US expats confront the Mid-East conflict

21st July 2003, Comments 0 comments

The latest violent eruptions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have revealed a clear American-European split of opinion about who is (the biggest) culprit and what should be done. Cormac Mac Ruairi spoke to US expats living in Europe about their thoughts on the situation.

"Every time a suicide bomb goes off in Israel, I get the feeling that people are looking at me as if I am responsible for the inevitable military response."

Robert, a Jewish-American living and working in Brussels, is fed up.

Over the last few months, he says, casual acquaintances and even expats from other European countries have taken out their dissatisfaction at the US support for Israel on him.

"People have said to me that the real problem in the Middle East is America's interference and so-called one-sided support for Israel. Then, some of the same people turn around and accuse the US of not doing enough to solve the problem," says Robert.

"If I dare to mention that Israel has a right to defend itself from terrorism, I get shouted down and called bloody minded. It is so double."

Robert's experience is not unique. The 11 September terrorist attacks were roundly condemned in Europe. However, when the US launched its 'war on terrorism', Europe, and the European Union (EU) in particular, began to get the jitters.

Then Israel cited the 'war on terrorism' as justification when it launched its recent invasions/incursions into the Palestinian territories in response to suicide bombings.

The US, albeit reluctantly, accepted the move. The EU did not.

The EU has a different opinion

The crisis seemed to again underscore the generalisation that the US is pro-Israeli, while the EU is more sympathetic to the Palestinians.

Over 77% of the readers taking part in a poll on the Sky News website (which tends to reflect the populist view in Britain) agreed that the Palestinians should have their own state.

This split has been reflected in a fierce debate on the discussion board of the Dutch Expatica site.

Regular contributor "Ian" is certainly no fan of Uncle Sam's Middle East Policy: "I wouldn't trust the state of Israel as far as I could throw it! Why has Sharon not been summoned to face charges in court for his atrocities in Sabra and Shatila when hundreds (thousands?) of women and children were massacred?

"How the hell can the USA still be friends with these lunatics? As far as I can see Bush has been made a fool of by Sharon who is convinced that he has the USA in his back pocket and bush wouldn't dare to actually DO anything like for example take away the funding and stop supplying helicopter gunships and F16s which are used against the civilian population of the Palestinian areas."

Some American contributors seem to positively thrive on this type of confrontation.

"Maarsen" replied: "Back on your high horse Ian? Make no mistake. We Yanks love the Israelis and will always support them. They gave the Palestinians a good throttling and its what they deserved. The Palestinians may as well pack their bags and move on to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. End of problem."

Fiery stuff indeed but do all US expats share these views?

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