An Arab No Longer


IAM NOT AN ARAB. Henceforth, I refuse to be ambiguously labeled by my race. I refuse to be associated with some dubious perception of an inconceivable, quixotic Pan-Arabism which transcends nationality. I am a Kuwaiti, not an Arab. As such, I refuse to sacrifice my own cause for the sake of the Palestinians who have been the founding, immaleable basis of Arab nationalism. Why must it be that the only link that has held together our fragile Arab "brotherhood" for the last 40 years has been our common Zionist "enemy"?

From kindergarten to high school, I was spoon-fed the proper "Arab" account of the "Arab"-Israeli conflict by teachers--mostly Palestinian and Jordanian--whose lectures, I realize in retrospect, were nothing but biased diatribes lacking even a hint of objectivity. No one disapproved. It fit well into the Pan-Arab framework.

Despite Bedouin wariness of ideologies, Kuwaitis were encouraged to stand alongside their less fortunate Palestinian brothers. We were always reminded of our strong fraternal ties not only as Arabs, but as Muslims. Our actions toward all Arab brothers had to reflect that analogue. But now I am faced with the sad reality that half of my so-called brothers are bastards, and the Pan-Arab dream, a nightmare.

NOWHERE has this been more evident than in the "have-not" countries like Jordan, Sudan, Algeria and Yemen, who brazenly contend that their efforts for "peace" were thwarted by the Western inperialists who are now conspiring with us, their corrupt Arab brothers, to demolish the saviour of their pride, their beacon of hope, Iraq.

Nearly every day, CNN airs scenes of "Arab" jubilation in Jordan when Iraq launches a missile attack on Israel, or of "Arab" anger in Algeria when the Allies accidentally kill Iraqi civilians. The Pan-Arab myth has become so embedded in the Western mind (and in many "Arab" minds) that we are apt to label any action taken to advance the Palestinian cause, or the "have-not" cause, as an "Arab" action, representative of all Arabs. The fact is, the Arab in me and in many people in the Middle East died when we realized that the Middle East is a pool of sharks disguised as dolphins, waiting to devour its helpless prey.


For the last 40 years, Israel has been a quite elusive prey guarded by that menacing predator, the United States. As the Palestinian question atrophied, the so-called brotherhood had to seek out a new victim. Accordingly, it is no wonder that once Saddam pounced on Kuwait on August 2 the rest of the sharks including "brothers"--Yassar Arafat, King Hussein and Ali Saleh--rushed to his side shamelessly invoking, and thus abusing, the higher cause of Pan-Arabism.

To Arafat, a linkage between the occupations of Kuwait and the West Bank could greatly advance the Palestinian cause. To King Hussein, any show of disapprobation for Iraq, or endorsement of Allied resolve to liberate Kuwait, would agitate his predomonantly Palestinian subjects and would probably lead to his downfall. To Ali Saleh, president of Yemen, Iraq's annexation of Kuwait would annull the generous low-interest loan of $87 million made to his country by the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development. Whither the brotherly concern for Kuwait?

OVER THE PAST six months, Kuwaitis have been tortured, raped and systematically executed. Amnesty International reported that dozens of women have had their breasts mutilated by Iraqi soldiers. Is this the act of a Muslim and Arab brother? Kuwaiti boys as young as 15 have been subjected to horrendous tortures such as hanging from rotating fans and electric shocks to the genitals. Iraqi troops have raped young girls and killed boys in front of their families. If this is how Arabs treat their brothers, I can't possibly imagine how they might treat their enemies.

My indignation is not only targeted at Iraq, but at the cowardly, self-serving sharks whose failure to condemn Iraq's invasion of Kuwait patently underscores the failure of the Pan-Arab dream. Sure, I heard King Hussein say on "This Week with David Brinkley" that he had condemned the Iraqi invasion "zillions" of times.

Why had he not done so on August 10, when the Arab League narrowly passed a resolution formally condemning Iraq? Why has he not formally done so now, six months later? The reason is simply because he, like many in the Middle East, lacks moral fortitude. Until there is a moral paradigm amongst all the Arab people, the Pan-Arab dream will remain only a factor to differentiate between Kuwaitis and Palestinians, Saudis and Yemenis, "haves" and "have-nots"--with the latter believing and the former condemning.

Until then, I renounce "A'roobity" (the Arab term for "My Arabism"). I reject all claims of fraternity with those Arabs who have rejected them with me. To be quite honest, since coming to Harvard, my American friends have acted more brotherly toward me through their compassion than my former, pseudo-"brothers" who are leading the antiwar campaign, needlessly and unscrupulously impeding my own cause to advance their own. I can only laugh now when I hear them claim to speak on behalf of all Arabs. If they only knew how few Arabs there are left in the world.

Bader El-Jeaan is a visiting undergraduate from Kuwait.

The Pan-Arab dream is now just a nightmare.