This paper aims to provide a detailed understanding of the concept of Arab nationalism and the impact it had on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Arab nationalism is a nationalist ideology that grew during the time when the Great ottoman empire which had been ruling most of the eastern territory for the almost 500 years was facing its demise. So in order to properly understand the concept of the Arab nationalism we need to have background knowledge of the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
After ruling the eastern area which included the Middle Eastern territory for more than 500 years the Turks within the ranks of the empire started to ignore other ethnicities which mostly included the Arabs and the Christians and scores of people from these backgrounds started to accept the Turk dominance. This was precisely the time period during which a sense of separate identity started to develop among the local Arab population.
The political and religious thinkers among the Arabs who were well aware of the Arabs glorious past became concerned that if the wind continues to blow in the same direction the Arabs would lose their identity and would eventually become foreigners in the land that had historically been theirs. So they began looking for the ways to restore the sense of national pride among the Arabs and at the same time plot the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Their efforts paid off when the Ottoman Empire allowed the Jews scattered all over Europe to heavily invest in the deserted areas of its territory. This decision which was a plan to earn tax revenues turned out to be a disaster for the empire because it provided the Arabs a wealthy ally against the Empire. So the Jews started to migrate into their purchased lands in Arab lands and new cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem started to form, scores of Arab people also decided to move into these areas impressed by the Jews’ living standard and education.
Later on more and more influx of Jews from different parts of Europe along with the local Arab support proved fatal for the Ottoman Empire who found itself losing control over their territory as the Arabs became more vocal against them and managed to capture a lot of land from the empire. But the ground reality was that the Jews were quietly gaining control of major parts which had been previously controlled by the empire. A new battle for the control of major strategic position started between the Arabs and the Jews.
The Balfour declaration issued by the British government in 1917 made the Arabs more indignant, which supported the establishment of a Jew state in the midst of the Arab land. By the end of First World War almost all of the territory previously controlled by the Ottoman Empire came under the control of western power. The British mandate included what is today Jordan, Israel and Gaza. Other major areas which included Egypt, Syria, morocco and Lebanon were also being governed by what the Arab intellectuals considered the agents of western imperialism.
At this stage the Arab nationalism had taken root in the Arab minds and the Arab leaders which included Christians along with the Muslims in region decided to form an alliance against the western imperialism. The point that should be emphasized here is that the idea of Arab nationalism had been based on the fact that the Arabs considered the Ottoman Empire guilty of giving away the power to the west by adopting their ways of life and the allowing the influence of western power in their region. The issue of Jews dominance in what is today Israel surfaced later.
Amongst the prominent proponents of this ideology was a Christian Syrian philosopher Al Yazigi who took a view that the rise of modern Europe was based on Islamic values while the Ottoman empire and the Arabs had abandoned those values, that’s why if the Arabs want to keep their land and progress in the political sphere, they need to revive the principles of Islam and rediscover their fading sense of self-identity. Al-Yazigi later on organized several movements in Syria to raise awareness of his ideology.
Another important contributor to this idea was Egyptian scholar Mohammed Abduh. He shared the view of Al-Yazigi that the Ottoman Empire was wrong in adopting the apparently modern ideas while abolishing the true Islamic principles which were the foundation of Arab nations’ success in the past. He also felt the need to restore the Arabs’ self-esteem as a nation and made attempts at making this view reach every Arab’s mind living in his native Egypt. Later on 1911 Al-fatat was formed in Paris whose aim was also the revival of Arab nationalism.
The European powers were strongly behind this ideology as they wanted to break the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the region. Arab nationalist leaders shared this objective with the European power but wanted to take over the regime themselves rather than watch the European powers taking direct control of the area. So the Arab nationalist movement started out against the Ottoman Empire and when the Empire collapsed it took a different turn and was then directed towards removing the western powers from directly controlling the Arab area.
That’s is why the idea of Arab nationalism played a crucial role in the Arab-Israel conflict that surfaced after the first world war and became intense after the second world war when a UN committee allowed the Jews to form a separate state in 1948 named Israel. Leaders from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and morocco then became convinced that they need to get rid of the Western influence in their countries and also drive the Jews out of power who were now in total control of the land which the Arabs call the Palestine.
The 1948 war of independence was the result of this coalition among the Arab nations i. e. (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen) in which Israel came out the winner and occupied most of the Palestinian territory. After this war on several occasions the Arab nationalism played a crucial role in this conflict till 1972. Major leaders involved include Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya, Shukri al-Quwatli of Syria and Ahmed bin Bella of Algeria.
Following the 1948 war of independence all the Arab countries began to target Jews living on their lands and consequently large population of Jews migrated to from these areas into Israel. Almost 1 million Jews migrated from Arab countries to Israel from 1949 to 1954. In 1956 Gamal Abdul Nasser closed the passage between Sinai and Arabian Peninsula and took the Suez Canal under government control in order to block the Israeli ships from passing through. Israel tried to attack the seas with the British backing and get the route open once again.
It eventually happened due to the UN intervention which Egypt didn’t follow for long and blocked the passage again. Situation became really intense in 1967 when the Egyptian leader gathered the political and military support of the Soviet Union and organized other Arab nations under the Pan-Arab movement to attack Israel and capture the Arab land from the Jews. Situation was quite different from the 1948 war because the proper organization of military resources and unity of the Arab leadership as Jordan and Syria joined hands with the Egyptian leader.
The result was the six day war which much to the disappointment of the Arab world was won by Israel due to its superiority in Air force technology and captured major strategic positions of Gaza strip, east Jerusalem and most importantly the Sinai passage. After that defeat the Arab nationalist powers by mutual consent boycotted Israel and concluded that Israel be not recognized by any of them. Gamal Abdul Nasser lost his life in 1970 when Egypt tried again to recapture the Sinai Peninsula.
Since that time several wars have been fought between the Arab world and Israel and a lot of blood has been spilled on both sides, and it seems that neither party is ready to give up on their principles as this discontent between Arab nations with Jews transfers from one generation to the next. This essays aims to discuss the Iranian revolution and its roots and analyze the impact it had on the Islamic political movements across the Middle East. Iranian revolution which is now widely known as the Islamic revolution was the event which started in the 1970 and was eventually completed in 1979.
This revolution resulted in the downfall of monarchy and establishment of federation based on Islamic Shria in Iran. The major reasons why this revolution is deemed to be one of the most important turn around in the history are the sheer amount of people involved in this revolution, its short time period and its impact on the rest of the world especially the Middle Eastern region. The Major force behind this revolution was the Islamic clerical leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Before this revolution Iran had been a monarchy for several dynasties.
Ayatollah Khomeini who was considered a prominent figure in the religious circles of Iran took a view that the monarchy of Iran was increasingly becoming a follower of the western powers and polluting the minds of the people in Iran. Mohammed Reza shah Pahlavi who took over the monarch from his father in 1919 proved to be the last emperor of his dynasty. The reason behind his demise are not agreed upon by the historians but it can be concluded that his ambition of making Iran a modern westernized state with the backing of western world was the major reason of his fall from the authority.
After taking over the thrown he tried to run the state in an authoritarian fashion and adopted policies which in his view would take make Iran a modernized state. He established closed relationship with the United States and other powerful Western forces. He abolished the rules of Shria and instead adopted the ones that the Shiite Muslim population of Iran considered to be unacceptable, additionally his autocratic style of governance and the lack of functional discipline were also the factors that convinced the population of Iran that it was time for a change.
Ayatollah Khomeini who had been exiled from the country by the shah due to his anti-monarch and anti-west stance picked on this weakness of the Shah and started to gather support of the population who believed in Islamic values. Khomeini’s idea of the government was based on the Islam. He demanded that monarchy be immediately abolished and an Islamic state be formed instead. Khomeini first came to surface in 1963 as a vocal opponent of what he called white revolution in which shah decided to allow minorities to hold government office and granted women the rights to vote.
And from then on his support began to pick up as the shah became unpopular by the day. The movement picked up the pace only after 1976 and later on speedily removed shah from his seat. Khomeini who was living exile continued to raise awareness among the Muslim population about shah’s policies, which were heavily influenced by the American government and at the same time reiterated the need to bring a change. First mass gathering took place after the death of Khomeini’s son in 1977 and thousand of people gathered to protest against the shah.
Then early in the year 1978 another mass protest was held by the Islamist students’ foundation in the city of Qom. Several casualties were reported as the shah ordered the military to control the crowd which proved to be an overwhelming task because of the large number of people involved. In the same year another supreme cleric Ayatollah kazem shariatmadari joined broke his silence and joined Khomeini in his movement when one of his followers was shot dead at his place. Shariatmadari didn’t share the theocratic view with Khomeinie but the supported the idea of abolishment of monarchy.
Meanwhile the Shah continued his struggle for westernization and kept holding the meetings with the then American president jimmy carter who assured him of his support during that period of turmoil. The shah tried to bring some economic stability by cutting back on the government spending but it also turned out to be a bad decision as it resulted in mass layoffs and the joining of the newly unemployed with the rebels. Things turned nasty when 400 people were reported dead in the Rex Cinema killings in august.
The anti-Shah element then took their movement to a whole new level by calling on a mass strike which ceased virtually the whole economy and the success of this strike virtually guaranteed the completion of the revolution in people’s minds while the shah scrambled to make amends and tried to control the situation fast deteriorating. Finally in the start of the New Year 1979 the Shah to the joy of Khomeini and his followers fled his Iran and Khomeini later returned to his native state to establish a government based on Shria.
The impact of this revolution was widespread in the Muslim world as well as well as internationally. No other country has witnessed a revolution such as this before, its basis on the theological ideal and large support the Islamic leaders managed to get from the seemingly westernized crowd provided an example to follow for other the leaders of similar motives in other Middle Eastern states. It gave the religious clerics a new belief that they can get rid off the western influence and perhaps converts their own state based purely on theocratic principles.
It had most influence on the neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq where the population of Shiites is substantial. After only a few days of revolution some 400 Iranian militants tried to attack and capture the holy city f Mecca in Saudi Arabia and later on Saudi authorities got a major shock when the an Ashura procession transformed into political one in which people chanted slogans in support of Khomeini. Shiite clerics in Lebanon managed to transform their state into an Islamic one while other countries in the Arab region also adopted an approach to government based on religious principles.
Since the turn around in Iran the political Islam has been the main theme of almost all the countries in the region and the clerics now have a deep-seated awareness of the fact that the people in the region are moved by the their religion and they can use the religion as a means of creating political movement. The governments in these countries are also well aware of this fact and until now have been trying keeping policies in line with the Shria.
The strong anti-west stance taken by Iran provided by Iran has been an emblem of this revolution and that continued to this day. Israel has also been a major target after episode cleared as the religious elements hold a strong feeling for the Palestinians believing that the Jews are unjust holders of the land that actually belongs to the Muslims. Verbal attacks between these two sides are now a common site while a war between Hezbollah controlled Lebanon and Israel was one of the major events of the decade in which Hezbollah managed to successfully defend their territory.
Courtney from Study Moose
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