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MIDDLE EAST: The Arab viewpoint

I did not grow up in the US, and am out of sync with its racial complexes, which I study with perplexity. I have had a long conversation with an American intellectual of Arab origin whom I have known for a long time and for whom I have the greatest respect. I have never seen him so bitter. He travels regularly to the Middle East, and he reports that because Washington bends to U.S. Zionist support for Israel's hard-line policy, the US is hated throughout the Arab world. He described how that lobby has tried to undermine his work. I have no reason to doubt his word. Joel Beinin, a Jew who teaches Middle East history at Stanford and tries hard to be fair, has reported similar experiences.

U.S. News and World Report (8/13/01) has an article about the cross, supposedly from Bury St. Edmunds, England, which is the centerpiece of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's medieval art collection. Former Curator Thomas Hoving has written a very controversial book charging that it contains anti-Jewish symbols. He said "Sure, I wanted to suppress it. I mean, it's New York, it's a Jewish town, we had Jewish sponsors. I kept a lot of stuff quiet".

I wonder how well the US understands the Middle East. When Truman pushed the recognition of Israel, it was easy to foresee the present situation, which could easily lead to a more general war. When the US wanted to support the forces fighting the Communist government of Afghanistan, it armed Muslim fanatics from places like Saudi Arabia and called them Freedom Fighters. Then it is angry because these "Afghans", as they are called, become a major terrorist force against the United States. As usual, we do not know if the "Freedom Fighters" description was put out as a public relations ploy or what arguments had taken place within the government. We shall have a better understanding when the documents are released.

In any case, it all leaves me bewildered, my habitual condition.

Ronald Hilton - 8/24/01