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Pan-Arabism Is Not Dead

Guest Commentary

By Hazem Ben-gacem

I WAS APPALLED by the commentary piece ("An Arab No Longer," February 26) submitted by Bader El-Jeaan.

In his article, Bader divided the Arabs (if I amy generalize and call them Arabs without offending Mr. El-Jeaan, a Kuwaiti who has renounced his Arabism) into two groups, the "haves" and the "have-nots"--in other words, the rich Gulf countries of the Arab world versus the poor Arab countries. Bader talks about some conspiracy by the poor Arabs against the rich Arabs in the name of Pan-Arabism. According to Bader, this conspiracy was promoted by the Palestinians. These lesser Arabs are nothing but bastards lacking moral fortitude. Thus, he does not want to be associated with them nor does he want to be labeled an Arab--since not Pan-Arabism for him is nothing but a nightmare and a big lie.

I would like to clarify some points for you, Bader (and for other identity-confused Arabs) which you seemed to forget or miss in your search for your identity. Pan-Arabism was never held together only because of a common "Zionist" enemy; if that were the case, then Pan-Arabism would be nothing but an anti-Zionist movement. If you made an attempt to discuss Arabism with your fellow Arabs (and pardon me for calling them your "fellows"), you would realize that the power that holds us together is our common traditions, common language, common history, common origins, common culture and common feelings.

COMMON FEELINGS--that is an important one. We Arabs tend to be overly sensitive and very reactionary. And sometimes, we analyze cases using our hearts and not our minds. (I noticed these features in your article.) What joins us together, Bader, is our determination to reestablish and heal the Arab pride which was, and which continues to be, humiliated since the Ottoman Empire. We, the Arabs, are very proud of our history and our heritage, and that is why we all live on the hope of uniting together one day--to restore our pride and our lost throne. That is the source of Pan-Arabism; that is what your naive conscience betrayed and chose to abandon.

I can feel in your article the intensity of your frustration with and the hatred for the "bad" Arabs who, in your opinion, betrayed Kuwait. Dear Bader, who was it who betrayed his fellow Arab first? Wasn't it Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates who sponsored the Iraq war effort against Iran and then counterbalanced that move by secretly shipping arms to Iran through the port of Dubai? Wasn't Kuwait pumping oil out of the Iraqi part of the Rumaila oil field while Iraq was busy fighting that war (which could have easily threatened the actual existence of the fragile Gulf Shcikdoms if Iraq has lost)? Doesn't this prove that the Kuwait rulers lack moral fortitude as were helping the enemies of the Arabs? I doubt if they have any.

The point I am trying to make here is that none of the Arab leaders care about Arabism, neither the Kuwaiti government nor the Iraqi president. Arabism is only rooted in the Arab masses. It is exploited by their authoritarian dictators to manipulate the people for their own sake. Dear Bader, you fell in the same trap Saddam Hussein planted for the Arabs as your fellow Palestinians did. Saddam tried to manipulate the Arab masses by claiming that he was fighting for the Pan-Arab cause--equality between the Arabs and the freedom of the Palestinians. Palestinians, Jordanians and North African Arabs fell for this lie. The image of a strong Arab leader finally standing up to Western hegemony gave these Arabs the hope that Arab pride would be restored, that a leader was finally going to fight for "Arabism." These strong emotions blinded these Arabs to the horrible devastation occuring in Kuwait.

On the other side of the equation, Kuwaitis and other Gulf nationals viewed this action as a conspiracy by other poor Arabs, in the name of Arabism, against rich Gulf Arabs. Thus, they were frustrated by the neo-Arabism claimed by Saddam, alienated by the rest of the Arabs and chose, like Bader did, to disassociate themselves from them. This group was also blinded toward the horrible devastation happening to the Iraqi and Palestinian people.

In conclusion, you find the Arab world split in two halves--each resenting the other.

SADDAM HUSSEIN EXPLOITED Arabism and the Palestinian question to gain the support of the naive "have-nots" as well as the naive "haves." Dear fellow Arab Kuwaiti (whether you like it or not), let's not fall into the jaws of the sharks you were talking about, the Arab authoritarians promoting hostility among Arabs. Egyptian papers attack the Iraqi people, Saudi papers attack the Jordanian people. Kuwaiti papers attack the Palestinian people and vice versa. You said that the Iraqis betrayed you and Kuwait when they invaded your country.

Dear Bader, the Arabs never betrayed you. They were just as naive as you were in reaching simple conclusions based on fake Arabism rhetoric from Saddam.

We in the Society for Arab Students invited you and your Students For a Free Kuwait to come join us and work with us (The Crimson, October 18). You never even attempted to contact us. You never even attempted to contact us. You never met with any of us to see our views. You had your mind set long before you came to Harvard that the "have-not" Arabs are against you.

It seems to me that you are fighting your own personal war against the Arab students at Harvard. You declared your own victory, but we never had any war or conspiracy against you in the first place. You betrayed the Arabs at Harvard by falsely attacking them while all along they had their hands open to you.

I HOPE this commentary clarifies the fatal mistake Arabs who seek to disassociate themselves from "Arabism" or support Saddam Hussein are making. Bader, my heart aches for the suffering Kuwaitis as much as it does for the Palestinians living under occupation. You cannot imagine the tremendous shock and pain I felt when I read your words: "I am not an Arab."

If for you, Arabism means Saddamism, then you are wrong. If you think Palestinians are conspiring against your people, you are also wrong. And if you think we Arabs do not consider you one of us, you are wrong again.

If Your Arabism is so weak that Saddam managed to make you reject it, then I am afriad to say that he won the war against your person. I consider you my brother, as long as you have the same force and enthusiasm to reestablish the lost Arab Pride. Our pride lies in our unity, our objective analysis of what is happening around us, our freedom from our ruling dictators. Dear Bader, the Arab masses are united. Maybe if you hadn't lived in Belgium for 12 years you would understand what I am talking about.

We are all extremely proud of being Arabs. We are all determined to establish a strong Arab nation. Never was Zionism nor Israel nor the United States the reason for our humiliation, defeat and backwardness. It was certain Arab leaders who deceived Arab masses and betrayed Arabism, who lead us to our own destruction. This includes people like Saddam Hussein and the Kuwaiti royal family.

Bader, please reconsider your decision to renounce your Arabism. We Arabs would love to see you rejoin the Arab family again. But if you don't, it doesn't matter to us. In that case, we do not consider you an Arab, either. We will have no business with you.

Arabism is the most precious thing every Arab has. It is the spirit which kept us going through the years. It is in our blood, in our souls. We will live and die to maintain it.

On behalf of the Arab masses--who, contrary to what you think, are united, regardless of their leadership's positions--I would like to say, WE ARE ARABS AND WE ARE PROUD OF IT

Arabism does not mean Saddmism.

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