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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The so called "Arabism" threat

Lazarus from "Letters Apart" posted this on his blog.

... on the way back home, that all the anti-"panarabism" these days is an ideology in itself, and is maybe as dangerous politically as pan-arabism ...
I couldn't post my comment on his site, so I will post it here:

I don't fathom the surge in this "anti-panarabism" either. Though I harbour no illusions of the Arab nationalism kind (or any kind of nationalism for that matter), I am shocked (perhaps I shouldn't be) by the plethora of anti-Arabism (really anti-Arab) bloggers. Their analysis is so flawed and based on this isolationist dogma that I am not sure they can see event for what they are, let alone interpret them. Michael Young and Tony from Across the Bay are two good examples. Young's op-eds never made sense to me, and he has never been right on anything. Tony's pieces are not always convincing, because of an inherent presumption that "Arabism" is bad or evil, and not just dead.

The other side, those stuck in a time-warp and who cry anti-Arab anti-Islam conspiracy, are only right in that the constant vilification of anything Arab is like calling for establishment of mini states in the region along ethnic and religious lines: mini Israels, Kurdistans and Irans. And yes, this would serve the interests of Israel, though not sure if the US was convinced it would serve theirs. I hope not.

I personally think Arab nationalism died a long time ago. I pronounced it dead when Sharon rolled his tanks into Lebanon, though many can argue it never really existed (or was applied) in the ideal secular form it was conceived in. From Nasser to Assad and Saddam, it was islamised and conveniently re-modelled to suit the political ambitions of the various political leaders.

So perceiving "Arabism" as a threat makes no sense to me in this day and age. It's like resurrecting a dead child and shooting at it until it learns to shoot back and transforms itself into the enemy it was made out to be. So a few authors out there still use Arab nationalist terms. Big deal. I don't think this is the same as calling for a united Arab nation. I think they all learned their lesson the hard way. At least I hope they did.

My point is: Arab nationalism (I don't really understand the term "Arabism".. it's vague and potentially offensive to those who view themselves as Arab, and there is nothing wrong with that) might be a bad idea for a divided region, but how is it an evil? And when you want to criticise it, be specific. Do you mean Nasserism? Baathism, with its two main applications in Iraq and Syria? Attack Saddam's Baath Arab nationalism (which, incidentally, was mixed with Iraqi nationalist ideas) but not “Arabism.”

It sounds fanatical and orientalist, if you ask me.

arabism did not die
it revealed its true face: abject islamist panarabism
Arabism is neither evil, nor a threat.
it's just a waste of time.
We could instead be thinking of something that can actually work.
it's not that it can or can't work - my main irk with it is that it diverts people's minds from things that are more important ... it's sort of like an opium for the (arab) masses.
Arab nationalism became a tool-- it was a simply mostly a Christian attempt, inspired by FRENCH ideals, to secularize Islamic society. I personally wish it had succeeded, but colonialism, dictators and political Islam caught up with it and destroyed it.

But I agree- we should be discussing other, more important things (like will the day ever come when bishops-- and muftis for that matter--refrain from meddling in politics and defending murderers?). I just don't like it when people pin their problems on vague concepts (such as Arabism) without paying heed to the historical, political and social contexts.
Ok, if Arabism is not evil or bad or detrimental, what caused the Arabs and their region to be in deep doo-doo today?

Some of you will innocently say: no, not Arabism, it was totalitarian regimes. To those I say "bingo", but you are missing a crucial link.

Whence totalitarianism and dictatorship? How were those sold and justified (to this day, and BTW Israel argument =Arabism argument)?

Again, the onus is on you guys to prove that there can be Arabism with liberty, and protection of minorities. The writings of the 'elders' and 80 years of history weigh against you.

Ideas have consequences and should be judged by their consequences. Yes Mustapha, it's OK to judge people and ideas when it is on the facts and the merits.
JW, you have to ask the right questions. What made Arabism so attractive to the masses? Arabism itself? Or was there something more fundamentally misplaced, that is still TODAY forcing the people to look for the greener side?

As a sidenote: You're right in a way - nowadays, Israel arguement = arabism arguement. But it was created almost a century before 1948 ... and it wasn't as a result of Zionist ambitions. It was just as Kais said.
The so-called arabism threat.


I don't have a problem with arabism, at least if it doesn't imply renouncing sovereignty.

Arabism is not panarabism. Let's rewrite your title.

The late panarabism threat (cause it's dead).
Vox, Lazarus

I would rather say, I have no problem with "arabity" or "arabness" but I have a problem with "arabism".

I know, it depends on how you define your terms, and I guess many misunderstandings on the blogs stem from that.

To most critics, I think, 'arabism" means "panarabism" and it is that "thing" that said:

a) arab unity primes all (sovereignty and individual rights)

and b)was attached to state-run economies

both horrible ideas that led to past and current failures, while success=zero.

Vague or not, the "arabism" we are talking about was the main underpinning of arab political life and culture the last 80 years. You think a society's success or failure has nothing to do with its ideas/culture?

Arabism wrecked the region, the Palestinians, and Lebanon, and the lives of million of Arabs living in poverty and ignorance.

It will take decades to recover from "Arabism", like it will take decades to recover from communism for the ex-Eastern Bloc. But at least, the Ex-Eastern bloc guys were happy to dump communism, while some Arabs are still enamored with their poison.

PS. Lazarus, what did you mean by "greener side" in your post?
JW, if you are actually interested in what I meant, then check my site in a few days. I might be posting a piece on why ideologies are attractive in general. This should deal with the "greener side".
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