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The Naivete in Asking 'Why Do They Hate Us So Much?'
Published on Saturday, October 13, 2001 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune
The Naivete in Asking 'Why Do They Hate Us So Much?'
by Kenneth Zapp
 
As one born and raised in New York, the terrorist assaults have affected me deeply. One positive result for me is seeing my Midwest neighbors welcome New Yorkers to their America: for the first time since World War II we are one country.

Less satisfying, however, was the naivete often expressed by Minnesotans in the question: "Why do they hate us so much?"

My work in global business and education programs has taught me that knowledge of one's partners (and enemies) is essential to success in international activity. Most important is understanding how other people see issues that are central to their world. Unfortunately, Americans are famous for assuming that others see the world as we do.

While Americans like to believe that our government treats all fairly or equally, our actions are viewed differently abroad. The forces that globalized markets also cause our security to depend on stable relations with peoples whose perceptions differ radically from ours.

Arab and Islamic countries have a long list of grievances with us. Among them are the children who die annually in Iraq because our government continues the embargo there, the 17,000 civilians who died in Lebanon during the 1980s Israeli invasion, and Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank which has forced three generations to live in tent cities.

But why do they blame us for actions of Israel? Because our government has bankrolled that country's policies with $3 billion to $4 billion of aid each year. Most damaging to our claim of evenhandedness, we continued these subsidies even when the Israeli actions were condemned widely by our Western allies and the United Nations.

Since the 1980s Israel has built Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank. Doing so has made the return of this land to the Palestinians, a prerequisite for peace there, virtually impossible.

These actions violated several U.N. declarations but had no negative effect on U.S. aid.

On a recent trip to Israel I was disturbed by the attitude our guide had toward the Palestinians. He spoke of them as racists speak about people they feel are inferior. Our tax dollars are subsidizing policies he supports.

The media have not helped us see these issues through the eyes of people most affected. I cannot forget my surprise back in 1975 when Palestinian students in Sarajevo informed me that Yasser Arafat was the most moderate of Palestinian leaders. At that time, American news sources perpetuated Israeli propaganda that Arafat was a terrorist who could not be trusted. Little has changed today, as our media cite Israeli officials as experts on terrorism who ridicule Arafat.

Sadly, many American leaders are unwilling to question our subsidies for Israel, fearful of being called anti-Semitic. Saying it is anti-Semitic to question our blank checks for the Israeli government has caused millions of people to hate us.

The kids in Palestinian camps who were cheering the terrorist actions should be understood, not condemned. They have lived in unspeakable conditions partly aided by U.S. tax dollars. As long as this is their reality, we are their enemy.

We all believe Israel deserves to have its security guaranteed and that no one has the right to kill civilians for any reason. While we honor the memories of all those who have died in this tragedy, we may be able to understand better the views of people with whom we share this ever-connected world. Doing so would not reward the terrorists but possibly remove conditions which foster tomorrow's perpetrators.

Kenneth Zapp, Minneapolis. Economics professor, Metropolitan State University.

© Copyright 2001 Star Tribune

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