The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the only issue about which all Arabs (and, in fact, Muslims) are in general agreement. Sunnis and Shiites may not agree about much but they all want the post-’67 occupation to end. The Arabs Brooks encountered want to talk to Americans about it because the United States is Israel's number one backer in the world. Arabs understand that without US involvement in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it will simply not end.
I imagine that the reason Brooks was surprised is that, like so many Americans, he does not take Arab and Muslim concern for the Palestinians seriously.
People like Brooks believe that Palestine is a pretext. For Brooks, it is not, it cannot be, the main reason so many Arabs and Muslims have such strong antipathy to the US government.
And the fact is that the Palestinians have often been used as a pretext for incitement against Israel and Jews by the same forces that have done virtually nothing to ease the Palestinians’ plight. And also, of course, as a pretext for war. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah professed love for the Palestinians while he was attacking Israel last summer and killing Palestinians along with their Israeli neighbors.
But, for the most part, Arab anger about (and sympathy for) Palestinians is utterly genuine. Why wouldn’t it be?