How Internal Factors Determined the Future of Arab Nationalism and Zionism
There are several factors that hinted at the success of the creation of a Jewish State and the difficulty of creating an Arab nation. While external involvement is heavily discussed, it is crucial to acknowledge the internal issues that predicted the outcome of each goal. These internal factors include how Zionists benefitted from constructing an overall Jewish identity, Arab nationalisms’ extreme goals, economic pursuits, and language used in discussing both ideologies. These ideologies emerged from different contexts and while both had the same goals for their respective cultural groups, it is important to acknowledge that it is more difficult to deconstruct systems that are already in place than it is to create completely new ones. In order for the establishment for an Arab nation to succeed, Arab nationalists were battling centuries of internal conflicts along with the external. Zionists mainly had the external and because of the backing of imperialists, the real focus was unifying a group of globally dispersed peoples.
The Zionists’ goal was created a nation based on one faith. Arab nationalism’s goal was to create a nation based on the Arab race that had many Islamic elements in its development and culture. It was easier for people within Jewish communities to agree wholeheartedly with the initiative of the Zionists because it sounded like an inclusive cause for all Jews. Zionists constructed Judaism in a new way where in Israel, saying you’re a Jew can be a religious, cultural, and ethnic identity marker.
“Our independence will be shaped further by the conquest of labor and the land, by broadening the range of our language and its culture, by perfecting the methods of self-government and self-defense, by creating the framework and conditions for national independence and creativity, and finally-by attaining political independence. This is the essence of the Jewish revolution.” (Ben-Gurion, 610)
Ben-Gurion’s speech gave Jews a new meaning to Jewish identity and culture. Hebrew was instated as Israel’s national language and it was easier for migrants to accept this new language because of the their movement to a new place. Jews that participated in this migration were searching for a culture to be a part of and Ben-Gurion’s speech fed their appetite. What made the construction of Jewish identity simpler was the willingness of diasporic Jews to migrate to a new place. Without the willingness of Jews to migrate, the creation of a Jewish state would have been impossible. European Jews were eager to migrate and so were Arab Jews. In the Arab lands, there was an extremely large peasantry class. There were Arab Jews that were a part of this lower economic class and many Jews in Europe suffered from economic downturns as well.
“The infiltration of immigrating Jews attracted to a land by apparent security, and the rising class of native jews, combine powerfully to bring about a revolution.” (Herzl, 211)
Herzl’s argument here is a large reason why many would choose to migrate to the Jewish homeland. Many people from any faith or ethnicity would not decline the possibility of economic prosperity.
One of the goals of Arab nationalism was to create a common land that spanned across too many natural barriers (al-Jundi, 42). Arabic was supposed to be a unifying language, but due to natural barriers, distance, and colonization, dialects became extremely different and there were indigenous languages in various areas of the MENA region as well. Communication wouldn’t be as similar and different regions throughout the Arab world also had different cultures. For a long period of time, Moroccans, Tunisians, and Algerians were not considered Arab by other countries in the Arab League. Islam could not be used as a sole identity marker because not all people in this region were muslim and there were large muslim populations in different and distant areas throughout the globe. The historic elements of the Quran is what bridged Arabs, Non-Muslim Arabs, and Muslims together though, but this was not enough justification or organization to many for the creation of an Arab nation.
Within this land, there was supposed to be a common government and common people. “We refuse to accept English and American capitalism, just as we refuse Russian communism.”(Azaam, 156) The Arabs wanted to create a government that did not follow capitalist models or communist models and this is difficult to do because these governments did not have a direct model to follow. There were already several types of governments in place while Arab nationalism was trying to succeed. These governments included monarchies, constitutional monarchies, and a democracy, which was Egypt. Undoing systems and re-making them is difficult in practice. For example, Egypt and Syria joined together to create the United Arab Republic, but because Nasr was the voice of Arab nationalism while simultaneously being the ruler of Egypt, a system of imperialism and colonialism repeated itself, but this time Syria ended up being a colony of its neighboring country.
Arab nationalism can have different meanings to different rulers, intellectuals, politicians, and religious leaders. Not every single person in the Arab lands can identity as Arab and not every Arab or non-Arab can identify as muslim or the same kind of Muslim. The existence of sects within Islam would also make the goal of an Arab nation difficult since Islam is very grounded in it. The area in which the Arab nation would be created in diverse and complex. Zionists were constructing a nation with one identity from the ground up. Zionists were also focusing on a smaller portion of land that had fertile zones. The Arab League would be dealing with a large quantity of land were self-sufficiency and traveling would be difficult due to lack of fertile areas and deserts.
The language used to portray these ideologies are also important in discussing each group’s goals and development.
“The Arabs will not bear the domination of the imperialists, and ever since the founding of their League they have struggled to realize their freedom.” (Azzam, 164)
Arab nationalists stated very clearly that they did not want involvement from imperialists and because this is so explicit, imperialists immediately saw the Arab League and anything but an ally. The Jewish state was able to rally more support from imperialists because of the language that was used in their discussion. Condemning and and vilifying imperialists was not very evident in the Zionists text. Herzl does discuss the ending of Jews relying on host nations, but that term could be interpreted in various ways. Declaring independence and self-sufficiency give followers the notion that Europe’s involvement in Israel’s nationhood would be pretty minimal. Also, by using the words homeland and return, followers can see this justification clearly.
“Palestine is our unforgettable historic homeland. The very name would be a marvelously effective rallying cry. If His Majesty the Sultan were to give us Palestine, we would in return undertake the complete management of the finances of Turkey. We should there form a wall of defense for Europe inAsia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism. We should as a neutral state remain in contact with all of Europe.” (Herzl, 222)
This shows the Zionists willingness to cooperate with imperialist forces without stating that specifically in the speeches and conversations. This also uses Europe’s future involvement and a benefit Europe would receive. Instead of acknowledging what Zionist would do with their immediate and Arab neighbors, they pointed out the benefits of their more distance and powerful neighbors.
Overall, before the intervention of Zionism, Arab nationalists still had many struggles to overcome and rulers may have felt rushed to speed up the process because of the possibility and soon reality of a Jewish State on Arab Soil. Power struggles were going to be inevitable and Arab armies were weakened by various wars during the 20th century. At the moment, an Arab nation is even more impossible because of the increase in different governments and increasing involvement of imperialist nations.