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

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy