Al-Ahram Weekly Online
28 June - 4 July 2001
Issue No.540
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Tidal waves

By Salama Ahmed Salama

Salama Ahmed Salama Relations between America and its Arab friends are deteriorating rapidly. This is partly a consequence of the general resentment Arabs feel regarding America's position on the Palestinian question, and specifically its bias towards Israel; it is also the result of mutual suspicions related to America's military and political presence in the region, and the degree of security it enjoys. The US administration has put its military units in the Gulf on high alert, asking its citizens to remain vigilant in case of terrorist activities by elements, from among Bin Laden's followers or others, hostile to American interests in the Arab world.

No doubt the worries on the US's part are due to feelings of guilt as much as to objective reasons. Americans know that their position on the Arab-Israeli conflict is a part of their complicity with Israel, not simply an instance of bias. And while previous US administrations attempted to pose as the peace process's impartial and sincere guardian, Bush's has given up any such pretence. It supports the Israeli position openly, going so far as to use its influence and intelligence networks to implement Israeli plans in the region.

American policy has managed to generate feelings of hostility and hatred among Arabs -- feelings that go beyond lack of trust, and about which even allied, friendly Arab governments can do nothing. No longer can US aid programmes and military bases resist the tide of resentment that has spread through all classes and cultures, even within those Gulf countries that depend on America for their security, and whose existence on the map is due largely to American support.

Even in the more obvious aspects of Egyptian- American relations, neither of the two parties can hide the tension on a number of issues besides the Palestinian question. The scope of disagreement has expanded due to what the Egyptian government considers an intervention in its political and legal system: the US's continual attempts to impose its guardianship on certain segments of the Egyptian people, under the slogan of human rights. These were accompanied by a systematic media campaign to discredit the Egyptian regime.

A replay of the same process is currently evident in Saudi-American relations, which have always been characterised by the greatest understanding and stability. Crown Prince Abdallah cancelled a scheduled visit to Washington in protest against US policy on the Palestinian issue. Yet the US did not think twice before bringing up an incident that took place five years ago (related to a recent human rights report on Saudi Arabia), giving itself the right to conduct investigations and making accusations in an issue that touches the essence of Saudi legal sovereignty.

The same story took place in Yemen, almost to the letter, with regard to the explosion of the USS Cole. Again, the American authorities assumed the right to investigate and accuse Yemeni subjects in Yemen, without the least regard for the Yemeni state's rights or sovereignty.

These three dramas, though they occurred in different circumstances and had different backgrounds, underline the disruptions Arab-American relations are currently undergoing. It must be conceded that Arab parties are working, in different ways, to save these relations from Israel's negative impact. But this would require a sincere effort from both sides: it is not enough for the American administration simply to continue putting pressure on Arab governments. Nor is it possible any longer to ignore the anti- American sentiments growing throughout the Arab world.

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