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Opinion: The Arabs, a people or geography? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Hezbollah’s government has invented the principle of “non-interference,” but it failed to apply this on the ground. Today, the party is involved in a “do or die” battle in Syria, a neighbor to its state within a state, which views Lebanon as an outlying province.

Najib Mikati, prime minister of the caretaker government of Lebanon, adheres to this non-interference principle, which goes well with his preferred approach.

Although the previous Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese government has resigned and been replaced by a caretaker one, it has continued to follow the same approach, ordering Lebanon’s envoy to the Arab League to abide by this avoidance policy.

Practically speaking, Lebanon’s out-going government is the third Arab government, after those of Iraq and Algeria, to cheer for Hezbollah and Iran in Al-Qusayr. Maliki and Bouteflika had advised Lakhdar Brahimi, who is still the Arab League and international community’s mufti, that keeping one’s distance from the Assad regime is not permissible in times of Arab conflict.

I’m not great at geography and so I did not realize that there was an Al-Qusayr in Homs, far away from the Al-Qusayr of Damascus! Being an old Syrian who left the country after Bashar’s family “invaded”, I had often heard the old Damascene saying that ‘so-and-so was taken to Al-Qusayr,’ in reference to the Al-Asforiya mental hospital there. It is therefore not surprising that what is happening in Al-Qusayr today is completely mad!

Only now have I come to realize why Hezbollah’s fatalities have increased in this crazy war: Hassan Nasrallah is not allowing his troops a period of confinement in the Asforiya mental hospital to allow them to come to their senses!

Henry Kissinger helped provoke America’s crazy jihadists, in Asia as well as in Latin America. He also gave President Reagan some crazy advice about the Iran–Iraq War, which Reagan happily followed. Nearly one million Iraqis and Iranians were killed during the Saddam–Khomeini war. If the scale tilted against Saddam, the US would provide him with satellite images showing Khomeini’s troops’ positions. Similarly, if Khomeini staggered, Russia and the US would provide him with more arms. As a result, the Iraqi–Iranian equivalent to the “Al-Qusayr” war lasted nine years.

Are the Arabs a people or just a geographic fluke? It is a difficult question that agonizes one’s mind and heart, from the old war of Dahes wal Ghabra’a (a pre-Islamic Arab war) to the Sunni and Shi’ite jihadists in Al-Qusayr today. I think I am realistic when I state that in the past, Arabs had ambitions of being one people in one nation. At a very early stage, their religion forced them to be generous and noble in terms of human rights and treating others who converted to their religion as equals.

However today, I feel a great pain in my heart when I hear or read books by prominent writers and intellectuals talking about “Arab nations.” When I write, I speak of “Arab communities.” In my assessment, what unifies the Arabs is much greater and more important than sovereign entities, which tore apart the Arabs in the formation of independent states.

These societies are proving, impulsively, that they are one nation—not several states—for they enjoy the components of one nation: unity of culture, mood, sentiment, common interests, sufferings, hopes and ambitions. Before all that, the remains of a wonderful language that is striving to survive decay and not become a mere collection of local accents or spoken dialects.

Arabs are a history of a nation, rather than a nation with a history. The difference is distinct: the failure of the Arabs in forming a nation with one political entity has caused them, at this time of retreat and defeat, to become a mere geopolitical entity. Examples are many: Arab newspapers, televisions and radio are all speaking like foreign news agencies when speaking of “North Africa” rather than the Maghreb, “East Jordan” rather than the Arab Gulf, and “the Middle East cause” rather than the Palestinian Cause.

I do not want to elaborate further for fear of being labelled a “nationalist” who speaks a wooden language, and who prefers to abstain from the status quo. Pan-Arabism today has become a real shame and a source of mockery. Even the backyards of Syria’s revolution, do not dare declare Syria’s pan-Arabism, in order not to provoke its ethnic minorities or agitate major capitals that continue to trifle with it. I will always say: There is no need for a Syria without affiliation or identity; Syria would have no role without Arabism, and Syria will have no Arabism without democracy.

Ghassan Al Imam

Ghassan Al Imam

Ghassan Al Imam is a Syrian writer and journalist based in Paris.

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