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Anti-American Sentiments in the Arab World

posted on: Mar 18, 2021

By: Ivey Noojin/Arab America Contributing Writer

After former President Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, hatred toward the United States has grown to a tangible amount in the Middle East. There have been violent protests in response, and many people blame the U.S. for the deaths that have subsequently occurred. Official leaders in the Arab world are publicly denouncing Trump’s declaration, even if they have close economic ties to this country. Being anti-American has become a rallying cry for many groups within the region.

Many citizens of the Arab world are now upset at the United States, but this isn’t the beginning of anti-Americanism.

Once the American government started stationing troops in Iran during World War II, that region of the world began to resent this foreign involvement. It didn’t take long for the United States to feel comfortable enough in the Middle East, either. In 1948 U.S. intervention in regional affairs, and many citizens of the Arab world reacted negatively to an outsider changing the politics of the region.

Current Reasons

U.S. was the least popular country in the Arab world, according to 2002 and 2003 studies done by the Pew Global Attitudes Project. There are varying individual reasons for disliking the foreign country, including death and destruction of property. However, these points were the most popular from various studies and polling:

War on Terror

President Bush declared a “war on terror” in 2001 after the attacks of Sep. 11. Since then, there has been harsh rhetoric against many people in the Middle East by government officials in the United States. Citizens of the Arab world also started to face this reality with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that ultimately displaced the leader of that country, Saddam Hussein. Since then, there has been an evident footprint of the U.S. in the Middle East, and many have grown to despise its presence.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Even though most Arab countries support Palestine and its right to the land, the U.S. continues to provide aid and recognition to Israel. This has upset many Arabs even further because they feel like the foreign entity is intruding in affairs that do not pertain to them. They also are particularly upset about this issue because of their personal investment. Palestinian refugees have moved to several countries in the Arab world, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. Jordan especially is involved in the conflict as the only country that grants these fleeing Palestinians full citizenship rights.

Issue of Unilateralism

Many Arabs believe that the U.S. intervenes in their affairs only for the foreign country’s gain, especially with respect to oil. This distrust is especially present because of the lack of transparency on behalf of the U.S. government. Citizens only see the country sending its military and secret operatives to their homeland; they do not know the reasoning behind these decisions. This frustration grows due to the fact that many leaders of the Arab world have a report with the United States; therefore, many Arabs feel like even their governing officials have been infiltrated by the outsider country. They do not feel safe from the self-interest of the United States.

Growth of Pan-Arabism

Pan-Arabism has spread because of U.S. intervention and its fallbacks, culminating in the Arab Spring of 2011. Violent protests sprung up at U.S. embassies in the Middle East. People in the streets were burning American flags and screaming anti-American chants. The role of internet and satellite television, especially Al-Jazeera, have been integral to this movement. It has allowed Arab citizens to communicate with each other and voice their grievances against their governments and the United States.

Distraction Tool

Many governments in the Arab world have also used this growing sense of resentment toward the United States as a tool for their own gain. They are manipulating their citizens by feeding into the distrust toward the U.S even more by highlighting the outsider’s transgressions. These governments focus on the U.S. military presence to distract from the national issues, such as economic stagnation or social oppression. They also highlight the riches that many Americans have, while much of the Arab population is living in poverty. Many governments in the Middle East would rather angrily blame the United States for all of their problems, instead of actively finding solutions.

Presence of Non Anti-American Groups

In the Arab World

In the Arab world, there are some groups of people with less hatred toward the United States. Lebanon generally produces high U.S. favorability rates, due to its large Christian population. Also, Muslim support for terrorism is dropping, due to its development as a threat to the country instead of a savior. Therefore, many people of the Islamic faith are not as aggressively against U.S. intervention. They now see this military presence as trying to help the worsening situation.

In general, young people and women have more favorable views toward the United States as well. Sixty percent of the Arab population is young adults with many well-versed in the news and world politics. Therefore, their understanding of the situation is more complex, instead of just viewing U.S. soldiers as outsiders and therefore enemies. Women are also less against U.S. intervention because they are open to options for ending violence. Men tend to perpetuate violence as a means for a solution, while in general women do the opposite. They are more susceptible to being open to outsider influence in order to feed, protect, and educate their children.

In the United States

Arab Americans also have influenced a decrease in hatred toward the United States. Many still have family members in the Middle East who now have a connection to the foreign power. Also, due to American influence, many people in the Arab world decided to immigrate to escape local conflicts. Therefore, they begin to view the U.S. in a better light, as an escape, instead of a negative, overbearing force.

The biggest issue with those who are anti-American is the military, economic and political intervention by the United States. It would be easy to say that the end to this hatred would be for the outside influence to evacuate the region. However, is this even possible with the globalized society of today? Every nation now has ties to each other, whether they like it or not, through the economy. Therefore, if there is not a possible future without some sort of foreign intervention, will the anti-American sentiment ever go away? Only time will tell.

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