Over the past few years, many commentators have claimed that anti-Americanism has reached unprecedented levels–especially in the Arab world. However, the Arab media have not been any more anti-American over the past four years than they had been previously. The major difference is that less attention was paid to the Arab media prior to September 11.
During both the Clinton and Bush administrations, many articles in the Arab media compared the U.S. to Nazi Germany and the medieval crusaders. In the Egyptian Islamic opposition Labor-party daily Al-Shaab, columnist Hilmi Mahmoud Al-Qaoud wrote on March 3, 2000: “… The Nazism of the Crusaders is not represented by Hitler or Joerg Haider alone, but also by Clinton and Jospin–they are all of the same dynasty and Jewish Nazism is no different from the Nazism of the crusaders.”
The Clinton administration, like the current Bush administration, has often been accused of acting like “cowboys” in the Arab media. For example, the editor of the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Hafez Al-Barghuthi, wrote an article titled “Cowboy Mentality” in November 1997: “… Iraq will not succeed in the conflict against the U.S. … but the firm Iraqi stand against the dinosaur military apparatus, which is based on the myth of the blood-spilling cowboy who chases Indians, will remain an achievement…”
When Madeline Albright left her position as secretary of state, Subhi Hadidi, a Syrian journalist living in Paris, wrote: “… Albright behaved, throughout her terms as secretary of state and U.S. representative to the U.N., like a cowgirl trying to rope the world market with a lasso and a gun–global matters require more than cowboy techniques…”
Insulting statements about members of presidential administrations have also been common. During the Clinton administration, the Arab media focused on Jewish characteristics, while currently Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell are the subjects of racist insults. In the Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar, which in the past has called Colin Powell a “birdbrain,” columnist Abd Al-Rahman Al-Abnudi wrote a farewell article to Albright titled “Saint Madeleine”:
I search deep within myself for a feeling of great sorrow that will allow me to write a farewell poem to my beloved, Madeleine Albright. … She is the world’s beauty queen. … Her small body shivers in the face of the oppressor. Milk comes forth from her small breasts out of mercy for the oppressed and the orphans. … The most talented artists cannot compete with God in his deeds, for he created this pair of legs, unmatched among all the women of the world. Likewise, [Allah created] the lovely folds of her belly, which do not let you know whether the stomach is found in the upper or the lower part.
During the past year and a half, the Arab media have been highly critical of President Bush and the U.S. regarding Iraq. During the Clinton administration, the Arab media similarly included anti-American articles about U.S. attacks on Iraq. Just as the Clinton administration was accused by the Arab media of “wagging the dog” by attacking Iraq to distract the American public from the Lewinsky scandal, so too the Bush administration is accused of making up intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to go to war. During both cases, the U.S. was accused of crimes against humanity.
Arab columnist Kheiri Mansur wrote an article titled “Annihilation for the Sake of Salvation” in December 1998: “… According to Washington’s publicly declared agenda, the salvation of Iraq and the democratization of its regime should be carried out via portions of poison that will thoroughly annihilate Iraq from the North to the South. … Hitler and Mussolini, and more recently Pinochet, were no worse than the ‘new emperors’ [i.e. Clinton and Blair] in the murder of children and the destruction of ancient cultures. … Our generation that only recently destroyed the [original] Nazism witnesses the return of the [Nazi] era under different titles…”
An additional similarity is the Arab media’s support of al Qaeda’s attack against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and later for the September 11 attacks. Just as the Arab media espoused conspiracy theories about September 11 (such as the U.S. being behind it), the U.S.S. Cole bombing in Yemen–which occurred during Clinton’s presidency–was likewise blamed on the U.S. government.
Shortly after the U.S. bombed Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan in 2001, the Egyptian government paper Al-Ahram wrote that the U.S. was purposely bombing civilians and sending genetically altered food to areas surrounded by land mines. On May 20, 2000, another leading Egyptian weekly, Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, similarly made accusations against the U.S. based on an extreme right-wing German magazine, Sleipnir, whose previous editions were confiscated for racism and Holocaust denial. In this publication, German professor Siegwart-Horst Guenther accused the United States of using depleted uranium in the Gulf War against Iraq, thereby causing cancer in Iraqi children.
During the Clinton administration, when Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda first appeared, the Arab media voiced early support for his jihad against America. In an August 10, 1999, article in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, columnist Khalil Al-Sawakhri praised bin Laden: “You are not the only one persecuted, Osama bin Laden. You are not the only one harassed by American terrorism, after the [American] Cowboy took over the world in this dark century’s final decade. … Osama bin Laden has become a symbol of rebellion against exploitation, cruelty, and discrimination. It is [a rebellion] against the ruler of modern Rome [i.e. the U.S.].”
Another early pro-al Qaeda article was written by journalist ‘Abdallah ‘Awwad in Al-Ayyam in 1998. He suggested that the legitimacy of the attacks on the American embassies in Africa by al Qaeda exceeded that of the U.S. bombings by the Clinton administration in Sudan and Afghanistan: “There is no precedent … for a certain regime to bomb other countries just because of suspicion. The American bombings constitute state-sponsored terrorism. … Omitting the term ‘terror’ when referring to these [American] actions equally legitimizes the [destruction] of the two [American] embassies. … [The destruction of the embassies] is far more justifiable than the American bombings.”
During the Clinton administration, as is the case today, the Arab media often published conspiracy theories claiming that Jews control Washington. The Arab media often label non-Jews as “Jews” to explain U.S. governmental policies that are not popular among Arabs. In an article in the aforementioned Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on May 15, 1998, one columnist wrote: “In his second term in office, Clinton found himself racked in a horrible ‘cage’ built and shaped by all the strength, corruption, base aims, and full control of the Zionists over the U.S., its parliaments, its media, its banks, its Protestant churches and preachers, and the American political parties which exchange the reins of government among themselves. President Clinton found himself surrounded by an extraordinarily corrupt gang of new Zionist knights…” The article listed the Jewish ‘gang,’ which included Madeline Albright, William Cohen, and “Al Gore, the president’s deputy, who is Jewish on his mother’s side…”
Fuwad Abu-Hijla, in his daily column in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida in August 1998, blamed Jews for blackmailing President Clinton into attacking terrorist hideouts in the Middle East: “President Clinton was too weak to confront the Jewish lobby that was annoying him with the Lewinsky affair. [The Jewish Lobby] was seemingly responsible for preserving Monica’s dress, in order to press the president. … Clinton could have ridden out his crisis, if the Jews hadn’t preserved Lewinsky’s dress just in case, setting up that Blond Superman [Clinton]…” In another article titled “A Plot in the White House,” Abu-Hijla wrote in January 1998: “Neither Paula Jones, nor Gennifer Flowers, nor another million possible women encountered by the handsome American president could set him up without prior political decision taken by the Jewish clique shaping American foreign policy…”
Over the past eight years, there has been no change in the Arab media regarding anti-Americanism. There is little evidence to suggest that that change will come any time soon.
–Steven Stalinsky is the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.