Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
A British diplomat asked me recently: “Why do the Arab media spare us in their campaign against the US even though we are partners?”
I told him that history, culture and a proper reading of politics lead us to differentiate between an aggressive leader and a reluctant follower; a long record of blind support for Israel and the typical European line. As an older, more experienced player in world politics, the British are generally wiser in their approach to complicated problems
Besides, the Muslims and Arabs who visited Britain since Sept. 11 have not sensed much change in attitude. In a country faced with similar terrorist threats to America, the British haven’t panicked. They didn’t use harsh and indiscriminate security measures against residing and visiting Arab and Muslims. Except for tighter visa procedures, most visitors reported normal treatment officially, commercially and socially. This explains the record number of Arab visitors to Britain this summer, in contrast to a decrease in visitors to America in the region of 90 percent.
Another important factor is knowing that only Blair’s government, with many notable dissenters, was part of the anti-Muslim Anglo-Saxon crusade. Many in Parliament, the media and Blair’s own party were vocal in their objections. Most public opinion polls show most Britons were against the Iraq war. The same can be said about other forced or reluctant partners in the “coalition of the willing”, such as Italy, Spain and Australia.
On the other hand, the US government took a gung-ho attitude. Guns were raised, while un-American, un-ethical and illegitimate regulations were introduced. Double standards became commonplace, from a biased position on Arab-Israeli issues to cruel treatment of Muslim and Arab Americans, not to mention residents, students and visitors. Disregard for international laws and human rights, as is the case of Guantanamo and the un-sanctioned war on Iraq, tarnished America’s reputation and consumed most of the goodwill it earned after Sept. 11, not just in the Muslim world but in the greater court of world public opinion. Ask any American traveler, businessman or diplomat and he will tell you how much harder it became to live, work or do business abroad.
In conclusion, I told my English friend, the Arab media, like the Arab people and the rest of the world, hold America more accountable for the crimes committed in Afghanistan and Iraq. They regard the British as a reluctant partner trying to do their best in the circumstances. We appreciate, for instance, the efforts to temper the insane US reactions and their reasonable record in the areas they control in Iraq. The sum of these factors explains the different attitudes toward the two partners in this unholy alliance.
— Arab News Opinion 28 September 2003