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Martin Kramer, "Arab Nationalism: Mistaken Identity," Daedalus, Summer 1993 pp. 171-206.

Martin

Kramer

Arab Nationalism: Mistaken Identity

THREE

LINES OF POETRY PLOT THE TRAJECTORYof Arab consciousness. famous The desire Arab for "Awake, ode of Ibrahim al-Yaziji, Awakening,1 as O Arabs, and arise!" in 1868

national

penned

the begins in Lebanon.1 of a nascent

George Antonius deployed the line as the epigraph of his influentialbook, Arab the first utterance rule. from Ottoman independence the poem of resistance begins I "Write down, the Palestinian poet by

am an Arab!"

Mahmoud Darwish, written in 1963 to assert an Arab identity denied by Israel and theWest.3 The poem immediately entered theArab of millions the world Arabs. "Are we Arabs read one big lie?" This line ends and a poem critic.4 of anguish nationalist schoolchildren. and to be recited from memory canon, In the century that separated of people awakened and arose, gradually one another that they should by a generation these two lines, insisting before down as

be written

writtenmost had gone

in the midst of the latest Gulf crisis by Nizar Qabbani,wrong Arab contemporary to sustain exclamation replaced the Arabs poet Too of awakening points a question mark of doubt. by could not suppress their own

theand

widely

much Once doubt

defiance; most called

they were

half of Europe and a Superpower had admitted to living a lie forof this century, Arabism,

any longer. Their god had also failed, spectacularly so. It had beenor Arab nationalism, or pan-Arabism, and by the

time Qabbani posed his question,generation.Martin African Kramer Studies is Associate at Tel Aviv Director University.

it had been in full retreat for a

of the Moshe

Day an Center

for Middle

Eastern

and

171

172At

Martin Kramer

their belief in the Arab present, many Arabs have suspended and now openly doubt whether there is a collective Arab nation, mission. of Those At themselves swept up by Islamic activism prefer to think recently as Muslims, first and foremost and do so without their lexicon has turned "the Arabs" into a times, label, Other and wastefulness, implying incompetence, to be known as Egyptians, Arabs plainly prefer Moroccans? citizens of over twenty independent interests. Some have even in anticipation of cooperation

apology.

derogatory subservience.

Easterners, order peace and a new regional on Europe. A few intellectuals modeled keep the Arab flame alive. are most or Paris, where in London Yet often abroad, they they command audiences of Third Worldists and "pro-Arabs." dwindling over whether For a decade and they have quarreled pan-Arabism of an Arab-Israeli Arab A nationalism sense of are simply in remission or beyond all resuscitation. It has existed "Arabness" still persists. for as long as

Syrians, Jordanians, its own flag and own states, each with asMiddle taken to referring to themselves

the Arabs have walkedto negotiation In this half. terms with Islam, market by every

the stage of history, and it has been subjectgeneration this sense a millennium for nearly must of "Arabness" and come a to

generation, the growth of loyalty to separate Arab the global of liberal democracy, triumph capitalism, to Arab and the prospect as nationalism

states, a burgeoning the ascendancy of

anathema

of peace with Israel. All were over most it evolved of this

can doubtless "Arabness" accommodate the new challenges, century. a modern as it has always done. Arab nationalism, creation of this well disappear under their impact. century, may altogether to But whatever its history the prospects of Arab nationalism, this point rapid history broader did represents and one of the most of remarkable been instances nationalism. invoked of the rise, birth, a new deserves debate over decline telling, any modern for it has not That in the

the end of enjoy

of identity that marks the growing instability a time when Arab nationalism this century. There was a place of some prominence in the comparative study of but later

nationalism, was perhaps

it became the domain of specialists, which as well. Arnold and Hans Kohn, who just Toynbee to integrate into some wider Arab nationalism first attempted the its virtual partisans between became framework, comparative wars despite their own reservations about nationalism in

world

Arab Nationalism:general. Kohn's In a spirit of mea

Mistaken

Identity

173

for British culpa?Toynbee's policy, the most for Zionist?they extravagant accepted slogans of as statements of sociological fact or incontrovertible Arab nationalism moral its surface. beneath claims, and saw none of the contradictions When these kept the Arab contradictions later theorists states after World War II, gained independence to the fore in all their complexity, and surged at arm's length. "No brief summary of the long

and intricate history of the Arab world could hope to disentanglethe forces which Emerson itwould wrote Rupert its states and peoples," have shaped in scarcely concealed "For a full-scale analysis exasperation. to evaluate the whole be necessary record of Arab experience, as the tribal, sectarian, rule, the machinations and other of divisions, the European and culture."5

such matters including the effects of Ottoman

and the role of Islam and of the Arab language powers, In short, itwas a job for someone else who knew it better. But even those comparativists who knew Arab nationalism quite well chose not to make it the pivot of their comparisons, for fear of perhaps losing The the general case Arab reader does in a labyrinth.6 a dauntingly remain of Arabic from complex one number by the over shores to all

standards

of Europe. two hundred million, of Morocco

speakers in a zone stretching to the Arabian Sea?a region

The

today the Atlantic

that extends

parallel

of Europe from the Atlantic

seaboard of Iberia to the Urals. No

a potential as large, nationalism has claimed European constituency as far-flung, or as fragmented. It has never been easy to document and across this zone, of political the historical evolution consciousness a thinness in its study. persists as a straightforward Nor did Arab nationalism reaction originate toWestern of the kind familiar elsewhere in Asia and imperial rule, Some Arab rule, while over a century of direct experienced peoples none at all. As a result, Arab others experienced

Africa. Western

nationalism followed distinct courses of developmentthe Arabian Crescent, peninsula, coast. Each of these zones African the Nile encountered

in the Fertile

and the North valley, on different theWest

on Arab nationalism times. Variations terms, at different multiplied, even inspiring separate classifications, sometimes such as Nasserism arcane subclassifications, and Ba'thism, and even more such as neo Ba'thism. Many of these became rivals, even to the point of bloodshed.

This has made it difficult to generalize about Arab nationalism, and

174

Martin Kramerto deploy such generalizations pages in the larger debate over

treacherous nationalism.

The purpose It is to attempt

what

in the following Emerson

is not to attempt as a prelude wished,

to trace the political trajectory of Arab nationalism plotted by the poets, to walk an idea briskly through its historical phases, and tocharacterize its relationship to those other ideas and identities that

the treacherous. to comparison:

have appealed to "the speakers of the dad"unique to Arabic.

that sound which

is

It is the story of a nationalism that arose fitfully, then faltered It is an account and failed. of spread dramatically, how millions to be Arabs of people themselves and then, imagined as though in a case of mistaken to have been claimed identity, someone else all along. THE EMERGENCE OF ARABISM Arabism century not as a direct reaction a critique of the state of the Ottoman rule, over most of the whose reach had extended Arabic-speaking since the early sixteenth For nearly four hundred century. in the nineteenth as but seat of the Empire was in Istanbul, and its vast in Ottoman administered But the Ottomans Turkish. of their Arabic Islam, as did the overwhelming majority state evolved as a partnership Their in Islam, subjects. The all of the Ottoman Arabic sultan's Muslim retained a pride subjects, in their whatever first arose

to Western Empire, peoples

years, these Arabic speakers had been fully reconciled to their rolein the Empire. domains were professed speaking embracing language Muslims

they spoke. who spoke century. which

language:

Godseventh

revealed the Qur'an

in Arabic

to an Arab prophet

in the

conquests,

They also celebrated carried Islam from

the history of the early Arab to the Pyrenees. And the Oxus

they took pride in their genealogies, which linked them to Arabia at the dawn of Islam. But that very fidelity to Islam bound them toMuslims other on other and prided themselves spoke languages new vitality to the defense and who and genealogies, brought of Islam. Since the fifteenth century, the Ottomans showed expansion who

to an Islamic zeal that had carried this vitality, harnessed precisely All the Muslim Islam to the very gates of Vienna. subjects of the saw themselves as participants Ottoman house in and beneficiaries

Arab Nationalism:this shared Arab Islamic enterprise,

Mistaken

Identity

175between

and they drew

no distinction

and Turk. the foundations carpet subjects of was this to symbiosis began rolled up at both being rule in Europe, form. The

But with the relative decline inOttoman power, especially in thenineteenth weaken. The century, great Ottoman

ends: by Europe's Great Powers, locked in imperial rivalry, and bythe discontented whose Ottomans eventually its remaining remaining the Fertile the Arab Many Christian of Ottoman for struggles embarked lost their took a nationalist independence on a succession of Westernizing reforms but in the Balkans, the Caucasus, North footing and some discontent even in the appeared in Arabia and to be known extent of as

Africa, and Egypt. As the Empire dwindled, so did the confidence ofsubjects, of the Empire, provinces Arabic-speaking come Crescent?a discontent that would "awakening."7 controversies but still surround the nature

and

this

to have drawn two it is generally discontent, upon agreed sources. were there the minority communities of Arabic First, much influenced currents, who Christians, speaking by European to transform Arabic worked into a medium of missionary work and modern learning. From about the middle of the nineteenth century,

their efforts did much

to kindle interest in secular Arabic belles

to the modern of Arabic conventions of lettres, through adaptation the press, and the theater. The Arabic the novel, literary revival, centered in Beirut, did not translate immediately into Arab nationalism. But it did argue for the existence to which of a secular Arab culture, Christians and Muslims upon By elaborating sought to erode the prejudice Arabism also arose had supposedly this shared Arab in equal measure. the Christian minority legacy, of the Muslim and to win for majority contributed source. Rivalries had always

Christians their full equality as fellow Arabs.from a second

absorbed the Arabic-speaking Muslimover competition and bureaucratic such demand appointments sinecures. The

elite, especially in the keen

spoils by Ottoman that Istanbul accord in the conduct opened, Empire this Arabism where

government positions of those passed over for grievances turned into the governors occasionally of the Arabic-speaking their own affairs. more provinces As the twentieth of the

to Ottoman

autonomy century Ottoman

cities spread to all the major was Arabic but it centered spoken,

upon

176Damascus,

Martin Kramerwhere its adherents began to organize. While the Arabism

of Muslims resembled that of Christians in its pride of language, it differed fundamentally in its deep attachment to Islam. It appealedto Muslims their name by arguing privileged of Islam, could secular associated social the greatness in of the Arabs resided in the of Islam. The Arabs, understanding acting had created a great empire and civilization, and only restore about with its pristine this assertion of Arab Islam Islamic apologetics to There was grandeur. became genius, which and reformism. that

the Arabs nothing closely

This "Arab awakening," Christian andMuslim,a trenchant criticism or a truly modern

failed to produceof politics.

language

would defeat itself by its apologetic defense of tradition Ultimately, it and religion.8 But it did go far enough to shake the confidence ofsome Arabic pamphleteers in the legitimacy of Ottoman speakers even tried to conjure up Ottoman fears tracts in the name and in Europe, to debate of these some journals rule. A few (and foreign of an "Arab movement." in of opinion The debate question."

subsidies) by publishing Most of these appeared Europe's capitals began

"the Arab

was premature. In 1907 the English traveler Gertrude Bell gave thecommonplace assessment stirrings: Of what value are the pan-Arabic associations and inflammatory leaflets that they issue from foreign printing presses? The answer is easy: they are worth nothing at all. There is no nation of Arabs; the is separated by a wider gulf from the Bedouin than Syrian merchant the Syrian country is inhabited by Arabic he is from the Osmanli, races all eager to be at each other's throats, and only speaking from fulfilling their natural desires by the ragged half fed prevented soldier who draws at rare intervals the Sultan's pay.9

Yet by the eve ofWorld War

I, Arabism did begin to take a moreand Zionism. The Turkish

form against the two challenges of Turkification palpable status quo. the cultural threatened Turkification

speaking subjects of the Ottomannationalism, European-style Balkans. Turkish-speaking themselves philologists an ancient a new largely Muslims

Empire had been exposed

to

into the its penetration through to construct for then began

a trend strengthened by Western identity as Turks, to establish the greatness of and romantics who sought As the Ottoman "Turanian" civilization.10 Empire

to give the polyglot authorities stumbled, Ottoman Empire attempted more nation-state the of a European of the character by enforcing

Arab Nationalism:use of Turkish This at the expense never of other

Mistaken

Identity

111

fully implemented, policy, on the eve of World the Arab provinces to rally the supporters of cultural Arabism Zionist settlement in Palestine

languages, including Arabic. in caused some apprehension War I, and may have helped to a political the political purpose. status quo.

threatened

Ottoman authorities tolerated the influx of Jewish immigration in the belief that itwould ultimately benefit the Empire, as it had insuccessive sultan's the waves subjects land on which the Spanish Inquisition. since this latest wave concurred, since But not all of the saw of immigrants as a refuge but as

a state

they were settling not merely in the making. As the pace of Zionist and immigration their immediate settlement grew apprehensive increased, neighbors From the turn of the of dispossession. about the looming possibility

became amatter of growing century, Ottoman policy toward Zionism in the Arabic and criticism debate press.11 unease Arabism thus arose from a growing about the pace and direction of change. Yet, while the Ottoman Empire lasted, this

Arabism did not develop into full-fledged nationalism. Its adherentsnot Arab for administrative decentralization, pleaded independence, and they had no vision of a post-Ottoman order. They imagined in the form of an accountable solution and professed government vague admiration for the liberal democracies of the West, especially a a

of France and England, although they had an imperfect grasp of thebehind the slogan of "liberty." Above all, they were practical. meaning in did not indulge in dreams of Arab power. Their grievances, They the words "were of a critic of later Arab local and nationalism, services or to the they related to the quality of government and those who proper scope of local administration; sought redress in their communities, for such grievances were mostly men well known specific; a sober constitutional to conduct able perhaps to entertain limitless ambitions."12 grandiose, but not opposition eve of World On the

War

I, they were probablyMuslims

still in the minority,and Christians rule, and who even

outnumberedraised stood no prepared

by

Arabic-speaking about the legitimacy

doubt

of Ottoman

to defend

it.AND THE EUROPEAN EMPIRES

THE ARAB NATION

World War

I forced a choice upon the adherents of Arabism. Afterthe Ottoman Empire entered the European war on

some hesitation,

178the

Martin Kramerside of Germany, for prompting Britain and France to fan every and the

ember of dissent in the Empire. The Allies held out the prospect ofindependence they eventually "the Arab something they called a partner a local potentate in found nation," of Mecca,

Sharif Husayn. The Sharif had an ambitious vision of a vast "Arab kingdom" for his family, and in 1915 he secured commitmentsfrom 1916, Britain its future regarding he finally raised the standard In and frontiers. independence of revolt against Ottoman rule.

The Arab Revolt which began in Arabia had little to do with the Arabism that had emerged in the Fertile Crescent. Itmore faithfullyexpressed for British contacts of the Sharif, and the enthusiasm the dynastic ambition and gold among Arabia's desert tribes. However, guns

the Sharif's sons, the Emirs Faysal and Abdallah,with These from The the existing had Arab attended officers for societies Ottoman who had

also establishedand the

in Damascus,

revolt recruited dissident Arab officers who had deserted Ottomanranks. nation" them. officers military trained mix, academies, and advised diverse

where they had imbibed the idea of the army as the "school of thethe German thus made revolt a volatile whose

participants dreamed the different dreams of Arab kingship, desertliberal constitutionalism, anarchy, the revolt lasted, they suspended independence. In 1918, as the Ottomans into Damascus he went and there retreated formed he their and military While dictatorship. in the drive for differences before British arms in Palestine,

the Arab Revolt culminated in triumph when Faysal led his followersan "Arab Government." asked that to Versailles, where of Asia" be recognized peoples and that "no steps be taken eventual union of these areas In 1919, "the Arabic-speaking sovereign peoples," the prospect of an government."

as "independent inconsistent with under one

sovereign

Finally, in 1920, a "General Syrian Congress" declared the independence of a "United Kingdom of Syria" including the entireLevant, and proclaimed Emir Faysal king. From Damascus, an

"IraqiCongress" also proclaimed Iraq independent, under the kingship of the Emir Abdallah.13An Arab nation had made entered outset, other claims. Most to France and its members the game of nations, claims which far-reaching and from the ran up against commitments Sykes

Britain had made wartime notably, The first, the so-called the Zionist movement.

Arab Nationalism:Picot

Mistaken

Identity

179

Levant as agreement, secretly recognized most of the northern a zone of French the Balfour the second, Declaration, privilege; a Jewish national in Palestine. Britain also home publicly supported had in the territories interests strategic and economic sons. The and his the Sharif Husayn contradictory at the San Remo sorted out in April conference, 1920, settled on the division of occupied as separate agreements, League French demanded claims where by were

Britain

and France which

Ottoman

to administer they planned On the basis of these mandates. and

territory, of Nations' forces drove

Faysal and his followers from Damascus

in a brief battle in July,

French rule on Syria that would last for a quarter of imposed a century. At the same time, Britain began to fulfill its commitment to more extensive under the Balfour Declaration by opening Palestine Zionist that would June, immigration become and a fixture settlement. Arab violence against for Palestine. broke out Jews In in

first broke out inApril, presaging the strife between Arab and Jewof the British mandate against the British a widespread insurrection

Iraq, which British forces suppressed by force. Increasingly Arab nationalists charged that Ottoman rule had been replaced by Britishand French predecessor. borders, even more alien than itsMuslim government imperialism, to compensate Britain did move the leaders of the Arab an emirate Jordan out of the Palestine from Zionist and exempted immigration now nursed a But the Arab nationalists of Trans and France the denial over the partition of the in Palestine of independence liberalism, began to redefine

Revolt in 1921: it appointed Faysal as the king of Iraq in expandedand carved it then which mandate, turned over to Abdallah. against deep grievance territories they wanted,

Britain and

and Syria, whichonce

they believed had been promised to them. Arab

nationalism, inspired by theWest's itself as a negation of its imperialism. The Arab nationalist lament against Fertile Crescent had much commensurate Transjordan, geography with

validity. a political community. Lebanon?these Palestine, history, and their

None

the arbitrary partition of the states was of the new Syria, names borders Lebanon, derived largely Iraq, from reflected

or classical

the imperial jostling for strategic position or oil.14Only the idea of Lebanon had some historical depth, since theMaronite Christiansof Mount and had Lebanon achieved maintained some a strong sense of separate even in the late Ottoman autonomy identity period.

180But

Martin Kramerthe Maronites were too few, would and the borders of Lebanon drawn

in 1920 by the French (at Maroniteof Muslims. Maronites nation, of a Lebanese of Lebanon's persuade

insistence) included largenumbers

to manufacture later attempt the idea a seafaring commerce and by distinguished

culture dating back to the Phoenicians?safely

before the rise of anyfailed Lebanon" to

But the Maronites contemporary religions. in Lebanon that the idea of "eternal the Muslims more than the sectarian of Lebanon's

anything expressed Half themselves. inclusion

in Lebanon them

solidarity their forced population regarded as still another as cruel as trick of imperialism,

of theMaronites

the other tricks the Arab nationalistsagainst But the of and in 1920.15 nation It satisfied another of the Arab Fertile seemed members. idea of an Arab

thought had been played

its supposed there

to most just as arbitrary the makers and backers of the nationalist state. But in the were

Arab Revolt, whoestablished societies fragmented accustomed most They

regrouped in Iraq after their flight from Syria,few persons Crescent, as Arabs. As in Ottoman

to regarding to classify continued Muslims members

themselves themselves

or Christians, of this or that clan, family, tribe, village, or urban Druzes, to be ruled by foreigners from over the quarter. They did not wish sea. But neither did they desire to be ruled by strangers from across were the war, strangers During spoke Arabic. to secure separate their own diplomacy, to difficult the war, their allegiance After proved independence.16 soon discovered. as the Arab nationalists The Arab nationalist win, to be chaotic, in Damascus and his proved In in Iraq rested on the bayonets of the British. reign subsequent a "The Great British called Faysal the Imposed," correspondence, a fragmented stranger to his subjects, who had been awarded polity in Faysal's nationalists The Arab in arbitrary borders. entourage state under Faysal even if those the desert, some of them had made

times, sect, and genealogy. by religion, or Sunnis or Shiites, Maronites

dreamed of a great Arab state, but itwas all they could do to keeptogether Arab the would-be Arabs that they ruled.

Faced with masses of people who had not chosen to be Arabs, thea doctrine them any other that denied developed discarded the wars, the Arab nationalists choice. Between progressively as a voluntary formed by the French idea of the nation contract, to secure their liberty. Increasingly their nation resembled individuals nationalists

Arab Nationalism:Volk, a natural of language by the mystery restore its greatness, could the German surrender but were else. also of freedom. nation and even

Mistakenall human

Identity

181

above

lore. Only if the price

bound volition, the unity of this nation of unity meant the

This struggle had to be conducted not only against imperialism,the would-be Arabs themselves. against and some openly professed eager to be Arabs, In such instances, Arab nationalism assigned by According compulsion. first true ideologue and to Sati' Not all of them to be something itself the task of Arab

educating them to an Arab identity, preferably by persuasion but ifnecessary nationalism's a confidant al-Husri, of Faysal,

Every person who speaks Arabic is an Arab. Everyone who is affiliated with these people is an Arab. If he does not know this or if he does not cherish his Arabism, then we must study the reasons for his we must teach him Itmay be the result of ignorance?then position. we must the truth. Itmay be because he is unaware or deceived?then awaken him and reassure him. Itmay be a result of selfishness?then we must work to limit his selfishness.17

This ominous passage presaged the drift of Arab nationalismaway say from that the the liberal model system is a Fascist of a voluntary we to which should system," obedience, army Itwent wrote and community. our direct "We hopes raising idea of can and the the

aspirations slogan of nation especially and the

al-Husri

immediately appealed hand in hand with a growing militarism, belief that only the armed rise above forces could the on the nation. "selfishness" of the sect and clan, enforcing discipline its officers.

"solidarity, as an obedient

in 1930, sacrifice."18 The

to the army

itself,

this trend. The country became in 1930, Iraq pioneered independent in 1932. Less than a year later, and joined the League of Nations a massacre the army conducted of the Assyrian (Nestorian Christian) to the Arab cause. accused of infidelity In 1936, a coup minority,

d'?tat established a thinly-veiled military dictatorship, in the name of national unity. Finally, in 1941, a junta of colonels led Iraq intoa war of "liberation" of which the course Mistreated retrospect, Britain, the nationalists with which it promptly inspired a pogrom strongmen, of independence lost lost, and against battles?in an in the

Jews of Baghdad.minorities, Iraq's early military experience anticipated

182

Martin Kramernationalism. Yet this nationalism, and its extravagant in popularity from to settled

entire era of Arab

extrapolation, pan-Arabism, gained immensely the 1930s. Accelerated from desert encampment migration

town, from village to city, began to unloose primordial ties, diminishing to nationalist resistance the expansion of education, ideology. With masses Arab nationalist indoctrinated of young people, pedagogues from primary school into through university. The spread and of literacy shop. and In

the growthnationalism

of the Arabicevery

press broughtclubhouse,

the messagecoffee

of Arab

classroom,

the public arena, Arab nationalism gradually achieved a firm holdon political and all other discourse, to spread beyond It also began under foreign rule earlier loyalties became unspeakable.19 to include the Fertile Crescent, Asia. France began

first Egypt, then North Africa. Arabic-speaking Africa had comethan Arabic-speaking

colonization of Algeria in 1830 and occupied Tunisia in 1881, while Britain occupied Egypt in 1882. In every instance there hadas local to foreign rule. But it had been formulated in most instances Islam. Until the patriotism, strongly tinged with saw themselves as Arabs, and the earliest few Egyptians 1930s, been resistance

Arab nationalists did not include Egypt in their vision.20 InNortha Africa, resistance united language between large proportion to foreign rule could long of the population and spoke Berber, took an Islamic form, since only Islam But no definition of the Arab nation based on Arabic-speaking Africa, and the very

its inhabitants.

exclude

geography of imperialism created a potential bond of solidarityand the Syrian, the Algerian number of Egyptians time, a growing as Arabs. see themselves Paradoxically, the Egyptian and the Iraqi. In and North Africans began to the empires of Britain and

France linked together Arabic-speaking lands which had enjoyed few if any organic ties inOttoman times, inspiring for the first time the idea of an Arab world stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to theGulf. At the time, the division of this world did not yet seem permanent,

and themessage of Arab nationalism, calling for the full independencedid not seem completely contrived. and unity of all Arabs everywhere, to divest War Britain and France After World II, weary began of their empires. troublesome of the more themselves portions and Trans Jordan became Egypt and independent. Syria, Lebanon,

Iraq, their independence effectively revoked by Britain during the

Arab Nationalism:war, began to renegotiate the terms for the great majority nationalists hoped

Mistakenof British of Arabs that an Arab

Identitywithdrawal. seemed

183Full only a

independence

matterstates,

of time. It wouldbut Arab

be acquired piecemeal

by individualcommonwealth

might emerge from this fluid situation. Elaborate plans for Arabunification But its own and proliferated. these plans quickly ruling elite, ran aground. By now each state possessed and anthem. Their proposals "Greater Crescent unity," for and self British

counterproposals, and "Arab Syria," aggrandizement.21

flag, bureaucracy, for "Fertile

were schemes federation," Arab much After negotiation

the independent Arab states established the Arab mediation, in 1945, a compromise that recognized the distinct League sovereignty of each of them. In the end, independence did notalter Arab the map drawn by another, League promised the Arab League of sovereignty, which their prerogatives sacrifice In particular, Article 8 of the charter meticulously upheld. "Each member of nonintervention: the principle charter upheld state shall imperialism. to assist one The member but states none of the would

in the of government established the systems respect as the exclusive concerns states and regard them other member to abstain states. from any action Each shall pledge of those to change of government."22 established calculated systems while the article of nonintervention, to its greatest weakness. Not quo, pointed the unencumbered their rulers commanded Yet citizens much. and subjects. invariably purpose, By their own sanctifying all of these the status states and

They Arab larger

justified even when

rhetoric, as advancing a their actions their own they were pursuing Fertile Crescent, to invoke so of number long states openly as Arab

of their allegiance as admitted they

purposes. Especially parochial reason lacked created without reasons nationalism independence into a rigorous by rulers and revolution. stumbled of state. and The remained

in the could

the confidence pass

paradox a loose

solidarity.

m?lange But a growing

about slogans of intellectuals

and officers, abhorring ambiguity, turned their Arab nationalismsaw the Arab nationalism They professed as posturing to argue the need for and began came when Their moment the fragile Arab order over Israel. doctrine. states

184

Martin Kramer

ARAB REVOLUTION The Nations rhetorical gap authorized turned into a chasm in 1948, after into two the United states, one

the partition

of Palestine

Jewish and one Arab. When the neighboring Arab states moved against Israel in 1948, they claimed to be fighting in concert, touphold own was their brotherly commitment to the Arabs vivendi Israel to her of Palestine. with Israel. In It

fact they did just the opposite: each wagedeach sought a separate modus interests, a hard-fought ended with war, which even more than had been allotted territory and with thousand the Arab Arab refugees. states as

its own war to defend itsin possession of the United by hosts to seven

Nations, hundred

reluctant

The events of 1948, like those of 1920, shifted the ground from beneath Arab nationalism. While the Arab states negotiated fitfullywith to stir. The began Constantin intellectuals, exemplified by the Syrian historian Zurayk, criticism leveled a withering the conduct of the war, and against Israel, disaffected intellectuals and officers

madethan stabbed

it difficult for Arab states to present 1948 as anything lessa rout. in the back moved, charging they had been and senior commanders. by politicians Syria's turned out by a military nationalist coup leadership was two more in 1952, that year, with another coups followed Then the officers

old-guard in 1949;

and yet another in 1954. Abdallah, whoJordan, kingdom as his "West Arab Palestine and in 1950

in 1949 renamed his

remnant the adjacent annexed of was assassinated in 1951 for his Bank," barely held on. In 1952, a group failure in the Palestine war and in its conduct, overturned the a revolutionary republic. coup by more "free

Israel. The monarchy dealings with of "free officers," invoking Egypt's of official corruption allegations monarchy in a bloodless leader. coup

and established

By 1954, one of these officers, Gamal Abdul Nasser, had emergedas undisputed In 1958, a sanguinary

officers" destroyed the Iraqimonarchy, and the regicides establisheda "popular republic." which Arab nationalism, "revolutionary" that the Arabs, demonstrated remained disunited, politically became became after 1948. despite militarily after "anti-imperialist" in Palestine The war their formal and 1920, had

independence, economically

weak,

underdeveloped. The failure could still be blamed on imperialism,

Arab Nationalism:and much West's also Arab nationalist thought

Mistaken

Identityimages

185of a

went

into drawing

global conspiracy, which

allegedly implanted Israel to assure the

But some intellectuals of the Arabs. domination continuing in Arab of intrinsic weaknesses the existence began to suggest and society, easier. The that these had made the task of the arguing new of Arab nationalism, fiery champions a social revolution now promised overcome that would and propel the Arab world to unity, power, and

culture Zionists

young colonels, these weaknesses

prosperity.revolution

In the spirit of the times, they usually defined this

as socialism?or, more Arab lest it socialism, precisely, be alleged that the changes were not authentically Arab in inspiration. no longer meant Arab nationalism only literary revival and anti imperialism. It meant five-year plans, new lexicon, Arab nationalists as "revolutionaries," cast themselves then their opponents could only be "reactionaries."23 took two parallel The new dispensation became forms, which known as Nasserism and Ba'thism. Nasserism cult of Gamal married Abdul nationalism to the personality Nasser, extensive land reform, and nationalization, all in the name of "the revolution." And if, in their

revolutionary who

enjoyed immense prestige in the Arab world after he pulled a political victory from the combined British, French, and Israeliattack on Suez with in 1956. Nasserism combined the idea that Egypt under the very heart of the Arab world, and had the resources to lead all Arabs to unity. A streak of pragmatism ran and will which evolved from day to day while Nasser through Nasserism, an ideology too makeshift to constitute held power. It was and constituted doctrine. glow than on any systematic to Egypt's Arab character, at first priority gave or Afro-Asian? out to be Muslim, times he made African, Egypt But it was precisely whichever served his particular that purpose. And while Nasser relied more on Nasser's warm like reform a program of socialist the charismatic Nasser

ambiguity which made Nasser all things to all Arabs, and permitted Egypt to imagine herself to be the bridge to Arab nationalism,linking the Arabs were of Asia and Africa in the march to unity.24

Ba'thism tended to bemore ideologically stringent, if only becauseits founders Sorbonne-schooled filled from minority sects, who had debates and Nietzsche, Fichte, chose to call themselves They teachers hailing Syrians, mostly their spare time with academic Stewart Chamberlain. and resurrection,

and Houston the Ba'th,

meaning

186they were "except

Martin Kramer"revolutionaries" by means of as amatter revolution of principle. struggle. Their To constitution, rely on slow

adopted in 1947, announced that their goals could not be achievedand

evolution and to be satisfied with a partial and superficial reform isto their failure and loss." The and to conduce was the creation of a single Arab state, since all goals were differences "accidental and unimportant. among Arabs They will all disappear with the awakening of Arab consciousness." And these aims first of these regarded depth of Arab party: "their they socialism as "a necessity nationalism itself."25 As of events was which emanates from the an early member almost identical, attested, but they to threaten

the Ba'th demonstratedinterpretation

all the characteristics of an ideological

did not trust one another; they loved the people, but hated the individual; they held thewhole sacred, but they despised the parts."26 The Ba'th spread its influence by penetrating the junior officer corps and eventually acquired power through military coups in both Syriaand under Nasser Iraq. The the Ba'th and usual pattern was for the military wing of the local

party to purge the civilian wing and install a military dictatorship,socialism."27 freedom, slogan of "unity, to the summit the Ba'th carried Arab nationalism Nasser's of

early gambles paid off because he was the to play foreign nationalist leader who was first Arab positioned one another in a game he called "positive neutralism." powers against its achievements. When came backing France the Americans of the Algerian (in league with refused to finance the Aswan to his rescue. When his nationalization uprising provoked the United the Soviets Dam, of the Suez Canal and

The Arab world, radio transistor,

Israel), through glued to these maneuvers before Nasser's stood breathless

States

an attack by Britain and came to his rescue. the now ubiquitous act. The high-wire

Ba'th in Syria longed to join it and pushed for negotiations with Nasser over unity. In 1958, the talks culminated in the birth of the United Arab Republic?a union of Egypt and Syria, offered to the Arab world as the first step toward a general Arab union. The names of Egypt and Syria disappeared from themap, replaced by aregion." Arab nationalism region" and a "northern Nasser's its high-water first visit to Damascus, mark during Other Arab enthusiastic crowds. he was greeted by wildly "southern trembled for their as "Nasserists" long-awaited filled Bismarck. the streets Lebanon reached where leaders

to clamor of their capitals invited American troops

Arab Nationalism:

Mistaken

Identity

187

to stem the tide; Jordan accepted British forces. No Arab stateof Arab unity on its own. the march capable of withstanding that succumbed. the United Arab Republic in the end, itwas for into a struggle turned and the Ba'th of Nasser The marriage In this uneven the camp of Arab nationalism. within domination seemed But contest, colony run a badly ran Syria like a colony?and the Egyptians at that. The union did not release some pent-up potential

which only the combining of Egypt and Syria could tap. Quite the opposite: the union threatened to kill all productive initiative, especially in Syria, through the imposition of "Arab socialism." In1961, a Syrian coup ousted Nasser's viceroy from Damascus and

declared the union finished. The breakup demonstrated the salience of differences far too deep to be blown away by blithe slogans.There 1963, would be more and more and the Ba'th in between Nasser negotiations never and treaties. But there would unity schemes of the Egyptian-Syrian union in 1961

be a repeat of the United Arab Republic.28In retrospect, the collapse

marked

the beginning of the long slide of Arab nationalism. The following year, Nasser contributed to its undoing by his massiveintervention on behalf of the "revolutionary" side in Yemen's civil

war. Everything Egypt did inYemen, including aerial bombing and napalming, had the opposite of the intended effect. A British journalistwho watched and the Egyptians arrogance. at work in Yemen was amazed by their ignorance Itwas

one of the more piquant experiences of my post-revolutionary in Sanaa to be hailed by most of them with a chummy affability stay in that implied as clearly as any words that they and Iwere somehow as embattled representatives in the of civilisation this thing together midst of savagery. "What can you do with these people?" they would often laugh, in tones of vastly superior deprecation, "They are not come directly from British colonial see...." like us, you Having all the more the symptoms I recognised Aden easily. Creeping is a catching disease, and those Egyptians were imperialism step away from clapping their hands together and shouting, service.29 when they wanted In Yemen, as in Syria, vast differences overwhelmed any only a "Boy!"

remote

similarity,

leaving Arab

to war Arab

in a spirit of mutual

incomprehension.

188from

Martin Kramer theory had promised that unity would bring liberation

Nationalist

but in the hands of actual practitioners it had foreigners, a whip became of domination, wielded by some Arabs over others. as did the to grow, its scars began of Arabs The number bearing one Syrian, were wrote The Arabs, disillusionment. "like the

inhabitants of an island who have been promised that the ship ofdeliverance slave will soon arrive. They have buried their tools and

packed their meager belongings; but whenboat."30 but

the ship arrives, it is a

to believe in some The will still remained strong an edge of doubt began to show. Arab nationalism's quarters, Its champions responded supply of persuasive words began to dwindle. use of the persuasive more of Abu prisons by making frequent Za'bal and Tura near Cairo, Mezze in Damascus, and the cellars of

the Nihayyah Palace in Baghdad. The crisis finally broke in 1967. The Arabs may well have blundered into war with Israel that June, but once they were in the thick of it, they expected more than in 1948. Most assumed that they had beennot weakened, strengthened, social revolution, the Ba'th, of Arab under the banner Israel. two decades by nearly and the militarization nationalism and the of Nasser of politics, and all

against struggle delivered defeat, Instead, they got less: a truly ignominious in six days. Its territorial consequences included the Israeli occupation the West of East Jerusalem, Bank, and Gaza?all densely populated

by Arabs?andthat had defeat When kept

of the Sinai and the Golan, two geographic buffersIsrael at a distance from Cairo and Damascus. The

of pan-Arabism."31 less than "the Waterloo nothing represented to step down, the crowds filled the streets to Nasser offered as their leader. Through demand that he continue years of pounding to silence every Nasser and the Ba'th had managed indoctrination, other into and many voice, only of Arab nationalism. language the collective understood But as defeat the limited spoke its way deep worked in voices would be raised and

to Arab opposition states. The to individual

two other psyche, One spoke nationalism. other

the language of allegiance of loyalty to a universalist Islam.32 spoke

THE TRIUMPH OF THE STATE Arab individual creation, to their separate interests. give priority Since their states Yet had never hesitated to

they had been persuaded

Arab Nationalism:

Mistaken

Identity

189

by their perceived lack of legitimacy to pledge formal fidelity to the Arab nation, and thus risked being dragged into crises generated byaccused of breaking Arab ranks for states, or being out. As 1967 proved, such crises could deteriorate however, staying into war, in lives, territory, and exact a steep price and quickly of these states already lumbered under immense prestige. Many to assume economic burdens. did not have the means the They other Arab

burdens of their neighbors, especially theweightyEven mighty Egypt could no longer assume

load of Palestine.

the sole custodianship

of the Arab cause (an Egypt which sent tens of thousands of troops to defend the Arab cause as far away as Yemen, yet had difficultyits own people at home). If these states were ever to set their feeding own priorities, to justify openly have their separate they would and demand the primary of their citizens and existence, loyalties subjects.

Paradoxically, Egypt led the way again, this time under Anwaras-Sadat. Sadat launched an attack against Israel in October 1973,

but this time Egypt fought a strictly Egyptian war for the return of the Israeli-occupied Sinai. Although Egypt waged thewar in tandem with Syria, it quickly broke with Syria in the war's aftermath. Bythe decade's the Sinai. end, Sadat's Sadat had given of recognition Israel a peace treaty in return for on the United Israel, his reliance

liberalization turned all the assumptions of States, and his economic on their head?and Arab nationalism no apologies Sadat offered so. Instead, he made an explicit case for Egypt's for doing right to chart its own course and address its own problems first. Sadat paid

for his policies with his life, and Egypt was briefly ostracized for itspeace More states cautiously Arab followed suit. now their choices justified they by invoking Saudi, or Iraqi national Syrian, Jordanian, interests, not Arab national as states, despite their origins themselves destiny. And by legitimizing in imperial map closer to legitimizing rooms, they came that much in Zionist rooms. its origins Israel, despite drawing Israel. other often than not, with But

For the first time, it became possible to criticize the myths ofand to see the differences Arabism, among Arabs not as "accidental" even but as living realities, of respect. Lebanon's most deserving

prominent historian, Kamal Salibi, criticized Arab nationalism for "deluding the general run of the Arabs into believing that the political unity they had once experienced under Islamwas in fact an

190

Martin Kramer

Arab national unity which they have subsequently lost, or of which they have been deliberately robbed." This made it "difficult forto to properly accommodate Salibi called on intellectuals present." them discount the erroneous the to: political realities of the

view of this history as a Arab nationalist united national march that went wrong at some point, and correctly an account of assess it as the parochial history that it normally was: so many different Arab regional experiences of one kind or another, fitting more or less into a general pattern. No Arab country today its actual existence as a willful or need feel any guilt about accepting unwillful

when

departure from an Arab national historical norm. It is only the Arabs succeed in ridding themselves of the highly idealized vision of their past that they will be able to live Arab nationalist in the modern Arab world as a coherent political community together and relate to one another constructively various members whosewithout reserve.33

After of

1967,

this once states.

surreptitious

view

could

be pronounced

openly,

and it laid the intellectual foundation for the growing self-confidenceindividual But that self-confidence rested as much on power as on persuasion.

Despite their difficulties on the battlefield, these states had masteredthat The regimes realized surveillance. the technologies of domestic to forestall any dissent and they resolved defeat left them vulnerable, to make The the state ubiquitous. these technologies by using

approachinaugurated

largely worked.a bout of

Unlike

the defeat of 1948, whichhumiliating defeat

instability,

the even more

of 1967 marked the beginning of an era of unprecedented stability, even immobility. The flood of oil income that followed the 1973war also only one Syrian state had not to buy off dissent. The regimes permitted In the words of it had become become omnipotent. legitimate, intellectual: "The cancerous growth of the state has been thinkers "Arab and society leaders is on

accompanied by the increasingly diminished power of everybodyand everything enjoy calling some Arab else, especially what As a consequence, 'The People.'"

the whole

cancelled out as a reality of political significance in the

of all Arab regimes."34 By the time communism collapsed, reckonings one-man of protracted the last preserve lands had become the Arab rule, and so they remain today. The king of Jordan has reigned now for forty years, the king of Morocco for thirty-two years. Libya's

Arab Nationalism:leader made his coup twenty-four

Mistakenago. The

Identitychairman of

191the

years

Palestine Liberation Organization

(PLO)has held his title for twenty

four years. Syria's president has held power for twenty-two years. ruler has held sway over the country for twenty-two Iraq's years, as president. the last fourteen The emir of Kuwait has reigned for

fifteen years, the king of Saudi Arabia for eleven years. Egypt's president has held office for twelve years. Not one of these states could be categorized as a democracy, although after 1967 they laid unprecedented claims to the loyalty of their citizens and subjects,and every aspect of virtually the perennial Lebanon, Only exception, over its legitimacy and its power enhancing upon an equilibrium "one Arab nation." between intruded society. proved society incapable after 1967. Lebanon" in step with of In and the

this birthplace of Arab nationalism, social peace had come to dependon the myths of "eternal The Maronites agreed to march

Arabs, so long as they could carry the flag of Lebanon; theMuslims agreed to parade behind the flag of Lebanon, provided the parademarched to an Arab cadence. By this understanding, Lebanon would

supply intellectual rationales for Arab nationalism; others would provide the soldiers for its battles. For a time the equilibrium held,and Lebanon established free-market duty guilt, economy. and managed a quasi-democratic In times of regional to dodge war order public crisis, Lebanon with Israel. and did a its

by words,

But

after

1967, Lebanon began to lose its balance. The Muslims, wracked bydemanded that Lebanon and open Palestine, The Maronites, awed by Israel's example, thought they could turn the state of Lebanon into something a small powerhouse, comparable: the situation under and in civil war, and Lebanon exploded virtually disappeared a checkered of militia crisscrossed map fiefdoms, by green red lines. The only lines that did not count were Lebanon's finally take up the Arab burden of its southern to attacks border Israel. against

armed to the teeth, defiant of the Arab world around it. In 1975,

borders, and both Syria and Israel entered the fray.When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, itworked feverishly with its Lebaneseallies the country in its image, but to no avail. Since has tried to do the same, with more resolve and success. 1989, Syria Aside from Lebanon, states exercised more all other confident over their societies, and more independence from one another. to remake

power

Before 1967, Arab nationalism

appeared to drain states of their

192

Martin KramerAfter that its slippage both strengthened 1967, external seemed states and to produce a surge of incumbent regimes.

legitimacy. legitimacy

This strength had severe limitations: Arab states still could notward stand up to powerful off interventions societies enemies such as Israel. But they could one another, and enforce their will over by an almost with ruthless efficiency.35

their own

THE CHALLENGE OF ISLAM

The voice of Islam also bid to fill the silence left by Arab nationalism.Arab nationalists and had in Arab their way rival, element out had always tried to disarm nationalism. to argue Islamic regarded it by incorporating Even the Christians nationalism that Arab loyalty as a potential Islam as a primary among them went complemented

of

rather than contradicted the Islamic loyalties still felt by so many Arabs. "The power of Islam," affirmed Michel Aflaq, the founding ideologue of the Ba'th and a Christian by birth, "has revived toin our days under a new form, that of Arab nationalism."36 appear Arabs saw this as a confidence But many Muslim game, and regarded as mutually For exclusive. Islam and any form of nationalism

Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian ideologue of Islam who was executed byNasser If in 1966, Arab nationalism signified "spiritual decadence." so wished, "was no doubt capable he had the Prophet Muhammad in order to of pan-Arab nationalism of setting forth a movement unify mankind, Arab the strife-riven Arab nationalism: tribes of Arabia." to submit and non-Arab, "God's Instead, to God. he The called Arabs all of thus

enjoyed no privileged standing in Islam, of the kind claimed bycommunity, its members." is the Muslim real chosen people or territorial of affiliation of ethnic, racial, regardless on early Islam, Qutb concluded that the Reflecting

"sole collectiveArabs, under

identity Islam offersand other his had

is that of the faith, wherenations and colors are equal interrogation, Qutb police its role in universal "exhausted

Persians, Byzantines, banner." God's During that Arab nationalism announced

history."37

The Islamic critique of Arab nationalismtheory to its practice. Arab nationalism had

extended beyonderred in breaking

itsthe

primary bond of Islam during the Arab Revolt?a bond that linked Arab and Turk. The Arab nationalists betrayed their fellowMuslims

Arab Nationalism:in order to side with

Mistaken

Identity

193

for just reward Arab nationalists on God

the British, who naturally their trust those who placed

them?a betrayed in unbelievers. The

and his divine

their error by abandoning reliance then compounded in order to become liberals, fascists, and law,

socialists, inmimicry of foreign ideological fashion. And while they professed respect for the faith of Islam, they filled their prisons withthe truly the falling faithful, whom they accused of subversion constituted for preaching a punishment

theword of God. Who did not doubt that the rout by the Jews, andof Jerusalem into Zionist hands,

for straying from God's path? Did not Israel itself prove the power of religion and state combined? This brand of Islamic loyalty enjoyed an immense appeal amongthe members who formed confessional of two underclasses. a majority community The first was composed of Shiites, in Iraq and Kuwait, the largest single in Lebanon, in and important minorities

Saudi Arabia acknowledged"golden during

and the Arab Gulf states. Arab nationalism them as fellow Arabs, but it glorified precisely thatas disastrous, same caliphs

the Shiites mourned age" of Arab history which its heroes were martyred which by the very

lionized in Arab nationalist historiography. In the present, the institutions of Shiite Islam, and even many Shiite families, straddled the divide between the Arab states and Iran, so that many Shiitesas an artificial nationalism division, regarded Arab incompatible with the Arab-Persian of contemporary Shiism. After symbiosis so Iran's revolution in 1979, many in Arab Shiites lands identified to the its success with that they declared their allegiance strongly revolution's nationalism Lebanon's obedience "the Arabs" The other and repudiated leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, states in which and loyalty to the individual Hezbollah took this the furthest, professing to the leader of the Islamic revolution, for self-worship and their capitulation of the tens of millions underclass consisted lot worsened of Arab made as populations both Arab they lived. absolute

and denouncing to Israel. of indigents

who had abandoned the countryside and floodedand whose doctrines grew

into the cities,incomes fell.

and oil

In the slums and bidonvilles of Cairo and Algiers, not only did thesound obsolete, but the promises of states also rang hollow to those in the grip of prosperity by In growing and unemployment. the poverty numbers, grinding their loyalty to Islamic movements which gave dispossessed employed nationalism

194a more

Martin Kramer

familiar vocabulary and called for the reinstitution of Islamic as the panacea law for all political, ills. These social, and economic were to work within Islamic movements states, prepared existing but only as a matter of convenience. They professed loyalty only to

Islamic law, and committed themselves to fight for its implementationwherever of Arab their possible, Muslims even in distant Afghanistan, where many as volunteers Soviet fought against clients. For these thousands forces and

their political believers, Afghan not end at the border crossing did of any state, or even community to any place where It extended where Arabic ceased to be spoken. or had to be defended. Islam reigned supreme

"atheistic"

In the void left by Arab nationalism

after 1967, two ideas of

thus competed for primacy. On the one side stood those community a who that the inhabitants of any one state constituted argued sense. Regimes in a political distinct this idea, people championed

for it legitimized their claim to act solely in the interests of thestate?identified a universal increasingly with one ruling group or one ruler.

On the other side stood thosewho believed that all Muslims constitutedpolitical community, standing above any narrower political This idea suited opposition since it denied movements, authority. to virtually all existing regimes. An immense gap separated legitimacy these two visions, but their adherents Arab agreed on one point: nationalism had or too narrow been irredeemably, having to satisfy the quest for identity. ADRIFT failed either too broad

ARAB NATIONALISM

And what of the remaining Arab nationalists? After 1967, theirnumbers Many in Arabic and influence intellectuals except steadily dwindled, did live a pan-Arab actually that stretched among intellectuals. wrote to the reality. They "from the Ocean

for an audience

Gulf," and published in pan-Ar ab journals that circulated just as widely. They jetted from capital to capital for conferences on the state of the Arabs. They had one foot (and sometimes both) in the West, where the freest Arabic press and publishing houses did theirbusiness. could failure In this rarefied still be sustained. of atmosphere, For the most the myths part, these were of Arab nationalism did not for not intellectuals criticized

regard the defeat of 1967 as a failure of their idea, but rather as aits implementation by others, who

Arab Nationalism:after But 1967

Mistaken

Identityfurther

195

being sufficiently radical or sufficiently ruthless. Muchnationalist advocacy who could more master "self-criticism" of violent revive and even change. an idea whose came who

of the Arabtoward Bismarck gone.

pushed intellectuals lacked an Arab time had in 1970 above come

and nearly

Nasser had faltered, and in 1970 he died. The Ba'th in Syria, aftertwists of turns, to rest under Hafiz all. For put Syria realpolitik Arab nationalists fixed their hopes on Saddam Hussein. were a desperate choice, a al-Asad, lack of better

alternatives, and finally The

first on the Palestinians, since they themselves

Palestinians

had largely despaired of other Arabs. At the height of Nasser's powers, they had allowed themselves to believe in him, and to seehim PLO as their in 1964, redeemer. under Nasser also the auspices the creation of the prompted of the Arab League. But even

before the Arab armies collapsed in 1967, Palestinians had begun toof their own. The dominant no pan-Arab Fatah demanded component pretensions. even exterritorial the moral zones of support of the Arab states, and Israel's It was to frontiers. operation, especially along prepared to assure the independence of these bastions. But it promoted fight no message of Arab and it gave first priority to the revolution, a state, which of a Palestinian establishment "entity," presumably transform the PLO Fatah had state system.38 the existing Arab Palestinian took a different course, announcing groups to topple that they would work the "petty bourgeois of regimes" states as a stage in their struggle to liberate Palestine. the Arab This was the pan-Arab of the so-called Arab Nationalists promise would fit into But other Movement the American hijackings "revolution" and its most flamboyant of Beirut. the heroes offspring, Their of many the Popular Front into an instrument

for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), both founded by students atUniversity made them now. The and rhetoric high-strung Arab intellectuals who,

like their Newrock-strewn

Left contemporariesfedayeen,

in the West,

demanded

in the guerrillas hills opposite became the symbols of this struggle. Israel, and Guevara, Living on the edge and citing Mao they were themselves in poetry celebrated and song by the pan-Arab But intellectuals.

the Palestinian

although the fedayeen sought to imitate the methods of guerrilla warfare which succeeded elsewhere, they completely failed to liberateany part of Palestine or the Arab world, and they provoked Jordan's

196ruthless

Martin Kramerin 1970. As Jean Genet the Palestinian recorded, in the phrase, "to have been summed up of a second."39 As the second passed, for a thousandth be

suppression "revolution" could

dangerous Arab nationalist

for the Palestinian enthusiasm and fringe waned, even the fringe finally endorsed the mundane demand for a Palestinian more Arab one to make state alongside Israel?one state, prepared

more

"Our future is with the spokesman of Israel," compromise. in 1970?two told a French academic the PFLP, Ghassan Kanafani, nor China, years before his assassination by Israel. "Neither Europe, are nor the Arab the Soviet Union, in us or would do interested states, collectively decisive anything relying not but on stones or individually, for us."40 The on the massive The the far an even than any to win

nor

West Bank and Gaza Palestinian uprising that began in 1987 in thewas just that: a Palestinian of arms in Arab quantities would fight valuable choice desperate Iraqi the sympathy of Saddam uprising, arsenals, their own fight, of the West. and knives.

Palestinians more The more modern upon

in an effort hero had

step. If anything, ruler to cultivate

as the pan-Arab Saddam a specific

represented done more

architecture, and motifs, the Arab Mesopotamian the defender states. dismissed The But

legacy of ancient Mesopotamian and poetry, the state encouraged it lavished funds upon all

Iraqi loyalty, civilization.

drawing In art,

the use of Mesopotamian archaeological digs and restorations.

Since no loyalties had survived from antiquity (whichwell predatedconquest), myth?Arabs of the eastern Saddam was be accommodated Iraqis could by the Sunnis and Shiites. After and Kurds, Arab no vision flank against pan-Arabist, idea whose the Persian and hordes? in 1982 passed: he

Saddam blundered intowar with Iran in 1980, Iraq billed herself as all the better to justify the demand for war loans from Gulf Arabardent as an the pan-Arab of time had

is no linking unity to the removal of boundaries to present Arab mentality. It could have been longer acceptable acceptable ten or twenty years ago. We have to take into consideration the Arab mind and psyche have undergone. We the change which must see the world as it is... .The Arab reality is that the Arabs are question now twenty-two states, and we have to behave accordingly. Therefore, must not be imposed, but must be achieved through common unity fraternal opinion. Unity must give strength to its individual partners, not cancel their national identity.41

Arab Nationalism:Those included twenty-two Kuwait. Saddam's states, on which invaded

Mistakenunity "must

Identitynot be

197

imposed,"

In 1990,

Iraq

Kuwait,

declaring

it a province

of Iraq. Possession of Kuwait would have filled the Iraqi treasury in perpetuity (a treasury that held a cash reserve of $30 billion back in 1980 but groaned under a debt of more than $100 billion a decade later). Significantly, Iraq did not formally justify its invasion as anact of Arab properly nationalist to the state unification. of and Iraq, an Arab moral claim. But Arab nationalists Iraqi legal right, not a reincarnation as though he were of Nasser, seized upon Saddam at that, for being far more reckless and ruthless. and an improvement he lacked Nasser's potential?power, charm, and nuclear oil, missiles, that would he hinted, he had nerve be put belonged Iraq claimed that Kuwait an asserted that the annexation

While

agents, at the

service of all the Arabs. He would be their sword, much like the four giant swords he had cast for his victory arches inBaghdad, dedicatedat a ceremony in 1989 during which he paraded upon a white horse.42

Hichem Dja?t, the preeminent Tunisian historian, exemplified theIn 1978, in a sober mood, he wrote of the intellectuals. euphoria some to pin all hopes on achieving not be healthy that "it would an attempt state to sort of absolute and that unity," by any Arab use its power for that purpose could allow would be "not only dangerous but

doomed to failure." No Arab state had sufficient power to effectsuch unity, and no Arab or Russia would Europe, the heart this threw "entertain so cohesive the notion that America, a unity to be founded in makes after perfect Saddam sense annexed to

of the Old World."43

day, yet Dja?t to Saddam Hussein, "a new perspective he declared, Thanks Kuwait. And Iraq is its pole and motor." is opening up, that of unification. a start: it still represented If that meant war, or even defeat, I don't have out of wars.

The analysis it to the winds

to tell you, as Europeans, that your nations were born In annexing Kuwait, Saddam Hussein has entered the sure of a source of of history. He was trying to make dynamics In addition, he was undertaking for himself, material means. wealth the beginning of the unification of the Arab world. is more important than legality.44 "Our pursue Sometimes legitimacy

our goals we goal let us seek by the edge of the sword / For are thus surely secured." This verse from Yaziji's ode of

1981868 surface

Martin Krameranticipated of Arab the preference for coercion that ran beneath the no longer Once its slogans nationalism. swayed nationalism of persuasion, gave up even the pretense Saddam had not amassed military expenditures, a generation before, of a second." of enough Saddam's Iraq,

Arab millions, raw to worship

But power. that power; despite incredible like the Palestinian fedayeen for a thousandth "dangerous

in 1978 that an attempt he wrote right when to failure." In battle, be "doomed force unity would the Iraqi "motor" broke down, of unification and the scenes of immediately soldiers and burned-out armored columns recalled surrendering Iraqi nothing would so much not as the defeat the imposition of 1967. of unity And, in the end, Saddam

could only be In the end, Dja?t was state to by any Arab

was right when he said in 1982 that the "Arab mind and psyche"accept or the removal of existing

borders. Most

of the Arab states joined the international coalition

a state system which had become their own, against him, to uphold even if it originated it was And long ago in an imperial partition. not only Arab governments which the invasion: the publics rejected to polls, never took Saddam in the Arab coalition states, according as a pan-Arab savior.45 The Arab nationalists called 1991 seriously a defeat analogous. was lost 1991, of the Arabs In 1967, to foreign only Iraq was as a whole, three Arab occupation, analogous states were and to 1967. But Arab itwas not defeated, territory In all Arabs felt humiliated.

state was the sovereignty of an Arab defeated, in Casablanca, of Arabs and millions restored, Cairo, Damascus, themselves the victors. and Riyadh considered In the war's Israel moved would aftermath, to translate the United that victory the Arab States, a new regional into of Arab include states, order Israel and that That as a states states

represent Eastern order, Middle state among legitimate a negotiation order would

the ultimate

rather

following The new

undoing than Arab, would states, to be recognized of peace and a definition include Turkey,

nationalism.

by all Arab of Israel's borders. other

also

and perhaps

that wished to define themselves asMiddle Eastern. The rationale for the idea of theMiddle East, made most fully by some Cairointellectuals, anachronistic. pressed although vision nationalist had become that the Arab argued in a postideological It was age, and it ideological war against of a costly Arab cold for a continuation Israel, the Arabs could no longer count on any outside support

Arab Nationalism:come As to shift priorities to the domestic

Mistaken

Identity

199

following the end of the Superpower Cold War. The moment hadagenda of economic growth,

lest theArab world sink under theweight of its swollen populations.seemed to demonstrate, of Europe the economic to regional future belonged formations of many nations. composed to promote These cooperated economic and collective growth security, economies of the massive burden of military relieving expenditure. the unification arms control, Arab the environment, states were trade, tourism?these Eastern and and

Water,

hundreds of other issues could not be negotiated to a resolution bythe Arabs a Middle order would Arabs and alone. Eastern evolve Israelis also Middle states,

while they belonged to an Arab state system, they also belonged toorder. The of that regional shape and content over time; a first step would be the progress of at the negotiating table.46

The idea of the Middle East as a framework of identity faces many obstacles. It has nothing like the depth of the idea of Europe. The Middle East is a term that was first put into wide currency byan American indeterminate Singapore."47 idea of an Arab naval strategist, who in 1902 of and described from it as Suez but "an to the area guarding a part a colorless It remains nation "from the sea route inaccurate to the Gulf"

the Ocean

term, is no older, relations

and the term Middleusage. Its translation

East passed long ago into common Arabicinto an organizing principle of regional

now on adding the last touches on the real map ? map. All depends the mutually that will define Israel. agreed borders TALKING DEMOCRACY Is it true, as Fouad Do nationalism"? AND ISLAM

would constitute the final triumph of the realmap over the imaginary

Ajami wrote, its defenders,

that this signifies the "end of Arab in exile, inhabit "fortresses mostly to receive almost in Beirut, to the dispatches that all

at the end of the road another inspiring under and

that are yet retreated and clubs

is lost and the battle is over"?48 Arab nationalism has suffered yetblow, a few has societies and its point of origin, some newspapers state makes

and journals publishedthe mercurial have not

in Europe. Withal-Qaddafi, that from

the exception of Libyano Arab their

Mu'ammar lost hope

any credible pretense of championing Arab nationalism. Yet Arabnationalists last fortresses, they

200might

Martin Kramerreturn

to recapture the center. Did that not triumphant an old ayatollah, to one in the case of Iran, where banished happen a revolution of Shiite Islam, launched of the last bastions and swept to power? The to Arab hope return they might on Saddam of failed, but there are other avenues gamble desperate can adapt to the Arab nationalism return, provided spirit changing of the times. Arab nationalism has never destined been totally averse nationalists of political that Islam from holds out purgatory do the same. Their

The

core of its message nation,

has never

of one Arab

changed, to be drawn

to such adaptation. and remains the existence

unity, and poised antagonistically But in the past, Arab nationalism from liberalism, and vocabulary messianism. established Arab But Arab moment there. Since the "defeat" Arab presenting Islam. In theory, Arab it showed either, and in practice dictators prime, parties and Arab and a strong nationalists had Islamic have fixed than of 1991, nationalism As and the the division recognized, became immense there become of

in some form of together an array of external enemies. against borrowed themes supplementary and socialism, radicalism, ever more world became

fascism, the Arab

nationalism given

this borrowing achieved less, so that ever more in its presumptions. Utopian economic and social problems that face nationalists who one. believe They that a revolutionary intend any to be

societies, might

are Arab

they have bid to stay in the contest by as the natural and ally of democracy never required a commitment to nationalism aversion a strong preference for revolutionary to Islamic movements. In their qualms about all banning in the name political of Arab

no

unity. That a matter of conviction prevailing order has

executing they now

activists,

and Islam is less upon democracy convenience. understand that the They not democratic. two weaknesses. Its First, it is

are under pressure now in power for a generation, aging rulers, for and that yearns that gets younger from a populace every year, a measure in it is not legitimate of political Second, participation. have of frustrated who numbers the eyes of the growing people measure yearn for a They genuinely can only be achieved which of authenticity, by they believe in the of an Islamic state under Islamic law. Somewhere the creation to one of it is possible succumb that a regime might Arab world filled the ranks of Islamic movements.

Arab Nationalism:these weaknesses. Arab nationalists and perhaps emerge or Islam or both. From

Mistakenhope

Identity

201

triumphant

to join the resulting fracas either democracy by championing

a reading of the leading it journals of pan-Arab opinion, to sing. that the slogan of Islam has been more difficult appears most is plenty There of common Islamic discourse, ground with

notablyfrom

in the shared conviction that the Arab worlddomination Islam and that Israel's presence has its champions,

still suffersmust not form be of

already mass movements, and disciplined and well-organized no interest an alliance with in almost the discredited Arab nationalism. The nationalist intellectuals

imperialist But normalized.

in the these

express of stragglers

round-table debates among Arab lengthy about their possible with Islamic relationship are not reciprocated movements leaders by the Islamists, whose once have no need for guidance from others, those who especially them.49 Still, some Arab nationalist from intellectuals, persecuted in Europe their perches and America, have offered their intellectual services to the defense of Islamic movements before Western opinion? something themselves. although apologists denounced to undertake been ill-prepared foundations of a relationship, are pleased or not all Arab nationalists to become prepared a few years ago, they for varieties of Islam which, only have the This has created is easier to appropriate. and while every virtually to democracy, their late nationalists Islamic movements

with all their polemical force. In contrast, the slogan of democracy There are no mass democracy movements, now claims to be committed Arab regime conversion themselves. conference and means often And seems so less credible the

than that of the Arab

assumption and free elections

brim with articles, journals pan-Arab and study-group reports on the methods proceedings, of promoting in the Arab world. The democracy this sudden enthusiasm for political pluralism underlying is that if the people were only allowed to express endorse the Arab nationalist program: greater of the United and withdrawal from States,

themselves, they would Arab unity, repudiation the Arab-Israeli peace attitudinal existing identification away state date or Islam. The show a similar

process.50 This belief flies in the face of the show a continuing shift of self surveys, which from the Arab nation, and toward either the results of those polarization free elections held to relatively between the party of the state and

202the party in these Islamic American Islam.

Martin Kramerof Islam. No elections. whose And Arab while nationalist there parties have been a factor is a constituency for some

elements of the Arab nationalist program,parties,

it clearly belongs

to

similar repudiations of platforms incorporate in the language and Israel, but are couched of hegemony In these circumstances, of Arab nationalists the commitment

as superficial as that of the Islamists to democracy remains and the It is seen as one more for mass mobilization and regimes. slogan or overturning the existing and then as a shield order, undermining of a triumphant Islam. But even as the Arab the revenge against of democracy, their eyes remain fixed on the man who the next Saddam?the the next Nasser, horizon, awaiting save the Arabs from themselves and unite them. Even now, will is on everyone's when the slogan of democracy lips, half of the Arab nationalists speak in a recent survey believe that Arab unity intellectuals not by democracy.51 can only be achieved by force, now has lost almost But Arab nationalism, having everything, and Islam has been of democracy little to lose, and its endorsement should now cast in just that spirit. That Arab nationalism made nationalist

itself as the defender of freedom and the faith is ironic. The irony isnot who have a strong sense of history themselves, it Arab nationalism memories. discarded because They long an exorbitant even as it exacted of power, failed to keep its promise to and faith. It was not the only Utopian ideology price in freedom more the useful comparison, when do so at the time. And perhaps lost on the Arabs and is longer, the perspective two Soviet communism: may great be between myths of Arab solidarity, nationalism impossible and in

their scale, deeply flawed in their implementation, which alternately stirred and whipped millions of people in a desperate pursuit of power through themiddle of the twentieth century, before collapsingin exhaustion?and lounges of the West. stranding their last admirers in the faculty

ENDNOTESTbrahim al-Yaziji, "Tanabbahu wa istafiqu" ("Awake and Arise").

2George Antonius, The Arab Awakening: Movement (London: H. Hamilton, 1938).

The Story of the Arab National

Arab Nationalism:3Mahmoud Darwish,4Nizar Qabbani, Permission"). 5Rupert Emerson, From Empire to Nation: The

Mistaken

IdentityAsk

203

"Bitaqa hawiyya"an asta'dhina

("Identity Card").al-watan" ("IMust the Homeland's

"La buda

Rise

to Self-Assertion

of Asian

and

African Peoples

(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960), 126.

6See, for example, Elie Kedourie, Nationalism (London: Hutchinson, 1960); and Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (London: Basil Blackwell, 1983).7First assessed by Antonius, The Arab Awakening. For subsequent accounts, see Zeine N.

Zeine, Arab-Turkish Relations and the Emergence of Arab Nationalism (Beirut: Khayat's, 1958); Sylvia Haim, Arab Nationalism: An Anthology (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1962); Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal (London: Oxford University Press, 1962); C. Ernest Dawn, From Age 1798-1939 Ottomanism to Arabism: Essays on the Origins of Arab Nationalism (Urbana, 111.: University of Illinois Press, 1973); Philip S. Khoury, Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); A. A. Duri, TheHistorical Formation of the Arab Nation, trans. Lawrence I. Conrad (London: Croom

Helm, 1987); Bassam Tibi, Arab Nationalism: A Critical Inquiry, 2d ed., trans. Marion Farouk Sluglett and Peter Sluglett (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990); and Rashid Khalidi et al, eds., The Origins of Arab Nationalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991 ).8For the most systematic critique of the "awakening," see Hisham Sharabi, Arab

Intellectuals and theWest (Baltimore,Md.: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1970). For its difficulties in creating a modern vocabulary of politics, see Ami Ayalon, Language and Change in theArab Middle East: The Evolution ofModern Arabic Political Discourse (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987). 9Gertrude Bell, The Desert and the Sown (London:W. Heinemann, 10Turkishnationalism,outlook of early Arab

1907), 140.The Rise of

inspired by Balkan nationalisms,nationalism. On its genesis,

in turn inspiredmuch of theKushner,

see David

Turkish Nationalism,

1876-1908

(London: Cass, 1977). before World War I (Berkeley,

nSee Neville J.Mandel, The Arabs and Zionism Calif.: University of California Press, 1976).

12Elie Kedourie, "Pan-Arabism and British Policy," in Elie Kedourie, The Chatham House Version and other Middle-Eastern Studies (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970), 213. 13OnArab politics in the immediate postwar period, see Zeine N. Zeine, The Struggle for Arab Independence: Western Diplomacy and the Rise and Fall of Faisal's Kingdom in Syria, 2d ed. (Delmar, N.Y.: Caravan Books, 1977).14For the genesis of the names that filled the postwar map, see Bernard

Map of theMiddle East: A Guide for the Perplexed," The American Scholar 58 19-38. (1) (Winter 1988-1989): 15Thedeep debate in Lebanon over the very definition of its history is considered by Ahmad Beydoun, Identit? confessionnelle et temps social chez les historiens libanais contemporains (Beirut:L'Universit? Libanaise, 1984); and Kamal Salibi,

Lewis,

"The

204

Martin Kramer(Berkeley,

A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered Calif.: University of California Press, 1988). 16While the story of the Arab Revolt has been told manyT. E. Lawrence and George Antonius, there are fewer accounts of

times, most famously bythe rival

campaigns for separate independence in different part of the Fertile Crescent. For awidening of the perspective, see Eliezer Tauber, The Arab Movements in World War I (London: Frank Cass, 1993). L. Cleveland, The Making 17Quoted by William of an Arab Nationalist: Ottomanism and Arabism in the Life and Thought of Sati( al-Husri (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971), 127.18Ibid., 163-65. see C. Ernest Dawn, "The Formation of a Pan-Arab Ideology in

19On this evolution,

the Inter-War Years," International Journal of Middle (February 1988): 67-91.

Eastern Studies 20 (1)

20On the Egyptian debate over identity, see Israel Gershoni and James P. Jankowski, (New York: Egypt, Islam, and the Arabs: The Search for Egyptian Nationhood Oxford University Press, 1986). 21These plans have been considered in great detail by Yehoshua Porath, In Search of Arab Unity 1930-1945 (London: Frank Cass, 1986). World Politics: A Documentary nJ. C. Hurewitz, The Middle East and North Africa in Record, 2d ed. (NewHaven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979), 736.23For a contemporary discussion of the transition to ideological politics, see Leonard

Binder, The Ideological Revolution 1964).24For an assessment, see Nissim Rejwan,

in theMiddle East (New York: JohnWiley,Nasserist Ideology: Its Exponents and

Critics (New York: JohnWiley,

1974). An Anthology,from its

25Translation inHaim, Arab Nationalism:26Sami al-Jundi, a member of the Ba'th

233-41.years who wrote a

earliest

devastating account of the party, as quoted by Elie Kedourie, "Arabic Political in Elie Kedourie, Arabic Political Memoirs and Other Studies Memoirs," (London: Frank Cass, 1974), 201. 27For the early history of the Ba'th, seeKamel S. Abu Jaber, The Arab Ba'th Socialist Party: History, Ideology, and Organization (Syracuse,N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1966); John F. Devlin, The Ba(th Party: A History from Its Origins to 1966 (Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1976); and Kanan Makiya [Samir al Khalil], Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1989), 149-257. 28For this period, seeMalcolm H. Kerr, The Arab Cold War: Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir 3d ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1971); and His Rivals, 1958-1970, Middle East (London: George Allen & Unwin, and P. J.Vatikiotis, Conflict in the 1971). 29DavidHolden, Farewell to Arabia (New York: Walker, 1966), 101.

Arab Nationalism:

Mistaken

Identity

205

Michael Curtis, 30AbdulAziz Said, "Clashing Horizons: Arabs and Revolution," in ed., People and Politics in theMiddle East (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1971), 279.31Fouad Ajami, "The End of Pan-Arabism," in Tawfic E. Farah, ed., Pan-Arabism

and Arab Nationalism: 1987), 98.32The most thought-provoking

The Continuing Debateaccount of

(Boulder, Colo.: Westviewcrisis of Arab

Press,

the post-1967

nationalism

remains Fouad Ajami, The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice Since 1967 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981). Otherworks representative of the reassessments made by Arab nationalist intellectuals

include Abdallah Laroui, The Crisis of the Arab Intellectual: Traditionalism or Historicism*, trans. Diarmid Cammell (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1976); Samir Amin, The Arab Nation (London: Zed Press, 1978); and Hisham Sharabi, Neopatriarchy: A Theory of Distorted Change inArab Society (New York: Oxford University Press,