According to recent surveys conducted in six Arab countries, anti-American sentiment among Arabs is much stronger now than in 2002 and U.S. policies in the Middle East are chiefly to blame.
About 200 people Thursday at Westminster College heard Theodore Kattouf talk about polls that also showed some Arabs still like American movies and products.
But even those areas of interest are showing declining favorability ratings since 2002, said Kattouf, who is the former U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Syria. He served 21 years of his 31-year foreign service career at U.S. embassies in Arab countries.
"It's true, there is a rising tide of anti-Americanism out there," Kattouf said.
Most who responded unfavorably to questions about the United States said they get most of their information about this country from Arab media. Kattouf said sentiment improves if those in the Arab world have visited or studied in the United States. Those people, he added, may not exactly love the United States, but they at least understand it better.
Those polled in countries like Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Jordan and Egypt also showed some respect for American "prowess" in areas like science and technology education, Kattouf said.
"They do not hate our values," he said. "Apparently, though, they do hate our policies."
To be clear, it is policies in Iraq and on terrorism and a perception among Arabs that U.S. foreign policy is driven by oil interests that is fueling current disdain for America.
Missionaries who helped bring higher education to places like Beirut and Cairo and President Dwight Eisenhower's pressure on other countries to withdraw from Egypt are bright spots in history for the United States among Arabs, he said.
But stagnant peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel, with the United States in the middle, haven't helped recently.
To turn the tide of anti-Americanism, Arab countries need to see that the United States is not imposing its presence in the Middle East to form governments that are "tools" for the benefit of the United States.
In addition, he said talks between Palestine and Israel need to resume in earnest and the United States needs to pull out of Iraq soon, possibly after elections, and after certain constitutional guarantees are in place for minorities there.
Finally, Kattouf said there needs to be more efforts in the area of exchange programs in the United States, mainly through students.
"We are a nation of immigrants," he said. If the United States betrays that value, the terrorists have won, Kattouf added. "We need to be able to keep our doors open."