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Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Was The "Main Source Of Anti-Zionism" Ever "Nationalism"?

From an article by Daniel Pipes in the Jerusalem Post:

"To provide context: About 20 percent of Palestinians since the 1920s have been willing to live with Israel in a state of harmony. The Egyptian response exceeds this slightly, the Saudi one comes in substantially below it. These results are in keeping with the more overtly religious nature of political life in Saudi Arabia than in Egypt. They confirm that the main source of anti-Zionism now is no longer nationalism but Islam."

When was the "main source" of "anti-Zionism" (meaning: a refusal to contemplate the existence, whatever its size, of an Infidel nation-state in the middle of Dar al-Islam?) ever "nationalism"? Was the Mufti of Jerusalem a  "nationalist." and if so, what was the nation he was a "nationalist" about? Was it "the Arab nation"? Or was it, as he told the Bosnian SS Recruits who were all Muslims, rather, the "Umma," the Nation of Islam (in the real, not the Elijah-Muhammad, sense)? 

When the Arabs attacked Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1921, when they massacred every last Jew who remained in Hebron in 1929, when they attacked Jews on their farms and villages throughout the 1930s, when the armies of five Arab states went to war, some with a lot of enthusiasm and some with less, against the nascent Jewish state of Israel, did they do so out of "nationalism"? Was Saudi Arabia defending "Saudi nationalsim" or even "Arab nationalism," when it did what it could -- which was not much, save for having its ambassador, the Lebanese-born Jamil Baroody, rant and rave against Israel at the U.N. -- to damage the Jewish state? 

When Azzam Pasha, great-uncle to Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Secretary-General of the Arab League, promised "a massacre" of the Jews "the likes of which have not been seen since the time of the Mongols" (a reference to the conquest of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1248, a key event in Muslim history), was he being an "Egyptian" nationalist, an "Arab" nationalist, or simply an Arab Muslim, appealing to the Muslim sense of important events in their own, Islamic history? 

What about Nasser, using the language of Islam in mid-May 1967, or even the commands given by the officers of the army of Jordan, with "plucky little king" Hussein, for so long the West's favorite Muslim, the commands to the troops which read "kill the Jews! kill them wherever you find them!" Jordanian nationalism? Arab nationalism? Or something deeper? 

That comment is worrisome. For if Pipes, who has been studying Islam all of his adult life, can write such a sentence as "[t[hey [the answers to these questions] confirm that the main source of anti-Zionism now is no longer nationalism but Islam." then what can we expect of others? And if, furthermore, he continues to think of Arab nationalism as distinct from, rather than as a temporary (more realistic under the pre-OPEC conditions then prevailing) subset of pan-Islamism (the conscious promotion of Islam as against Infidels, whatever internecine  struggles within the Camp of Islam might continue or arise), as that quoted sentence iimplies, what hope for others less well-informed? 

Pan-Arabism (or "Arab nationalism") had its heyday at a time when many non-Arab Muslim countiries -- Pakistan (West and East), Indonesia -- had just obtained their independence, or were still acquiring it (North Africa). It was a world without any major Muslim presence in Europe, and long before the oil wealth had started to make an impact. Muslim states were weak, their diplomatic influence small. It was unrealistic to push for putting Islam against the powerful West, but at least pan-Arabism, under a rightly-guided charismatic Arab despot (Nasser was the first claimant, and Saddam Hussein the second) could be an appropriate substitute, smaller in ambition, but entirely fitting because, after all, Islam always has been a vehicle for Arab supremacism. So why not work for Arab unity, pan-Arabism (carelessly called "Arab nationalism" and even more carelessly presented as an alternative to the pan-Islamic impulse).

There is incredible confusion among commentators and analysts, about all that goes on in the Arab and Muslim world. Where have you seen discussion of the Houthi rebels in the north of Yemen that points out that from 1962 to 1967 the Uber-Sunni Saudis took the side of the Shi'a in the north, and what's more, managed to explain why? Where have you seen a discussion of Syrian politics that actually explained, by reference to the Alawite character of the despotic regime in place for nearly the last half-century, why that regime both allows Sunni Arabs easy transfer from Syria to Iraq, to kill Shi;'a, and at the same time is allied with Shi'a Iran? Where have you seen an explanation for the seemingly mercurial nature of the changing  alliances offered by the Druse leader Kamil Jumblatt or, for that matter, adequate explanation of the calculations made by Christian general Aoun, or by Pierre Gemayel? Who has explained why, back in the 1920s, an Egyptian writer wrote of "Pharaonism" and why that may be the best hope for  Egypt's Copts, and for Egypt itself? 

in the Arab and Muslim world. of shifting alliances and misalliances, of promises solemnly made and just as solemnly cast aside, of all the calculations that are made, depending on local winds -- as in "which way the wind is blowing" among the circumambient Muslims -- but made against a backdrop, or resting on a substratum, or relying on the main explanatory narrative that fills the minds and hearts of all those who are involved -- the backdrop, the substratum, the explanatory narrative, of Islam, Islam, Islam.

Posted on 12/23/2009 10:43 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
23 Dec 2009
Hugh Fitzgerald

Among non-Muslims, of course, the main source, that is Reason #1, for  "anti-Zionism" is antisemitism (Camouflaged Division). Reason #2 is an amazing ignorance, such as that about the invention of the "Palestinian people" and about the Islamic basis for unwillingness to contemplate the existence of Israel. Reason #2 is supplemented, in many cases by Reason #1, for  the palpable want of sympathy connected to that ignorance can, in many cases, only be explained by Reason #1.