On the Dreadful Obsession with Arab Unity

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With all the miseries and tribulations imposed upon us, as Arabs, by foreign powers as well as self-appointed dictators who are often in bed with our enemies in Tel Aviv and Washington, we are afflicted with an obsession that we call ‘unity.’ We should be united; we should find principles that are very fundamental to our status and state as an Arab people that can form the basis for a united Arab nation that extends from the ocean to the gulf. We must bring to the forefront our Arabness and relegate any other characteristic to that of a secondary quality. And when something terrible happens, we are almost immediate to blame our ‘disunity’ for the foreign invasions that have plagued our lands, and the genocides that take place on a day to day basis; from the American invasion of Iraq, to the outright theft of our natural gas and oil in the Arabian gulf, to the genocides in Darfur and South Sudan, to the civil war in Syria, the occupation of Palestine, the mass executions of dissidents in Egypt, the anarchy in Somalia and Libya, and much more.

We are afflicted with a disease, an obsession, a hallucination, and a naive yearning to an imagined past where the Arabs were supposedly united against a common enemy. And this is not new: Saddam Hussein was notorious for denying that Arabs states like Kuwait have the legitimacy to exist as a state in its current form; Jamal Abdul-Naser wanted to ‘unite’ the Arab world under the glorious banner of Arab nationalism, Hafiz El-Assad regarded Lebanon as part of ‘Southern Syria,’ and that Palestine is a quintessentially Arab struggle and not a Palestinian one. Our leaders from the time of the physical colonial departure from our lands (with the exception of Palestine, and with the qualification that the word ‘physical’ is extremely important because colonialism still exists and persists in our lands) till now funded and supported efforts to engrain in our minds this illusion that the Arabs (without really defining what an Arab really is) must be united. Songs about Arab unity are more than popular; and even the strongest of minds, and the most critical of voices have almost always fell in the trap of believing them – even if this belief lasted for one second.

Our so-called Arab national anthem says: Belad el-Orby awtani, min el-Sham le Baghdany, wa min Najden ela Yamanen, ela Mesra fa Tatwany.

There is no need to translate the poem because in it there is an illusion that I refuse to believe: the illusion that Arabs were ever united, the illusion that they will be united and the illusion that they are even interested in uniting. Instead of supporting the two Palestinian intifadas, Arabs leaders actively turned a blind eye to Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians, and the numerous massacres committed against them with a cold heart. Arabs leaders were actively complicit in the genocide of civilians in Lebanon during the vexatiously unnecessary and groundless acts of nonsensical violence against Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. Instead of actively working towards ending the violence, Arabs leaders and their minions in the media industry created a discourse that acted as nothing more than a sponge that sucked the anger. The method was this: commit a massacre, then make a very revolutionary sounding piece of music with an artistically appeasing quality that makes the Arab man and woman feel as though he or she has a venue to channel his anger. Arabic ‘revolutionary’ music and the fake message that it sent (that we should be revolutionary and united) did nothing more than pacify the Arab nation while allowing our leaders to strike insidious deals with our enemies behind closed doors in Europe and Washington: the Camp David Accords, the treaty between Israel and Jordan, the Oslo Accords, and many other more insidious and less known agreements between Arabs leaders and our enemies.

Of course, I am by no means rejecting ‘unity’ as a principle: when there is unity over a morally ‘good’ principle or set of principles, there is a merit in advancing a project of such unity. Why wouldn’t a nation that purports to share a common history and collective memory want to be united against a common enemy? But with the dreadful history that we have; a history filled with embarrassing defeats, and an insistence on treating each other as foreigners, dehumanizing our brothers and sisters in order to justify their murder, and stripping ourselves from moral principles in order to convince ourselves of pragmatic and strategic imperatives, then there is no point in even having a discussion over ‘Arab unity.’ It is an illusion and it must be treated as such.

The general narrative from the shameful Liberal Arab bloc is that we have to alienate anything that disrupts the Liberal way of life (whatever that means): the general consequence of this is now manifesting in the mass execution of dissidents from the Muslim Brotherhood without a legal process that even remotely resembles what a trial is. Despite the fact that Morsi (with all his mistakes and shortcomings) was democratically elected whether we like it or not, he, and his party, were considered to be a threat to the Liberals whose sole concern is not the well-being of the Egyptian people, but rather the narrow advancement of their interests (economic and otherwise). All they want is to be able to look European, gather around round tables, wearing tuxedos, sipping wine, and embarrassingly inserting two or three English and French words in their speeches to make them appear modern (which to them is synonymous with European). All of that is worth it even if it is at the expense of murdering 100s of people without cause. How embarrassing!!

The Arab Left is even more forthcoming in their disgusting attitude to justify their shameful position regarding the Syrian revolution. Anything is considered a threat if it disrupts their imported values of Marxism, Communism, anti-Imperialism, and the many other -isms that they mindlessly invent; even if the demands are legitimate: the resignation of a overly dictatorial regime bent on mass destruction, massacres and even genocide.

“We must reject imperialism and neo-imperialism at any cost,” they say. Of course we should. With the exception of a few corrupt leaders who are enjoying the lives of Sultans on their golden yachts in the Red sea, no Arab man or woman would accept, not even for a second, the imposition of foreign rule on their soil. However, we must not blind ourselves from the deceit that the Arab Left (especially the Palestinian left) is trying to forcefully impose upon us with methods that include political and intellectual intimidation and bullying. The message is not and was never ‘we must fight imperialism’ (despite efforts to make it appear as such); it is rather ‘we must maintain the status quo if it serves our interests.’ Arab Leftists, despite their appearance of being the champions of the poor, and vociferous fighters against the wealthy and the corrupt, are only interested in one thing: keeping things the way they are if it suits them. They have no qualm about supporting the Assadist regime in Syria because it has provided them with a safe haven to disseminate their propaganda. And they had no qualm about removing Morsi from power via an illegitimate and brutal military coup knowing that it will result in mass murder.

The Arab Left and the Liberals, with values imported from Europe, have done more damage than good to the Arab world. They are more than comfortable talking about the need to have “Arab Unity” when their intention and purpose is to convince (and perhaps force at gunpoint as it has become the case in Syria and Egypt) the Arabs to espouse their principles. They insist on having ‘dialogue’ only when this dialogue makes them appear to be ‘good’ and only if it serves their propaganda. They want to have conferences, appear in photo ops, and write articles to spread their disgusting ideologies. They denounce religion in the name of secularism when all they desire is to create their own Godless religion based on their own principles without paying any attention to advancing any factors that would allow the Arab man and woman to realize himself as a person of distinct identity free from existential crises.

Arab unity never existed and will never exist. It is time to rid ourselves from the disease of ideology and non-existent nostalgia; we must decolonize our minds, and we must reject all the dispositions imposed upon us by our leaders regardless of how difficult of a mental and physical process that may be.

-Omar Chaaban

Omar Chaaban is a Palestinian-Canadian writer based in Vancouver. He blogs here.

-Photo: Untitled by Ali Joha

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