslim women have formed their opinion of American women from watching T.V. reruns of shows like Dynasty and as a result assume American women to be 'whores.'

In fact, Haddad noted that the Muslim reaction to a Laura Bush speech in which she stated her desire to help Muslim women was that Bush should first take care of her own two daughters before worrying about the plight of Muslim women.

Settlements called ‘poison'

"This Israeli/Palestinian issue is poisoning U.S. relations," said Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute and former Commerce Dept. official.

He stressed that the images Muslims are bombarded with via cable T.V. networks like Al Jazeera reinforce the perception that the U.S. is not fighting a war against terrorism, but a war against Islam.

Clyde Prestowitz
Clyde Prestowitz

Prestowitz called the Israeli settlements in Palestine 'poison.' "We are seen as being complicit with the expansion of these settlements. When we call Ariel Sharon a 'man of peace' we look bad," said Prestowitz.
He sided with Haddad on the overwhelming negative impact of the U.S. involvement in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict on Muslim attitude toward Americans.

According to Denise Gray-Felder, VP of communications for the Rockefeller Foundation, "Americans persist in operating like a nation of ignorants." She has noticed in her international travels that foreignors are far better educated on world affairs than U.S. peers. She attributes this to a cut back in U.S. media coverage of foreign news.

Gray-Felder called for a need to lessen the competitive nature of U.S. language with regard to world affairs and take a more conciliatory approach.

‘Imperial power'

Lee Hamilton, former congressman from Indiana and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, agreed with Gray-Felder saying, "We must create a perception that the U.S. is a benign power."

Clyde Prestowitz & Denise Gray Felder
Clyde Prestowitz, left,
and Denise Gray-Felder

"Style counts. The way you do things in diplomacy means a lot.

"Hamilton talked about the air of mistrust that exists side-by-side with the enormous respect foreigners have for American values.

Hamilton believes there are those that harbor a violent form of anti-Americanism because of our foreign policy and those whose anti-Americanism is grounded in resentment of U.S. power, wealth, etc.

America is increasingly seen as an 'imperial power' as more and more U.S. troops are stationed around the world concluded Hamilton.

 
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Responses:
 

PRSA Member Who Backs Israel (11/7):
I attended this conference and was quite disturbed, especially by the professor's remarks -- publicly and to small groups afterward. There were other remarks you missed that were even more blatantly anti-semitic. But what's really amazing to me is that so many PR people have given credence to the ramblings of a propagandist hiding behind the title of "scholar." Georgetown should be ashamed to have her on staff.

But, if PRSA wants to have a spokesperson for the Palestinians like her, it should also have balance by including a spokesperson from the other side. Netanyahu would be my choice!

SimonTnyc (11/5):
I found this story insightful. Kudos to O'Dwyer's for giving it some space. Specifically, I found the aspect of how our goal to help women in the Middle East can elicit a negative reaction. This is the heart of PR: we don't want to back away from our goal, which is noble and right, but we may wish to reconsider how we form our rhetoric and message.

And by the way, it seems quite clear that Haddad is the messenger. No reason to take pot shots at someone who is simply shedding light on how Palestinians and other Middle Easterners feel about America's motives.

William R - V.P. PR - Boston (11/4):
BRAVO O'Dwyer's! BRAVO PRSA! Well put Ms. Haddad. I wish she was more clear in describing the horrific situation the Palestinians live in as a result of the terrorist activities committed by the Israeli Occupation Forces.

Chutzpah or not - whatever that means - the truth of the matter is that Israel is not only commiting facist and outright terrorist activities against innocent Palestinians, but they are also engaged in ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

Unfortunately, the HRW report equated the victim with the butcher. That is one biased report that does not deserve to be quoted anywhere.

As for the wornout accusation of anti-semitism, I suggest to those making such accusations to refer to the story of "the boy who cried wolf" - 'cause they sure are starting to sound like a broken record.

jshaw11@kc.rr.com (11/2):
I'm not feeling too good about the old U.S. of A right now myself. I think this administration is overreaching and not particularly sensitive about other nations concerns. I believe diplomacy is the answer.

Rich Klein, President, Riverside Public Relations, Irvington, NY (11/1):
As an American, a Jew and a PR professional, I am outratged that PRSA sponsored this and that O'Dwyer's thought it merited intensive coverage.

New York Jew responds (11/2):
What are you afraid of? Does the truth hurt. PR people should be open to facts.

Rich Klein (11/4): Truth is fine. But what we have here is propaganda, vicious anti-Semitism and age-old conspiracy theories -- which should not be tolerated in a democracy.

P. Davis (11/1):
While I never hesitate to critize the current administration for their blatant goals of corporate compliance, it is a delicate matter to criticize the administration's stance on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The United States must support the existence of Israel, yet we should not condone its military aggressiveness against Palestinians, who are barred from having an army of their own. The Israeli settlements are salt on a wound which will never heal and their existence should be unequivocably condemned by this administration. Both countries should be reminded of the physical line drawn between them and compliance enforced by the U.S. as well as the United Nations.

Chicago PR Maven (11/1):
So, Ms. Haddad, Palestinian suicide bombers are given front page coverage while Israeli tanks are barely mentioned? Palestinian cities and towns are equivalent to "Ground Zero." I'd say she and the others quoted in this article are guilty of "chutzpah," but that probably sounds too "Zionist" to them. I'd settle for hubris.

Did anyone notice the report just issued by the organization Human Rights Watch? The report, by an organization which has frequently sided with the Palestinians, raps the Palestinian Authority firmly across the knuckles for not acting to stop suicide bombers from carrying out their missions and for not shutting down the groups which espouse them. Check out CNN.com for more info.


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