Across the Bay

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mustapha's Questions

Lebanese blogger Mustapha asks Ghassan Tueni to explain himself for his fawning op-ed in praise of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

I read the piece the other day and had somewhat similar reactions, especially when it came to Ghassan's cliched harping on Arabism vs. "the culture of federalism." But this is Ghassan after all. Old habits die hard. Look at it this way: he still publishes his friend Clovis Maksoud, who perhaps more than anyone symbolizes the carcass of Arabism.

I'll be posting something that touches on Arabism in reaction to this piece by Hazem Saghieh the other day (bad English translation here). It's a nice response to the recent Arabist hysterics by Walid Jumblat ("yes for the truth, but as long as it doesn't strip us of our Arabism." What the hell does that mean? this writer asks).

But Tueni is rather schizophrenic. Not too long ago he called abolishing political sectarianism in Lebanon a pipe dream. So he fluctuates between reality and the Arabist opiate. At the end of the day, he has no choice: he's Rum (Greek Orthodox). And here I don't mean that the Rum are more predisposed to Arabism than other Christians because of their urbanism (pick up any old book on Lebanon to read this line...). Whatever... I always preferred Charles Malek's (another Rum) take on Arabism.

Look, I've said this before (in my "The ME as it really is" post). The Iraq war has lifted the veil of Arabism from the region to show it as it really is. The edifice (political and intellectual) that has been established on the false ideology of Arabism is certainly threatened and disturbed by this truth. Michael Young addressed this in a recent piece in Slate, and noted why King Abdullah would feel the way Tueni said he did:

Boxed in by ideological absolutes, the Arab world has developed few practical means, other than repression, to address its divisions. As primary loyalties have gained the upper hand, Iraq's impact on the region can only grow. Even Lebanon, which alone in the Middle East adopted a weak state structure to favor the religious communities, will not be spared turbulence, as Sunnis and Shiites compete over the post-Syrian order. Nor will Syria, where a minority Alawite regime rules over a Sunni majority and over disgruntled Kurds who look longingly toward their brethren in Iraq. Nor will Saudi Arabia, where minority Shiites, concentrated in the oil-rich eastern province near the Iraqi border, remain second-class citizens; nor will Bahrain, where a Sunni regime controls a discontented Shiite majority.

So there's nothing surprising in either Tueni's or Abdullah's reaction. The only difference is that Tueni now wants to make Abdullah an Arab nationalist à la Nasser, when there is no Arab figure more antithetical to that image than Abdullah! It's the Nasser complex. It's similar to people one time hailing Saddam as the new Nasser. Or Hassan Nasrallah presenting himself as the Shiite Nasser. Or Juan Cole fantasizing that "Young Shiite Nationalist" (nobody) Muqtada al-Sadr is the Iraqi Shiite Nasser. Or Michael Hudson predicting the return of Arabism during his trip to Damascus, etc.

That's called grasping at straws.

Update: No sooner did I finish writing this post, than I saw this cretinous statement by Juan "Abdel Nasser" Cole:

I think they [Why the Neocons of course, who else?!] just want to divide the Arab world between Sunnis and Shiites so as to make trouble and weaken the Arabs, for the benefit of the Likud Party in Israel. Frum and Perle even want to encourage Shiite separatism in the oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia so as to split up Saudia and defund the Wahhabis.

Please, someone give him his medication.