The 210,000 U.S. servicemen and women in the Persian Gulf have been given a Pentagon booklet listing topics to avoid with Arabs, ranging from sensual perfume advertisements to "U.S. strategic cooperation with Israel" and "the Jewish lobby," the Defense Department said Friday. The pamphlet drew angry protests from several Jewish organizations that called the advice an affront not only to their beliefs, but to the American way.
A Defense Department spokesman said the booklet was similar in style to guides offered newly-stationed soldiers in countries around the world.
The suggestions, part of a pocket-sized booklet on Arab customs and way of life, are intended "to make our people aware of host nations' sensitivities and to encourage them not to openly or unintentionally antagonize relations," the Pentagon said in a statement.
One New York-based organization, the American Jewish Committee, accused the Defense Department of compromising "basic moral and ethical precepts fundamental to our society" to placate Arab nations where troops are stationed.
The advice is included in several versions of a pocket-sized guide prepared by the Army and the Pentagon's Central Command to acquaint U.S. soldiers with the Middle East.
The pamphlets largely review mundane aspects of Arab culture, from the weather and handy phrases to customs about clothing and sex that seem conservative to most Americans.
But a single page has upset some organizations. It advises avoiding references to Israel and Judaism, among other topics, because they "are sensitive to Saudis and other Arabs."
One version of the pamphlet released Friday by the Pentagon, titled "Troop Information," includes 24 topics.
Among them are "sensual advertisements such as perfume ads, blue jean ads, women's lingerie," "pictures of men and women embracing, kissing, sexual encounters, dancing etc." and "criticizing Islamic religious customs, media coverage and censorship, women's rights, and enforced dress and moral standards."
Among the remaining sensitive subjects are "articles/stories showing U.S./Israeli ties/friendship," "pictures of the crucifix, Star of David, etc." and "current presence in Lebanon, U.S. strategic cooperation with Israel (implying anti-Arab orientation)" and "discussions of the Jewish lobby and intelligence items given to Israel by U.S. government employees."