Eric Hobsbawm was one of my inspirations in writing The Middle East: Politics, History and Neonationalism – a book I worked on from 1994 until 2004, (it was published in 2005) – Perhaps some of these reflections are appropriate on his passing, although most of the book is a narrative history of six states, women and culture of the region.
. . . . . . “Eric Hobsbawn has presented a sophisticated history of nationalism. He argues that the earlier European model of a “true” nationalism has given way elsewhere – for example, in the Middle East or Africa — to irredentism, or the identification of nationhood with singular ethnic (or religious) groupings. I was troubled by his analysis when I first began to teach nationalism, and used his text:
Nationalism, however powerful the emotion of being in an ‘imagined community’ is nothing without the creation of nation-states, and a world of such states fitting the current ethnic-linguistic criteria of nationalism, is not a feasible prospect today.
True, I was a regional specialist collecting new, and fairly specialized data in the region and usually testing it against the theories and notions of mainstream theorists. True, also, that much grand theory in history and political science does not very satisfactorily explain the phenomena on the ground in the Middle East (for a variety of important intellectual reasons). If Hobsbawn was correct, then some of the existing nations of the Middle East were “impossible” or at best, unlikely, cobbled-together facsimiles of nationhood. His ethnic-linguistic criteria for nations fits the accepted basis of Arab nationalism, a transnational doctrine that has waned in importance over the twentieth century.
My students were able to dismiss Hobsbawm because they disliked his suggestion that only the “older” European states had been founded with a proper conception of citizenship. I could not dismiss him, as these views, along with the notion that the Arab states are arbitrary political creations resound not only in the academy, but in the media. He is correct, I believe, in asserting that the proper basis of national loyalty must transcend any one ethnic or linguistic group in today’s world. But how then should we describe the governing philosophies and national conceptions of “mixed” states?
I began thinking about how the several decades of writing on the nation-states of the Middle East in specialists’ writings significantly varied from those of the Western grand theorists. Work based on the region asks different questions than do many Western political theorists. It is far more difficult for non-specialists to understand the import of such questions. Simultaneously it is far less likely that regional specialists acquire any sort of general audience except during periods of crisis such as the post 9/11 global war on terrorism, or the 2003 war in Iraq.
Most country monographs focused on problems of national coherence or lack of fit with particular agendas (like democratization, or modernization). These included the critique of the “over-stated” or very large state structure, an unwieldy public sector, created in the interest of socialist or social welfare policies but impractical in the expansion of capitalist interests.” …
Michael Walzer suggests that a Middle Eastern state, like Lebanon, or a European state like Belgium is actually a consociation. And indeed, Lebanon developed its consociational modes of political operation from structures inherited from the Ottoman empire as well as local patterns. According to Walzer, such states can never replicate the same models for citizenship and nationhood as those presented by the United States or France. But, unlike Hobsbawm’s implication that today’s non-Western European states are irrational, Walzer sees that the most important function of the state is to create mutual tolerance amongst its citizens. Tolerance, he writes, “sustains life itself,” and it “makes difference possible, difference makes toleration necessary.” He is interested in the different methods of creating, or allowing for tolerance that arise from particular national forms – five to be exact: multinational empires, international society, confederations, nation-states, and immigrant societies.
He then goes on to describe particular cases that are more complicated, and may comprise more than one of the forms he has described – in France, Israel, Canada and the European Community. He also explains how tolerance is limited by the existence of class, gender, and power distinctions. Walzer’s aim is not the same as Hobsbawm’s or mine, but in exploring neonationalism in the Middle East, I am particularly interested in its encouragement, or discouragement of tolerance. Walzer’s essays on tolerance deal specifically with the relationship of the state to that quality, and control over popular manifestations of intolerance, rather than explaining the latter. . . . . . . . . .
From Chapter 2:
Public attention (and thus, some historiography) focused on “who is an Egyptian?” for the earlier period rather than the subsequent question of “what should an Egyptian do for his/her nation?” The second question, which most assumed to have become the primary issue of the post-Revolutionary period makes it quite difficult to apply Western “grand theory.” Such grand theories proposed that the treatment of non-nationals and non-Muslims would fall under the rubric of secularist tolerance as discussed by Walzer, or the “true” national formation according to Hobsbawm. Neither fits Egypt very precisely. For example, for Hobsbawm, the neonationalism of the Islamist parties would be particularly troublesome in that they identify the nation with only one group – Muslims. The Copts would occupy a historically valid dhimmi (the term for Peoples of the Book, non-Muslims with a scripturalist tradition) status which, according to the Islamists would require their acceptance of shari`ah as the law of the land. A theoretical overview without much historical detail may cause us to lose sight of the strong secularist trend in Egyptian nationalism that manifested itself from early in the century under figures like Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid and others. And this secular trend was important to a nation comprised of Muslims and Copts, immigrants from all over the Mediterranean, and those of mixed Arab, Turkic and Nile Valley strains.
Moving to the national definitions of a country-specialist who tried to describe a different sort of universally possible model, we see that Nazih Ayubi’s categorization of the Arab states (see Chapter 1 in this volume) places Egypt into a second category of states — combining corporatist and militarist elements. Egypt has been a modernizing state, and yet, “over-stated,” according to Ayubi. Its bureaucratic size and traditions are not necessarily a sign of strength. In today’s Egypt, most observers are concerned with the progress of political liberalization in an “over-state,” and by the growing role of Islam and Islamists in Egypt. Many suggest that the first question, “who is an Egyptian?” has never been satisfied, or perhaps exacerbated by uneven development. They claim that identity issues are at the root of today’s problems as in Galal Amin’s argument that Egypt’s historical penchant for borrowing and adaptation has led it to lose its soul and authenticity. ” . . . . . . . . .
From Chapter 3:
Next, we should examine Assad’s policies within the region as they illustrate a Syrian neonationalism that contrasts with the rhetoric of Arab nationalism in many important ways.
Assad’s Neonationalism in the Region
Syria’s intervention in Lebanon was rationalized with Assad’s support for Arab unity and the tradition of Greater Syria ideas (which had included Lebanon and resisted its partition). Syria’s support for the leftist coalition in Lebanon and for the Palestinians also followed these Arabist principals. But underneath this rhetoric, it is clear that Syria has cultivated its own clients, both Lebanese and Palestinians. Syria pursued political relations with various Lebanese sects and political groupings, including factions of the Maronite Christians. These were forged in the interest of fostering stability in war-torn Lebanon and isolating radical elements. These relationships, important to this day, appeared inconsistent with Syria’s simultaneous encouragement of Shi`i Islamists, specifically Hizbullah in Lebanon. That latter relationship in turn, derived from Syria’s favorable stance toward Iran.
Assad regarded post-revolutionary Iran as a champion in the battle against the hegemonic power of the United States and its strong support of Israel; whereas the Shah of Iran had been an ally of Israel and the United States. He supported Iran not for its Islamist character, but for its anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist principles. Equally important was the fact that Iran was the enemy of his enemy, Iraq. Syria therefore sided with Iran in the Iran-Iraq War that began in 1980. Israeli sources note that the alliance appeared to be asymmetrical, that it appeared to benefit Iran, more than Syria, unless Syria could thereby outweigh or marginalize Egypt and Iraq. Given the settlement of the Lebanese civil war, the 1991 war, the 1998-1999 bombings of Iraq, and the 2003 war and dismantlement of Saddam Husayn’s state, the balance of power in the entire region has shifted. It is more apt today to characterize Syria as seeking to maintain power in a three-pronged Arab dominance — Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria, with the Syrian role challenged frequently by Jordan.
The Palestinian issue in Syria has been problematic. A strong attachment to the cause of Palestinian sovereignty was first expressed through outbreaks of violence in Aleppo and other Syrian cities after the UN partition was announced. There was strong public support for the wars with Israel. But then Syria encouraged an anti-Arafat movement during the Lebanese civil war, and after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Assad regime was certainly party to the agreement to end the commando presence there and the flight of the PLO to Tunis. One faction of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestinian has been centered in Damascus, as have other groups, and significant numbers of Palestinian refugees, including former residents of the Golan. The Syrian government set up its own Palestinian organizations like the military force, Saiqa, and a General Union of Palestinian workers. The refugees were considered Syrians though without passports and the right to vote, and they could establish their own organizations, or join political parties along with Syrians, but they were closely watched by the mukhabbarat (the special security agents, or secret police). The Intelligence agency contained the Palestine Agency and the Commando Police who arrested, interrogated, and sometimes tortured Palestinians who did not support Syrian positions on their own politics. Many were arrested and killed as a result of demonstrations against Syrian actions in Palestinian camps in Lebanon and on Land Day events, and many are still held as political prisoners in Syria.
Arafat and Assad had achieved a certain understanding after Camp David, but Assad was opposed to various Palestinian actions in Lebanon for he understood the Christian Right’s determination on this issue. Arafat’s relations with other Arab governments, and according to one source, Arafat’s harboring of Islamists after the Hama massacre, caused Assad to promote a rebellious split within Fatah, essentially a mutiny against Arafat’s authority under Colonel Abu Musa in 1983. Certainly Assad did not step in and save the PLO from its subsequent expulsion from Lebanon, but one must understand that in the internal construction of neonationalism, the Syrian commitment to the Palestinian cause remained a pillar, indeed a symbol of Assad’s personal honor despite all of these contradictions. For this reason, his son, Bashar, young and groomed to succeed his father after the death of his elder brother Basil in a car accident in 1994, was expected to move very slowly on the peace front.
A certain amount of propaganda to promote a peace agreement with Israel was disseminated in 1993, providing a minimal rationale for progress along the Israeli-Syrian track. It has been suggested that this was more than propaganda — it represented a new popular realization that with the United States as the only superpower, a peace, however, reluctant, with Israel was inevitable. Moreover, the Syrian government may have understood that a settlement with the return of the Golan, would certainly improve a Syrian “opening” for Western investment and tourism. But this negotiating track was disrupted with the shock of the Oslo Accords. Syria officially denounced the Oslo Accords, calling them a traitorous abandonment of the Palestinians. Huge demonstrations were held in Damascus to protest their signing. Nevertheless, a large study of Arab attitudes toward peace and normalization showed a 17% increase in the number of Syrians who supported peace from 1993 to mid-1994. Assad still appeared quite rigid in negotiations with President Clinton in March of 2000 just weeks before his death. And under his son, Bashar by early 2004, little progress had been made, although that may also be attributed to intransigence on the Israeli side, where the “security” issue and the need to control Palestinian responses had again taken precedence, since the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifadha.
. . . . . . . . . .
From Chapter 4 (Lebanon)
Was Lebanese neonationalism weakened by the very presence of pluralism, and multiple images of the state? Or did the various competing visions of Lebanon result from, or affect the weak loyalties to civic or national institutions? Perhaps these questions are of the chicken-or-egg-first variety, and ascertaining a single “cause” for a national collapse may not be a worthwhile venture. One reason for asking such questions is that today’s United States is characterized by pluralism, and an ill-defined national identity. The tensions between federalism and states’ rights once led to a bitter Civil War, but since then, many believe that institutions far stronger than those in Lebanon have been created and would probably prevent any future national fissures.
We may adopt several approaches in treating neonationalism in Lebanon as a logical outgrowth of the identification and development of a specific territory, rather than an irrational malaise. Neonationalism’s reemergence in Lebanon is part of its recovery from the most dysfunctional conditions of sectarian separatism — that is, the separation of one religious or religio-political group from another and an affirmation of civil consciousness. In this way, it may represent neonationalism at its apex — healing war wounds by obscuring wartime nightmarish memories. Or, following this logic, if we examine Lebanese neonationalism during the Civil War, we see it at its nadir, exposing the state as a mirage.
Various sources disagree about the causes of the Lebanese Civil War, just as many Arabs and Lebanese fundamentally disputed Lebanon’s geographic delineation (conjoined with, or including parts of historic “Syria” or divorced from these areas) and Lebanon’s Arab, or pre-Arab “Phoenician” identity. The analyses of the conflict range from a construction of Christian nationalism as an “ethnic nationalism” to a story of many disputes between Lebanese parties and external forces, including the Palestinians. Scholars did not agree about the relative weight of the various levels of conflict — social, political, economic, and religious — and their exacerbation due to external (or internal) factors.
Many experts studied Lebanon through the politics of its elite, for they were crucial to the modern development of the political system, and recurring political themes. The politics of the elites resulted in some ways in the shallow and impermanent bases for state building and bonds of civility though one could also assert the opposite for the earlier years in which the older elites dominated. Economic and developmental problems in Lebanon also accentuated disparities between center and periphery and certain distortions in its patterns of trade. Considering the balance of land, labor, and capital, which are seen to be crucial forces in the determination of political systems, it is possible to discern two Lebanons. In the center, Beirut, there was a higher proportion of labor and capital, while in the countryside, more land but hardly any capital. The countryside lost the labor of a significant proportion of its able-bodied men who emigrated, though many provided remittances to family members. In addition, a concentration of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) arose from the service sector in Beirut, further enhancing the financial importance of external actors and the urban economy.
When disturbances affected the internal balance of power, external entities also played a far more crucial role here than in other states, due to the sectarian divisions and particular governmental weaknesses of Lebanon. These included France, the United States, the Palestinians, Syria and at particular moments, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, as well as Lebanese in the Americas, Canada, Europe, South America, West Africa and even Australia. . . . . . .
Chapter 5 – (snippets) CAN NEONATIONALISM EXPRESS religious identity?
The modern discussion of nationalism in Iran has circulated around several larger-than-life events. These were the Constitutional Revolution of 1911, the rise and fall of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, nationalist leader of the early 1950s, and the reinstatement of Shah Mohammad Pahlavi, the fall of that Shah and the Iranian Revolution of 1978-9. In the West, the story of Iranian nationhood was related in terms of a modernizing, positivist progression from chaos to stability, and from a weak divided conglomerate to a strong centralized dictatorial regime. Then, an illogical flashback to medieval Islam interrupted and tossed Iranians — who inexplicably had supported this sea-change — back into an Islamic mode of neonationalism.
To successfully create strength, civility, and tolerance, neonationalism should not be based upon commonality of religion or religious philosophy, but rather on the sharing of linguistic, historical and cultural ties, and the defining of a particular territorial space to be claimed by all citizens — regardless of creed, ethnicity, or gender. Iran and Israel are thus anomalies, and yet, in so many other ways they fit into our definition of neonationalism. Or do they?
While Israel defines citizens on the basis of religion, it also treats religion as an ethnicity, obtained through descent, or conversion. Iran became a theocracy, governed to some degree by the `ulama, and in which Muslims were sui generis to be religiously observant and to display external signs of faith (beards and veils). The more than forty tribal groupings in Iran (ethnicities) and their different language groups were not a concern to the unity of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yet, following the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, other religious groups, such as the Bahai, the Jews who had not already left the country, and non-orthodox entities, such as the Sufi orders, had to flee.
In 1999, a series of events involving a student movement for reform, and Iran’s re-opening to the outside world indicated some substantive transformations in the “Islamic” Republic. These were precipitated by the death of Khomeini, and the election of President Khatami and involved a breach between pro-reform and liberalization Iranians and entrenched conservative clerical opponents. The patterns of religious neonationalism that had been introduced in the twenty years since the Revolution were important to these new tensions.
Recapturing the aspects of Iran’s evolution in the twentieth century is now inextricably bound to explanations of the 1979 Revolution. That event fundamentally altered the nation’s legal, social and foreign policies as compared to their counterparts under the Shah. The hostage crisis, a single aspect of the Iranian Revolution, captured the attention of Americans, calling into question the wisdom of past policy in the Middle East, and the future of “rogue” governments confronting the superpower. The tensions between the re-Islamicized Iran and the American dominance of the foreign policy scene and commercial growth in much of the Middle East was examined; analysts sometimes proposing an inherent xenophobia in Iranians, and anti-secularism in Iranian Shi`ism, and Iran’s historical legacy. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . .Khatami and his supporters, as an international campaign on behalf of the conference attendees was carried out, seemed to try without much success to mitigate the effects of this backlash. Most recently, reformers were unable to be registered as candidates, and the conservatives ordered elections to go proceed. Perhaps the reform process is best perceived as a tug of war between areas of the state institution, which is taking place precisely because the executive powers have been reduced from the Shah’s era to Khatami’s. Thus, the progress of reform involves the future of democratization and clericalism in Iran, and is uncertain.
Adelkhah and others have shown us that Iran is surely an Islamist state, but the effects of Islamist policies have been to regularize, sanitize, and bureaucratize previously traditional practices. In some cases, as one can see in Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir Hosseini’s film, Divorce Iranian Style, social reform may occur along with the institutionalization of Islamic legal practices, and also, as Adelkhah suggests, through individualization. Abuses are still present though, and one test of Iranian neonationalism will be its ability to modify these abuses and reinterpret Islamist policy, given the range of opinions in the country.. . . . . . .
From Chapter Six (snippets) . . . . . .
Today, we should ask to what degree Iraq was an anomaly because of the layer of pan-Arabism in its neonationalism? Was it reasonable to draw on Mespotamianism as the historical-cultural legacy at the heart of its national culture, or will Iraq of the future, also require a broader definition of its territorial existence with a window dressing of Arabism? Can Iraqis, socialized into the cult of the leader, cast off their old attitudes to authority? Will they not seek yet another patriot whose requisite strength might lead once again to piracy?
In the simpler accounts of nationalism and state building in the Arab world, it has been proposed that:
1. Arab nationalism (which characterizes much of the political rhetoric of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and to some degree Jordan) arose in reaction to pan-Turkism, Turkish repression of early Arab nationalists, with the aim of reversing the decline and disunity of the Arab peoples.
2. Nationalisms are intensified under settler, militaristic, or particularly interventionist forms of colonialism.
3. Colonial intervention produces a particular response, which has been labeled “colonial traditionalism,” that in turn, tends to prevent change in various cultural and social features of society.
4. Class conflict was a factor in several revolutions (or revolutionary coups) in the Middle East — in Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Syria, but not always the prime element, or even apparent in other revolutions.
Further, many experts begin their discussion of Iraq by pointing out that:
5. In Iraq, tensions between territorial, or Iraqi nationalism, or “Iraqism” as opposed to pan-Arabism or Arab nationalism, were an important source of conflict and of political discourse.
In countries with substantial tribal populations, like Iraq, the arguments concerning the primacy of qawmiyya (Arab consciousness or nationalism) versus wataniyya (territorial nationalism) are very complicated and sometimes obstructive. They implicitly factor in an element of political maturity, as if predominantly or partially tribal societies should logically follow along the path of European examples, although political networks and institutions developed within or in reaction to tribal and familial structures. Yet we have witnessed competing and varying forms of Arabism or Arab nationalism in the region. There has been no one single pattern for the “imagined nations” of the Middle East. And tribalism affects a broader spectrum than Arab society and politics, involving the Kurds in Iraq, Berbers in North Africa, and the Jews who view themselves as a “tribal people” in terms of history and law if not in their contemporary mode of subsistence.
Iraq’s experience with Ottoman, then British imperialism and its failure to achieve a “true” independence in 1932 were significant reasons for anti-imperialism to flourish in Iraqi neonationalism. It has been pointed out that other nations, Algeria, even Egypt, more painfully experienced colonialism and imperialism than did Iraq. Instead, Iraq’s neonationalism has been deliberately shaped through the current regime’s policies, and rationalized by particular failures of previous Iraqi governments. . . . . . . There was an attempted coup back in 1973 under Nadhim Kzar, the chief of internal security, but Kzar and thirty-five others were executed. Saddam Husayn referred to those involved in this coup and to Kurdish insurgents as foreign agents of imperialism, and “those who have sold themselves to the foreigners.” To Husayn, imperialism, the enemy of Third World revolutions was a living force. “We know that imperialism realized finally and particularly in 1972 that the Revolution in Iraq had gone past the state of ‘permitted revolution’ which it was accustomed to see in the Third World,” he commented, and he held that this force would continue to conspire against the regime. . . . . . . . .(discussion of the Iran-Iraq War and First Gulf War) … then . . .
Other interesting outcomes of the Iraqi neonationalism heightened by the Iran-Iraq war were post-war expressions of violence against foreign Arab workers, and against women. Despite the general pronouncement that Iraq was the true orchestra for Arabism, such sentiments just did not always prevail at the local level. This shouldn’t surprise us too much, because of all the debate about how Arabism should be pursued, á la Nasser, with political unions, and if so with whom? Or simply via the diffusion of Ba`thi philosophy?
A privatization movement emerged in Iraq from 1986-87 causing decreases in salaries and worker’s rights. It also led to an increase in unemployment. Demobilized soldiers faced increasing difficulties in obtaining work, and the economic situation was dismal. Foreign Arab workers, including Egyptians had traveled to Iraq for employment, as they had to the Gulf states. They could send half of their salaries back to Egypt at a favorable exchange rate. In the post-war period they became the subject of local resentment and a thousand of them were horribly murdered in mysterious circumstances. The Egyptian press listed a much higher figure, 5,996 killed.
From this review of Iraqi history, and what we knew of Saddam Husayn’s use of the mukhabbarat establishment and ruthless suppression of all challenges, regime change would not have been enacted by Iraqis and that was the point of the war. What must be constructed is a format within which military coups and violence will not remain the sole option for political change in the future.
Neonationalism altered domestic, regional, and cultural concerns in Iraq. The Ba`thi ascendancy over the alternative communist or liberal views resulted in bloodshed in the past, and the rivalry of the two branches of the Ba`th, in Iraq and Syria affected Iraq’s regional standing. Neonationalism could re-emerge in a new guise under a different sort of leadership. What is likely to continue? A vision of a “shared” or multi-ethnic Iraq tempered Iraqi desires to unite with, or lead the Arab world. We can only hope that lasting democratic innovations will emerge that will allow for new expressions of neonationalism in Iraq, and that infrastructure and jobs will be restored speedily enough for Iraqis to begin this process. . .
From Chapter 7 . . . (Warriors from the Land of Milk and Honey)
. . . . . Hobsbawm on Zionism
Eric Hobsbawn regards “proto-nationalisms” as being illegitimate, problematic models for nations. He enlists two examples; a “nation” of those who speak Germanic languages, and Zionism. He could have criticized Arab nationalism for encompassing too many diverse groups as in the German case, but instead he faults it for drawing too close to Muslim nationalism – and here he may have erred as he isn’t a regional specialist. But he is very critical of Zionism as well, writing:
Again, while the Jews, scattered throughout the world for some millennia, never ceased to identify themselves, wherever they were, as members of a special people quite distinct from the various brands of non-believers among whom they lived, at no stage, at least since the return from the Babylonian captivity, does this seem to have implied a serious desire for a Jewish political state, let alone a territorial state, until Jewish nationalism was invented at the very end of the nineteenth century by analogy with the newfangled western nationalism. It is entirely illegitimate to identify the Jewish links with the ancestral land of Israel, the merit driving from pilgrimages there, or the hope of return there when the Messiah came – as he so obviously had not come in the view of the Jews – with the desire to gather all Jews into a modern territorial state situated on the ancient Holy Land. One might as well argue that good Muslims, whose highest ambition is to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, in doing so really intend to declare themselves citizens of what has now become Saudi Arabia.
Hobsbawn may be correct in criticizing the practicality of protonationalism. But he ignores some of the motives urging its transformation to full-fledged territorial nationalism. These stem from the anti-Semitism of Christian European societies and their treatment of their Jewish populations. Jewish history was riddled with horror stories of pogroms and persecution before, and during the nineteenth century. Then, Hitler’s campaign against the Jews in the twentieth century fundamentally transformed the way that Jews (and non-Jews) thought about national prospects. It also altered the way in which the West conceived of the Jews, and the views of Orthodox Jewry who had not supported Zionism in the nineteenth century, but who would become some of the most ardent settlers in Israel.
Zionism in Europe
The rise of a Zionist philosophy and movement at the end of the nineteenth century derived much from the Enlightenment, and the particular development of territorial state nationalism in Europe. The necessity for a state was argued on the basis of continuous, although differentiated anti-Semitism in Europe which harmed Jews through prejudice, destruction of property, even death. Zionism arose not among the most traditional sector of the Jewish population still living secluded from the rest of society in parts of Eastern Europe, but rather amongst those identified as maskilim (those who wished for enlightenment), and a sector of these had assimilated with society at large, living as non-Jews, Westernizing their names, and in some cases, leaving their faith.
Paradoxically, the movement toward acculturation with European life had also produced the Orthodox branch of Judaism. They believed that Jews would return to Zion at the time that God decreed – no sooner, and were far more concerned with preserving Jewish ritual, education, and separateness from the host societies, the means by which a Jewish identity had been preserved, than a search for an earthly homeland. . . . . . The government allowed that there were “adjustment” difficulties with these immigrants, but never came to terms with discrimination. Later waves of immigrants had similar problems, but in comparing the two largest groups in recent years, the Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, it is obvious that race matters. Of course, most individuals do not intentionally discriminate, but since people often deal with the lowest common denominator in bureaucracies, schools, or employers, unstated preferences and prejudices come to the fore. Israel has therefore served as an important laboratory in the study of global migration.
About a million Russian immigrants have arrived from 1991 until the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada. They are mocked for their accents in Hebrew, different habits and styles of dress (wearing socks with sandals), and unkind references to the large numbers of prostitutes smuggled in from the former Eastern bloc affected some of the female immigrants. Studies carried out by the Ministry of Absorption indicate that the longer immigrants remain in Israel, the more likely they are to stay permanently. These studies also showed that the period of violence from October of 2000 to 2002-3 had disproportionately affected immigrants, though not their decisions to remain in Israel, and finally that they may be more ideologically committed to “Israeliness” as defined by the state, than some native-born citizens. The model of Israeli identity is meant primarily for Jews, but Russians who are married to Jews, or other family members also assimilate. In turn, immigrants from the former Eastern bloc have also affected Israeli life and habits, in for example, the apparent national penchant for keeping dogs as pets, and in the presence of talented athletes and sports coaches, musicians and music teachers, scientists and other professionals.
The “new” Israeli identity was not intended for the remnants of the Arab population in Israel who now number about 20% (sources vary) of the population, many of whom lost their earlier lands and homes but settled in different areas after 1948. They possess Israeli citizenship, under the law, but not Israeli nationality. Official Israeli neonationalism distinguishes between “Arab Israelis” and Palestinians. The latter term Israelis now use in the narrower sense of residents of the West Bank or Gaza. The word and concept — “Palestinian” were previously avoided altogether. Palestinians who now reside in the United States are on the one hand considered enemy Arabs, but on the other hand, Americans, certainly not Palestinians. I speak here of official attitudes, although Israeli citizens are also sensitive to the implications of a larger Palestinian community in Diaspora. Palestinians living in Israel, “Arab Israelis” are supposed to be loyal to Israel, but the state only drafted certain groups into the army, the Druze, for example. Their loyalty became more suspect after the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifadha when Israeli paranoia heightened, and fears of the small Arab-Israeli Islamist movement increased, and serious attacks against Israelis took place in the central and northern areas.
These Palestinian (Arab)-Israelis are found in the North, in the Triangle area, in towns outside of Tel Aviv, and in the Negev, where Palestinian (Arab)-Israelis are overwhelmingly Bedouin. The state’s policy was to create or encourage separation between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews, to a greater or lesser extent under different governments, and even sharper demarcations between the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza and Jewish Israelis. Ariel Sharon was a particular champion of this policy in his “Star Plan” which aided Israelis who agreed to build, or settle in towns that have sprung up on the borders of the Palestinian controlled-areas. . . . . It would be wrong to merely describe Israeli identity as exclusionary, or biased. Israel has simultaneously created an inclusive and a vibrant intellectual environment, — for Jewish Israelis. To a great degree, the humanistic ethos of Europe has been emulated in the country, though in other ways, a highly specialized scientific approach to knowledge dominates, for instance in the universities, modeled on the German system, rather than the American “liberal arts” model. A decision was made to use Hebrew as the language of learning and publication. To some degree, this has prevented the atrophy or marginalization of those who speak and publish in the national language and that is crucial to literary and cultural development. . . Rashid Khalidi has best described the emergence of a Palestinian consciousness among the urban elites prior to the nakba. There is a great deal more to say about Palestinian intellectual contributions; however these activities have taken place in exile or in permanent immigration, or in a variety of national contexts, and so today, it is easier to look at writers, artists, and educators within disciplines and in specific locations rather than considering their cumulative impact. One individual with a pronounced impact was the late Edward Said, a Palestinian scholar of literature whose family resided in Egypt, and whose theories of “Orientalism” and impassioned writing on behalf of the Palestinians earned him accolades and also onslaughts from defenders of Zionism.
. . . . . nationalism in Chapter 8.
Ethno-religious nationalism may not have been the most appropriate or ideal form for the Israeli state, but historical events rendered it inevitable. Palestinian territorial nationalism in contrast faced many obstacles including factionalism within its own ranks, and appeals to a broader Arab nationalism have been of debatable value to the Palestinians in their dealings with the state of Israel.
A solution to the conflict with the Palestinians and a permanent and comprehensive peace agreement with the Arab states is essential for Israel and the region. What I learned, during a year’s stay in Israel in one of the worst periods of this conflict, is that some Israelis call for this peace, but others do not envision peace, or do not believe it should take primacy. Israelis’ educational, military, and civic institutions, media and complete social isolation from Palestinians cushion them in some cases from the immediacy of ha-matzav (the “situation,” a euphemism for the violent conflict). Our attempts at dialogue were very troubled — I will not soon forget one of my colleagues who wanted me to “simulate” Arafat and then bitterly mocked my version of Palestinian aims. When I mentioned that no Palestinians could legally travel to his area, he wondered why he should want to meet with them. Indeed, many Israelis believe that it is the Palestinians who should compromise since they “are the weaker side.” It seems logical to them that their fears for physical security supercede the human rights of their neighbors and co-citizens.
Others feel moral outrage at the situation. Maybe their voices will prevail. In the Negev area where I was residing in 2001-2, one local rabbi sought to create dialogue in any way he could, establishing relations with the local imam and mosque, and small group meetings to bridge the separation between Bedouin and Israeli Jews. Another rabbi traveled to a Bedouin commemoration of their ouster from their land, explaining that although he had broken the Sabbath to attend, this was allowed in Judaism, when the “lives of people are at risk.” Another colleague pounded the table at Passover, declaring that the suicide bombing that very evening Seder dinner in a northern hotel proved that there must be an immediate withdrawal from the territories, and nothing less would do. Nearly 16,000 Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv to protest the IDF actions in Jenin (and Ramallah). But they are often characterized as ‘alternative voices’ when Israeli neonationalism remains dominated (like its Syrian, and Iraqi counterparts) by praetorianism and a Rightist vision of Zionism. As (state) Israeli and (occupied) Palestinian violence continues, Israelis appear to have been taken hostage by their own dreams. They supported further separation from their Palestinian population via the “Wall,” the newly built massive security fence. Israelis overwhelmingly supported the Wall citing Robert Frost’s maxim that fences make good neighbors. In some areas of the American Midwest, curiously, fences are considered “un-neighborly.” Whether fences make good neighbors or not, let us hope that Israelis and Palestinians will construct something more enveloping, promising, and binding than the “Wall” in the future.
. . . . . From Chapter 8 .. . . . The questions that we develop regarding gender and nationalism must therefore alter and be transformed. In the past these included:
Does women’s consciousness and understandings of gender change as they aid the national struggle?
Does the national struggle inevitably displace reform of gender issues?
Contemporary questions include:
How can women overcome transgressions of their human rights?
What role should international intervention or pressure play in this process?
How has our research on women, gender and the “nation” in the Middle East helped us to define and differentiate the parallel but varied systems of patriarchy – in the family, the workplace, political institutions, in cultural institutions, and in matters of sexuality?
And how in turn are each of these areas specifically affected by the neonationalist histories and policies discussed in this volume?
Many studies of first-stage nationalism and its relationship to women’s movements and gender issues have been published. There is also scholarship that describes women’s roles in contemporary nationalist movements, and in state structures. One question is whether women’s efforts really aimed to alter the “normal” gendered division of labor or other social patterns, or did they instead merely seek to ameliorate abuses. . . .
Nationalist endeavors to enforce withdrawals of foreign troops, survive military attacks, or topple collaborating native regimes prioritized territorial and political issues ahead of social issues. Women served as support services, in intelligence, and provided medical aid and funds. They engaged in discussion about gender issues with each other if not with the highest levels of leadership in many contemporary nationalist settings. Predominantly male leadership granted some women the status of “honorary men” so that they might engage productively in the national struggle when men were imprisoned, engaged at the fronts, in hiding, or dead. This occurred during the Lebanese civil war because the emergency circumstances permitted certain disruption of the normal gender order, but the years following the Ta’if Accords saw the resurrection of male-dominated political structures.
Similarly women’s true status in nationalist movements has been obscured. For example, Palestinian Leila Khaled, a symbol of an earlier, militant, but defunct epoch, was described as a “male” woman, one who could do what she did – hijack a plane — through her fervor for the movement, and by rejecting her own feminine models. . . . . . . In the next period, the priorities of independent states were different than those of entities (for example, the Palestinians) who had not achieved independence. Traditional, albeit nationalist elites and their allies led the efforts to construct institutions in Syria and Lebanon — as did similar actors in pre-1958 Iraq. The work there, after World War II mirrored the earlier Egyptian experience in some ways, and diverged from it in others. In Lebanon, a pattern continued (until the Civil War) in which women entered schools and universities in significant numbers, affecting the workforce, but family pressures and prejudice against women in the workplace and political life remained. That these attitudes persist in women as well as men is borne out in a study completed by the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World in Beirut. Mona Khalaf points out that women do value their employment, but men’s work is still considered “breadwinning” and women encounter the glass ceiling, lower salaries and obtain less respect for their accomplishments.
Although Lebanon was described as the most tolerant, or liberal of Arab societies (in terms of cultural production and not social attitudes) women had no more success there in entering the world of politics than they did in more conservative countries. They were represented within the ever polarizing parties, but not as actors for gender.. , . . . The brutality of the war was depicted in very traditional and nationalist images — women, nation, and honor were to be defended by male strength and commitment. The war interrupted social transformation, and temporarily eradicated customary standards of behavior which had supposedly shielded women. Men attacked women-of-the-enemy, for women are the locus of honor and reputation. Women were kidnapped, raped, and victimized as they have been in other periods of genocide. Women were abandoned while men fought with their militias, fled overseas, or (a large number) disappeared (probably killed, or kidnapped and then killed). Some Muslim women adopted the hijab, along with an Islamist ideology of gender. Women’s progress in the areas of education or in elite work situations seemed meaningless in the face of the destruction. It was left to survivors to question the gendered meanings of the conflict. Lebanon was characterized at the local level as being weak and beautiful (like a woman) for it had collapsed from divisions within as well as divisive regional alliances. .. .. .
Chapter 9 dealt with cultural expressions of nationalism — and was included because: . . . .
The purpose of including references to cultural history in a work ostensibly dealing with nationalist philosophy and its political effects is to deal in a different manner with the impact of strong external currents on the Middle East. The struggle between Paris and Mecca, London and Jerusalem, or New York and Beirut informs many aspects of the neonationalism of Middle Eastern states. So it is natural that individuals integrate their sense of nationhood, and comment on its course in expressive modes..
Endnotes to the above:
E. J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality. (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990) p. 177.
Michael Walzer, On Toleration (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997) pp. xii, 22-24,
Ibid, pp. 14-51.
Michael Walzer, On Toleration (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997); Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
Nazih Ayubi, Over-stating the Arab State: Politics and Society in the Middle East (London: I.B. Tauris, 1995) pp. 15-21.
Galal Amin, Whatever Happened to the Egyptians? Changes in Egyptian Society from 1950 to the Present (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2001).
Seale, Assad, p. 353.
Yair Hirchfeld, “The Odd Couple: Ba’athist Syria and Khomeini’s Iran,” in Moshe Maoz and Avner Yaniv eds. Syria Under Assad: Domestic Constraints and Regional Risks (London: Croom Helm, 1986).
Middle East Watch, Syria Unmasked: The Suppression of Human Rights by the Assad Regime (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991) pp. 104-108. For updated reports see the Human Rights Watch website for Middle East Watch country reports. http://www.hrw.org.
Personal interviews with the author, Damascus, 1993.
Hilal Khashan, “Polling Arab Views on the Conflict with Israel,” The Middle East Quarterly Vol. 11, No. 2 (June 1995) archived at
http://www.meforum.org/article/248 (last visited 8/18/04).
Walid Phares, Lebanese Christian Nationalism: The Rise and Fall of an Ethnic Resistance (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1995).
Stephen Longrigg, Syria and Lebanon Under French Mandate (London: Oxford University and Beirut: Librairie du Liban, 1958); Binder, ed. Politics; Wade R. Goria, Sovereignty and Leadership in Lebanon 1943-1976 (London: Ithaca Press, 1985); Albert Hourani, Syria and Lebanon: A Political Essay (London: Oxford University Press, 1946).
Charles Issawi, The Economic History of the Middle East 1800-1914 (Chicago, 1966); and Issawi, The Fertile Crescent, 1800-1914: A Documentary Economic History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Sherifa Zuhur, “A Preliminary View of Intra-regional Trade in the Middle East, 1974-1982” unpublished ms. (1986) especially tables 12 and 12A; Direction of Trade Statistics, Yearbook. International Monetary Fund (1983); Samir Makdisi, “Economic Interdependence and National Sovereignty,” in Giacomo Luciani, ed. The Arab State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); Quarterly Economic Review of Lebanon, Annual Supplement, (1978); Quarterly Economic Review of Lebanon and Cyprus, (Annual Supplement 1982, 1984, 1985); United Nations Commission for Western Asia, Economic Integration in Western Asia (London: Frances Pinter, 1985).
According to the models proposed by political scientists Michael Wallerstein and Ronald Rogowski.
Other sources for this chapter included: Ervand Abrahamian, Khomeinism (Berkeley: University of California, 1993); E. Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982); Assef Bayat, Workers and Revolution in Iran (London: Zed, 1987); Maziar Behrooz, “Factionalism in Iran under Khomeini,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Vol. 27, No. 4 (1991) pp. 597-614; Hooshang E. Chehabi, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism: The Liberation Movement of Iran Under the Shah and Khomeini (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990); Hamid Dabashi, Theology of Discontent: The Ideological Foundations of the Islamic Revolution in Iran (New York: New York University Press, 1993); Anoushiravan Ehteshami, “Islamic Governance in Post-Khomeini Iran,” in Abdel Salam Sidahmed and A. Ehteshami eds. Islamic Fundamentalism (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996); A. Estheshami, and Manshour Varasteh, eds. Iran and the International Community (London: Routledge, 1991); Roy Mottahadeh, The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran (New York, 1985); Afsaneh Najmabadi, “State, Politics and the Radical Continuity of Revolutions: Reflections on Iran’s Islamic Revolution,” Research in Political Sociology, 6 (1993); Farzin Sarabi, “The Post-Khomeini Era in Iran; The Elections to the Fourth Islamic Majlis,” Middle East Journal, 48 (Winter, 1994); U.S. International Commission on Religious Freedom, Report on Iran (November 1, 2000).
Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini, dirs. Divorce Iranian Style, 1998.
Address given at the Iraqi National Assembly, 24 September 1973, in Kishtainy, trans. Saddam Hussein, p. 17.
Ibid, pp. 274-275, and citing al-Mussawwar, 4 January 1999, et passim, 37, pp. 288-89
Eric Hobsbawn, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) pp. 47-48.
Samuel C. Heilman and Menachem Friedman, “Religious Fundamentalism and Religious Jews: The Case of the Haredim,” in Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds. Fundamentalisms Observed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991) p. 201.
For the more recent period see also Richard Isralowitz and Jonathan Friedlander, eds. Transitions: Russians, Ethiopians and Bedouins in the Negev (Aldershot, Hampshire ,UK, and Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 1999).
John Quigley, Flight into the Maelstrom: Soviet Immigration to Israel and Middle East Peace (Reading and Berkshire, UK: Ithaca, 1997); Dina Siegal, The Great Immigration; Russian Jews in Israel. Forward by Emmanuel Marx.
For one view of the relationship of intellectuals to nationalism see Michael Keren, The Pen and the Sword: Israeli Intellectuals and the Making of the Nation-State (Boulder: Westview Press, 1989).
Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).
Here I have rearranged the categories of patriarchy proposed for the UK (but that fit other Western cases) to better characterize the region. These are discussed in Sylvia Walby, “The ‘Declining Significance’ or the ‘Changing Forms’ of Patriarchy,” in Valentine Moghadam, ed. Patriarchy and Economic Development: Women’s Positions at the End of the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996) pp. 19-33.
Afsaneh Najmabadi, “The Hazards of Modernity and Morality: Women, State and Ideology in Contemporary Iran,” in Deniz Kandiyoti, ed. Women, Islam, and the State (Philadelphia: Temple University, 1991); Margot Badran, “Dual Liberation: Feminism and Nationalism in Egypt, 1870’s – 1925,” Feminist Issues, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Spring 1988); Sarah Graham-Browne, ‘Feminism and Nationalism,” in Images of Women: The Portrayal of Women in Photography of the Middle East 1860-1950 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988); Lila Abu-Lughod, ed. Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East.
Julie Peteet, Women and the Palestinian Resistance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992) and Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti, “Women in the Western Sahara,” in Richard Lawless and Laila Monahan eds. War and Refugees: The Western Sahara Conflict (London: Pinter, 1987) pertain to the cases studied in this work.
For example Yolla Polity Sharara, “Women and Politics in Lebanon,” in Miranda Davies, ed. Third World: Second Sex (London: Zed Books, 1987) p. 24; or in Layla and the Wolves, (a film) dir. Heiny Srour (1984).
Joseph Massad, Unpublished paper presented to the Middle East Studies Association Meetings, October 29-31, Portland, Oregon 1992.
Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, Lebanese American University, Female Labor Force in Lebanon (Beirut: 1998).
Mona Khalaf, “Women’s Employment in Lebanon and its Impact on their Status,” presented to the conference, “Women and Gender in the Middle East: A Multidisciplinary Assessment of Theory and Research.” Bellagio, Como, Italy, August 28, 2001.
Jean Said Makdisi, Beirut Fragments: A War Memoir (New York: Persea Books, 1990) p. 201.
Sharara, “Women and Politics,” p. 27; or as in Etel Adnan, Sitt Marie Rose (Sausalito: Apollo Press, 1982); also see Miriam Cooke, War’s Other Voices: Women Writers on the Lebanese Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).