NEW YORK – The World Economic Forum was initially moved to New York in solidarity with the city after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, but in the end, America's healthy economy was the focal point of criticism for the delegates at the conference, which is usually held in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.
Speakers at the forum, which ends Monday, repeatedly lambasted America as a rich nation, unsympathetic to the plights of poor countries and too involved with Israel to deal fairly with the Muslim world.
About 2,700 corporate and political leaders, clergy and celebrities came to discuss the world's problems, and have spent much time dissecting U.S. foreign policy, its possible role in breeding terrorism and the potential harms of globalization.
While some of the criticism was from non-Western leaders, much of it came from U.S. politicians and business leaders.
Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates warned that the terms of international trade were too favorable to the rich world, a disparity that feeds resentment.
U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., cited a global poll that characterized Americans as selfish and bent on arranging the global economy for their own benefit.
"We've not done our fair share to take on some of the global challenges" like poverty, disease and women's rights, Clinton said Sunday. "We need to convince the U.S. public that this is a role that we have to play."
In a curious convergence, the titans of business and politics at the meeting have seized on many of the same socially liberal issues that they have been accused of ignoring at past gatherings.
Few protesters turned up Sunday near the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, site of the forum, on the fourth day of the conference. But mostly peaceful demonstrations miles from the hotel generated 159 arrests — the largest in a single day since the conference started — and one case of vandalism was reported.
Several dozen anti-forum protesters were arrested for blocking traffic in Lower Manhattan, 3½ miles from the Waldorf, and a few dozen were detained later about a half-mile to the north after some lay down in an intersection.
The total arrested so far during the meeting grew to over 200, mostly for disorderly conduct.
"People who feel the world is tilted against them will spawn the kind of hatred that is very dangerous for all of us," Gates said. "I think it's a healthy sign that there are demonstrators in the streets. They are raising the question of 'is the rich world giving back enough?'"
The forum's agenda may have taken some of the steam out of street protests, which were sparse except for Saturday's turnout of about 7,000 demonstrators, and has even paralleled issues under discussion at the World Social Forum, an anti-globalization conference under way in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
In Brazil, speakers on Saturday condemned the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, with one comparing the practice to apartheid-era South Africa's creation of "Bantustans," which were economically poor areas designated as homelands for blacks.
In New York, guests heard a similar message Sunday.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. national security adviser, warned that Palestinian violence risked evolving into large-scale urban terror, while Israel's response "will slide into a pattern of behavior that resembles the South Africans'."
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chided his colleagues in Congress for giving too much foreign aid to Israel, the largest recipient of American help, and said too little aid flows to the neediest.
"I've been critical of the aid we've given to Israel," Leahy said in an interview. "But the same complaint could be made of a number of wealthy Muslim countries. They're not giving aid to the poorest of their own people."
However, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Sunday he saw "a ray of hope" for Mideast peace. New talks with the Palestinians could lead to a cease-fire, and mutual recognition of a Palestinian state and Israel's right to exist, he said.
Jordan's King Abdullah II called for "international intervention to help steer the parties from the brink," arguing that the "burning injustice of Palestine" had "fed extremism around the world."
Brzezinski called for Washington to create a parallel social campaign to temper the anger against its military campaign against terrorism, to "appeal to a better future" in poor countries.
"It's very easy for the U.S. to slide into a kind of global alliance for the sake of repression," Brzezinski said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.