Tuesday, 8 January 2013
The Arabs again
I got a surge of viewings for 'Israel Again'; now I want to see if 'the Arabs again' draws any attention. Actually, for most of Middle Eastern history 'the Arabs' meant the Bedouin of the desert. Arabic-speaking townspeople did not think of themselves as Arabs. That changed in the 19th century, when nationalist ideas were imported from the West. Because the Ottomans joined Germany and Austria in World War I, the British fought to separate the Arabic-speaking provinces from Turkey (and promised the Armenians help they could not deliver). Lawrence of Arabia lied to the Sharif of Mecca, promising an Arab kingdom based on Damascus. St John Philby plotted with the Saudi King for him to take over Mecca from the Sharif with British support. London meanwhile was promising Palestine to the Zionists and Syria to the French and even promising an Arab caliphate to the poor old Sharif (as if Britain could appoint a Caliph!) After the British had abandoned the Palestinians in 1947 one would have thought we would have hidden our heads in shame and vowed to leave the Middle East alone, but only nine years later we were colluding with France and Israel to invade Egypt. We did nothing to stop Israel from getting nuclear weapons and colonizing the territories occupied in 1967. We joined America in the 1980s in its support for the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan. We bombed Iraq in the 1990s and invaded it in 2003. Blair cosied up to Kaddhafi before helping to overthrow him. And now David Cameron is trying to involve us in the civil war in Syria. No wonder there is a problem of 'the Arabs again'! P.S. By the way, in case anybody is in doubt, Iran is not an Arab country; Farsi is an Indo-European language with a history three thousand years old. Under Cyrus, the Persian Empire was astonishingly liberal, allowing subject peoples to keep their languages and religions - as did the Arabs when they had an empire.