In Today’s Middle East, Arabs Are No Longer Dominant

Feb. 24 2017

While Arabs maintain their longstanding ethnic majority in the Middle East, it is the non-Arab states—Turkey and Iran—that are the region’s most powerful Muslim forces. Asher Susser explains:

The last two generations have witnessed the steady decline of the Arab states, to the extent that some no longer even exist as the unitary entities they once were, like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. Generally speaking, the Arabs have not modernized successfully. Most Arab states (excluding the oil-rich and less populous Gulf states) suffer in one way or another from a critical imbalance between population and resources resulting in consistently poor economic performance. . . . The erstwhile movers and shakers like Egypt, Syria, and Iraq are but shadows of their former selves. . . .

The void left by Arab weakness has been filled by the non-Arab states of the region. . . . Iran and Turkey, as opposed to most of the Arab states, are not recently established entities and unlike many Arab states are not artificial creations, but large countries of some 80-million people each. They have long histories as sovereign nations, with unique linguistic and cultural identities of their own. . . . Turkish and Iranian nationalism has consequently proved to be considerably more cohesive and politically successful than Arab nationalism.

Arab nationalism, especially in its revolutionary Nasserist formulation, was the panacea that promised the Arabs renewed power, prestige, and prosperity. But it did nothing of the kind and turned out to be a false messiah. . . . [And while] Arab nationalism sought to supersede religious sectarianism in the Arab world and to unite all the speakers of the Arabic language as one nation, Islamism had the opposite effect of exacerbating sectarian differences.

For the Islamists, religion was obviously the key marker of collective identity. In the Islamist worldview there were very clear and meaningful divisions and distinctions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and between Muslims and non-Muslims. As radicalizing Sunnis and Shiites highlighted their [disparate] identities, various non-Muslim minorities were left with little choice but to withdraw into the protective sanctuary of their respective communities. Arab societies broke down into their sectarian components, eroding the integrity and cohesion of multi-sectarian Arab states.

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Read more at Dayan Center

More about: Arab World, Iran, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Turkey

Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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Read more at Ynet

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank