WASHINGTON, Sept.12 -- The kamikaze attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have produced a wide spectrum of responses in the Arab world. It is a spectrum that ranges from condemnation of not only the attacks but also of the ordinary, mostly poor people, what is called the Arab street, who rejoiced in them, to vicious condemnation of the United States.
At one end is King Abdullah II of Jordan. He went so far as to dissociate himself from fellow Arabs who were happy after the terrorist strike. In parts of the Arab section of Jerusalem Tuesday, smiling Palestinian children handed out candy wrapped in Palestinian colors. In West Bank towns and refugee camps, they fired guns in celebration and drove through the streets, making the V-for-victory sign.
The king said, "We were just as shocked as you are" by the Palestinians' rejoicing. "It's a small group of people; it's no way a reflection of the Palestinian people or other peoples of the Middle East," he said.
In the next band along the spectrum are those, like President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who said he was deeply saddened by the attacks. His foreign minister and secretary of the Arab League, Amr Musa, was even more tepid. The attacks, he said, were regrettable.
The next section of the opinion spectrum was not only sorry for the United States but condemned such doings (without reproaching the Arab public who took pleasure in them). For example, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat -- who later in the day mad a great show of donating blood for the American tragedy -- offered his sympathy to the Americans and said the Palestinian authority was "completely shocked" by the attacks. Moreover, he said, he was speaking on behalf of the Palestinian people. But it is doubtful that he was speaking even on behalf of the majority of his own Fatah movement.
In Cairo, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood said attacks "contradict all human and Islamic values" and expressed "deep regret" for the killings.
In Syria, the Tishrin newspaper, run by Bashar Hafez's government, said: "Syria condemns the attacks and expresses sympathy with the U.S. people."
The Lebanese Hezbollah's former spiritual mentor, Seyyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who also is a prominent Shiite religious leader, said, "Those (who) committed the attacks yesterday were criminals twice over -- for hijacking planes and for killing their passengers as well as for targeting civil installations and thousands of innocent."
What Fadlallah said was not surprising, given that Iran is Hezbollah's main patron and its president, Mohammad Khatami, had declared, "In the name of the Iranian government and people, I condemn the terrorists attacks on public centers of American cities."
More surprising was Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, who described the attacks as a terrible event and called on all countries and humanitarian organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to the United States "regardless of any political differences and disputes between America and the peoples in the world."
The United States views Gadhafi as a supporter of international terrorism. One of his agents was found guilty of the December 1988 attack on Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.
In fact, during the years since he seized power in 1969, Gadhafi has been up to his eyebrows in terrorism. His latest venture has been to supply strong arm squads to President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to help keep him in power. They are drawn from Pagad, a Cape Town band of Muslims who began as crime-fighters but then took up criminal violence.
In this respect Gadhafi is like all of those above (except Mubarak and Abdullah) who expressed such repugnance at the Tuesday outrage. All have practiced or patronized terrorism.
Further along the spectrum are those who may have offered their condolences to the attacks' victims and their families but who also pointed a moral for Americans.
In the words of Sheikh Yassin, leader of the Palestinian Islamic militant Hamas, there was no doubt that the terrorist blow was a result of injustice the United States practices against the weak in the world."
In Gaza, Nafez Azzam, an official of the militant Palestinian Islamic Jihad, said what happened in the United States was "a consequence of American policies in this region."
What these two representatives of bodies that practice terrorism mean is that the United States was punished for supporting Israel against the Palestinians, including of course, them.
Unsurprisingly, the tone was different at the far end of the spectrum, in Iraq. In a TV commentary, Iraqi officials, having President Bush in mind, said, "The American cowboy is reaping the fruits of his crimes against humanity. It is a black day in the history of America, which is tasting the bitter defeat of its crimes and disregard for peoples' will to lead a free, decent life."
Under the headline "America burns," the official newspaper Al-Iraq said:
"U.S. leaders must expect such a lesson because they have shown insupportable cruelty towards people and that ended by blowing up in their face, destroying their symbols and making Americans weep bitter tears. It is the prestige, arrogance and institutions of America that burn," it said.
What is interesting about the spectrum, of course, is that it does not correspond with another spectrum that displays degrees of political friendship or enmity to the United States. The two spectrums do match up at both ends, with King Abdullah on one end and Saddam Hussein on the other, but in the middle bits, they don't.
Most of those who are so loquacious in their sympathy for Americans hate the United States for the way it stands by their enemy, the Israelis, while the almost insultingly blandly polite Mubarak is deeply committed to good relations between Cairo and Washington.
This failure of the spectrums to match up may be explained by two political truths. The Arab street sympathizes with the Palestinians and increasingly hates the United States for it support of the Jewish state. Leaders, who fear the street and are dependent for their security on the United States, may agree the Palestinians are getting a raw deal from Washington, but they dare not say so very loudly. This is because they fear both alienating the United States and releasing the powerful and potential revolutionary emotions of the street.
Abdullah is the exception that proves the rule. No monarch of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan can forget that the Palestinians make up perhaps as much as 70 percent of his subjects and so also make up the greater part of the street. They have already tried to wrest power from his father, King Hussein. That was in September 1970 that came to be known as Black September. It ended in Arafat and the other Palestinian militants fleeing to Lebanon. Thus the emotions of the Jordanian street are to be disciplined rather than encouraged.
Saddam Hussein also proves the rule. Absolute master in his house, he can indulge in pro-Palestinian gestures that have made him a popular hero, at least outside of Iraq. After all, the Palestinians view of the United States goes very well with his own continuing struggle with it.