Thursday, December 9, 2004
The Arab American Institute
In 2000, James Zogby wrote in his insightful essay, Are Arab Americans People Like Us?
"Overall, U.S. policy toward the Middle East remains characterized by what many Arabs view as a double standard. As Americans, we still do not see Arabs, as "people like us," individual human beings who feel the same hurts, react to the same pressures and aspire to the same goals as we do.
Americans understand the pain of Israelis who live with a sense of insecurity and loss, but we still find it difficult to attribute the same sense of insecurity and loss to the Palestinians and Lebanese who see their homes demolished and are burdened by a dehumanizing occupation that violates their most fundamental human rights. As Americans, we are alternatively puzzled by or troubled by Jewish or Christian fundamentalism with their demonization of other faiths, their treatment of women and their dangerous lapses into violence, but we do not judge them in the same harsh way we judge their Muslim counterparts. It is with an eye toward ending these hurtful stereotypes and the "double standard" that Arab Americans have become organized and in the past few decades have become a part of the national discourse on these and other critical issues."
In 2002, A Rare Arab Opinion Poll Says Arabs Dislike America But Not Democracy, Sarah El Deeb wrote about James Zogby's poll, "A rare survey of public opinion in the Arab world has found that most Arabs dislike the United States but not for reasons often cited by American officials — a rejection of Western democracy and values.
Zogby said the negative perception of the United States is based on American policies, not a dislike of the West. He said that Arabs view some other Western countries favorably and list among their own wishes such Western notions as personal freedom and equal rights for women.
"It is a question of policy," said Zogby, referring to the recent U.S. stand on Iraq and what Arab have long regarded as an American bias in favor of Israel.
Noting the Arabs shared many values with the West, Zogby said that without question "civil and personal rights" earned the overall highest priority when respondents were asked to name their personal priorities. Between 90 and 96 percent of the respondents rated personal and civil rights as the first or second priority, out of 10 different issues that included health care, moral standards and personal economic conditions.
One interesting finding, Zogby said, was that the Palestinian issue was listed by many Arabs among the political issues that affect them most personally, in some cases topping such issues as health care and the economy.
"It is not a foreign policy issue (for Arabs)," Zogby said. "It defines almost existentially their sense of who they are."
"What we learned is that Arabs like people all over the world are focused on matters close to home. ...Arabs don't go to bed at night thinking about politics" but like everybody in the world they think about their children and their future, he said."