He grew up in Iraq during the heyday of Arab nationalism, and he brings to his task a rare personal insight, as well as mastery of the voluminous Arabic sources on the subject. Since , it has been downhill all the way. Arab Nationalism in the 20th Century: It was impossible to bring them under the umbrella of "the Arab nation", because they considered themselves ethnically distinct from the Arabs. Hence the impasse on the Arab-Israeli front today. History is often falsified and even fabricated to serve a nationalist political agenda. Islam was the other great supranational ideology with a claim to the allegiance of the great majority of Arabs.
There is a great deal of new material here which not only brings events alive, but also leads to fresh assessments and a better-informed understanding of the politics of one of the world's most volatile and violent regions. On the one hand, he recognises the contribution that pan-Arabism, in its heyday, made to the regeneration of Arab self-confidence and sense of dignity after long years of subjugation to colonial rule. Nationalist movements have an in-built tendency towards extremism and xenophobia, towards self-righteousness on the one hand and demonising the enemy on the other. It is characteristically balanced and fair-minded. On July 14, a bloody military coup destroyed the monarchy in Iraq and transformed the country into a radical republic. They borrowed the nationalist idea from Europe and they used it to try to chart a new path for the Arab nation. Arab unity, it was hoped, would be forged on the anvil of war against the common enemy. If was the nadir of Arab nationalism, in the movement reached its highest peak. Yet Iraq itself was a severely fragmented country. Arab Nationalism in the 20th Century: In the face of such deep and pervasive divisions, it was a well-nigh impossible task to achieve the two basic objectives of the Arab national movement: It was only in the aftermath of the first world war that the "Arab nation" emerged as a pertinent concept and Arab nationalism gradually took the form of a political movement. The Muslim umma was a unity in which ethnicity played no part. The inability of these states to coordinate their diplomatic and military moves was in itself a major factor in the loss of Palestine. With hindsight, was the great turning-point in Middle East history in which history failed to turn. Religious identity was more important than national identity. There are lights as well as shadows in the picture he paints. The power generating Arab nationalism was eventually turned off in June The hopes that shone so brightly when the Arabs embarked on this "battle of destiny" against the Zionist intruders gave way to disillusion and despair over the dismal wreckage of Arab Palestine. There were formidable obstacles along its path. The Shiites in the south tended to view Arab nationalism as a Sunni project designed to reduce them to an insignificant minority in an expanded Sunni Arab domain. Nor have the Israelis recovered from the spectacular military victory that launched them on a course of territorial expansion. Israel and the Arab World Penguin Topics. The Kurds in the north aspired to political independence in Kurdistan. His book combines an analysis of the ideas of Arab nationalism and their roots in European thought, with a fast-moving political narrative, full of dramatic ups and downs.
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