Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century

Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair

ADEED DAWISHA
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7shc6
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century
    Book Description:

    Like a great dynasty that falls to ruin and is eventually remembered more for its faults than its feats, Arab nationalism is remembered mostly for its humiliating rout in the 1967 Six Day War, for inter-Arab divisions, and for words and actions distinguished by their meagerness. But people tend to forget the majesty that Arab nationalism once was. In this elegantly narrated and richly documented book, Adeed Dawisha brings this majesty to life through a sweeping historical account of its dramatic rise and fall.

    Dawisha argues that Arab nationalism--which, he says, was inspired by nineteenth-century German Romantic nationalism--really took root after World War I and not in the nineteenth century, as many believe, and that it blossomed only in the 1950s and 1960s under the charismatic leadership of Egypt's Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir. He traces the ideology's passage from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire through its triumphant ascendancy in the late 1950s with the unity of Egypt and Syria and with the nationalist revolution of Iraq, to the mortal blow it received in the 1967 Arab defeat by Israel, and its eventual eclipse. Dawisha criticizes the common failure to distinguish between the broader, cultural phenomenon of "Arabism" and the political, secular desire for a united Arab state that defined Arab nationalism. In recent decades competitive ideologies--not least, Islamic militancy--have inexorably supplanted the latter, he contends.

    Dawisha, who grew up in Iraq during the heyday of Arab nationalism, infuses his work with rare personal insight and extraordinary historical breadth. In addition to Western sources, he draws on an unprecedented wealth of Arab political memoirs and studies to tell the fascinating story of one of the most colorful and significant periods of the contemporary Arab world. In doing so, he also gives us the means to more fully understand trends in the region today.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2566-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. CHAPTER ONE DEFINING ARAB NATIONALISM
    (pp. 1-13)

    The men and women of the nationalist generation who had sought the political unity of the Arab people must have cast weary eyes at one another when they heard their acknowledged leader call a truce with those they considered to be anti-unionists; they must have dropped their heads and thrown their hands in the air when he announced the onset of a new era where “solidarity” among Arab states would replace the quest for a comprehensive political unity. Had Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasir, the President of Egypt and the hero of Arab nationalism, reneged on the principles of the Arab nationalist...

  4. CHAPTER TWO EARLY STIRRINGS: THE NINETEENTH AND EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURIES
    (pp. 14-48)

    The area that stretches from the Atlantic Coast in North Africa all the way east to the Persian Gulf in Asia, terminating at the frontiers of Farsi Iran to the east and Turkey to the north, and excluding Jewish Israel, is usually referred to by its inhabitants, as well as by outsiders, as the “Arab world.” This concept is of course a cultural rather than a political construct, and consequently, there has been considerable shift over time in the conceptual delineation of the land mass inhabited by “Arabs.” By the middle of the twentieth century, most of these inhabitants had...

  5. CHAPTER THREE SATI‘ AL-HUSRI’S THEORY OF ARAB NATIONALISM
    (pp. 49-74)

    Sati‘ al-Husri was born in Yemen in 1882 into a Syrian Muslim family, but spent his formative years in Constantinople. He learned Turkish and French before he studied Arabic, and until the end of his life this intellectual prophet of Arab nationalism would speak Arabic with a slight Turkish accent. He went on to study in Europe where he was exposed to the competing intellectual strands of European nationalism. On his return, he joined the Ottoman bureaucracy, where he eventually held senior posts in the Balkan provinces of the empire at a time when the national, anti-Ottoman movements in these...

  6. CHAPTER FOUR ARAB NATIONALISM AND COMPETING LOYALTIES: FROM THE 1920s TO THE ARAB REVOLT IN PALESTINE
    (pp. 75-106)

    In the two decades that followed World War I, the custodians of Arab nationalism gave much of themselves to propagate the idea among the Arabic-speaking people of the area. Their efforts did indeed bear fruit, for the message was slowly, yet determinedly, reaching a growing audience. To be sure, as we shall see later on in this chapter, other identities continued to have a greater hold on peoples’ psyche. Yet a growing number of voices in the three most important Arab domains of the time, Iraq, Greater Syria, and Egypt, were declaring themselves to be Arabs, sometimes in conjunction with,...

  7. CHAPTER FIVE THE PATH TO NATIONALIST ASCENT: FROM THE PALESTINIAN REVOLT TO THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION
    (pp. 107-134)

    While Arab nationalist concerns did not predominate in the 1930s, neither were they nonexistent. The majority of Syrians, wracked by their own divisions, did not see unity with Iraq or Egypt as a priority. But as we have seen, the Syrians were undoubtedly sensitive to political developments in other Arab countries. The same was true of the other Arabic-speaking regions and countries of the Middle East. We saw how Egypt, the most distant from Arab nationalism, was moved, at least at the popular level, by the Syrian uprising against the French in 1925–1927; indeed there was enough public clamor...

  8. CHAPTER SIX CONSOLIDATING ARAB NATIONALISM: THE EMERGENCE OF “ARAB” EGYPT
    (pp. 135-159)

    When Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasir returned to Egypt after the fiasco of Palestine, his first thoughts were not on Arab nationalism; they were focused instead on Egypt—on the corruption of its political and social order, and on the continued dominance of the British in its political life. Indeed, this paramount concern with Egypt’s domestic affairs was prevalent in Nasir’s thoughts even as he was executing his “Arab nationalist” duty in Palestine. “We were fighting in Palestine,” Nasir would later reminisce, “but our dreams were in Egypt. Our bullets were directed at the enemy lurking in the trenches in front of...

  9. CHAPTER SEVEN ARAB NATIONALISM ON THE MARCH, 1955–1957
    (pp. 160-185)

    If specific events were to be picked as signposts in the spectacular forward march of Arab nationalism during the 1950s, the three that stand out are the 1955 Baghdad Pact, the 1956 Suez Crisis, and the birth of the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958. While Egypt’s perceived victory in the Suez Crisis and the merger of Egypt and Syria into the UAR constituted perhaps the two singular events that truly galvanized Arab public opinion behind the ideas and symbols of Arab nationalism, it was the Baghdad Pact which was the defining event that triggered a chain of political initiatives...

  10. CHAPTER EIGHT THE APEX OF ARAB NATIONALISM: THE UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC AND THE IRAQI REVOLUTION, JANUARY–SEPTEMBER 1958
    (pp. 186-213)

    The United Arab Republic (UAR), formed by the fusion of Egypt and Syria on February 1, 1958, came as a stunning surprise to most Arabs and non-Arabs. No one whose expectations were shaped by rational assessment could think that an organic unity between two Arab states was at all possible in such a short space of time. It was not the actual unity that was so surprising; Arab nationalists fervently believed in theeventualamalgamation of Arab countries. But no one (not even the main participants, as we shall see) was prepared for the breathless pace at which events were...

  11. CHAPTER NINE ARAB NATIONALISM’S DOWNWARD SLIDE, 1958–1967
    (pp. 214-251)

    The announcement broadcast on Radio Baghdad on September 11, 1958 was curt, uncharacteristically devoid of the kind of hyperbole to which Iraqi listeners had become accustomed since the outset of the revolution. It said simply: “In view of the dictates of public interest and upon the recommendation of the Minister of Defense, we decree the following: to relieve Staff Colonel ‘Abd al Salam ‘Aref from his post as Deputy Commander in Chief of the armed forces.”¹ Three weeks or so later, in an even shorter statement, General ‘Abd al-Karim Qasim relieved ‘Aref of all his cabinet posts, and adding insult...

  12. CHAPTER TEN 1967 AND AFTER: THE TWILIGHT OF ARAB NATIONALISM
    (pp. 252-281)

    The Six Day War of June 1967 is generally accepted as a seminal event in Arab contemporary history, but some analysts disagree with the contention that it also was Arab nationalism’s last stand. They argue that even after June 1967, “Arabism still shaped how Arab states were expected to present themselves, represented a source of symbolic capital, subjected them to Arab public opinion, and held them accountable to each other.”¹ This is of course correct. Arabism was not lost as an identity; it continued to set general parameters Arab regimes would be loath to transgress. And Arab leaders knew that...

  13. CHAPTER ELEVEN THE DEMISE OF ARAB NATIONALISM: A POSTMORTEM
    (pp. 282-314)

    It took some time for the light to finally go out on Arab nationalism, but the power generating it was turned off in June 1967. After the Six Day War, Arab nationalism’s slide toward political marginality became irreversible. And what stamped on it this sense of fatality was the fact that it was Egypt under Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasir that lost. Egypt’s devastating defeat was Arab nationalism’s mortal loss, for, as this book has made abundantly clear, the fate of Arab nationalism during the struggles, triumphs, and reversals of the 1950s and 1960s was inexorably linked to Egypt and its charismatic...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 315-330)
  15. Index
    (pp. 331-340)