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  A Letter to a Friend on Arab Unity

Dear Taryam,

    My dear friend, although you are no longer among us, I feel sure that you, a life long believer in, and an activist for Arab Unity, would be dismayed by the sight of international powers doing so much to weaken our efforts for unity by sowing so much dissention amongst us Arabs!

    But the irony is that while our governments and leaders, under the malign influence of powerful external forces continue to disagree amongst themselves, Arab people no matter their nationality or religion, from the youngest, to the oldest are more united now than at anytime since the days of President Gamal Nasser. Even the late President Nasser, for all his passion for unity, failed to instill such a desire in the hearts of all our people. It has taken interventionist international powers to ignite a new awareness of, and a desire for Arab unity, in ordinary people right across the social spectrum in the Arab world.

    Taryam, we were very young men when the imperialists packed their bags and left our countries. We were filled with the prospect of rekindling the greatness of our people. We dreamed we could once again unite all the different Arab communities and Nation States, to bring about a renaissance of Arab culture, and embark on an era of economic growth, that would allow us to sit at the table of nations as equals.

    After all, we thought, how can we not become united again? Do we not share a common heritage, a unifying single language that is understood by over 300 million people, and are we not, in the main, all as one, under our faith?

    After a promising start, President Nasser’s vision of a United Arab Republic seemed possible, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the West, to the Arab Gulf in the East, as he embarked on uniting Egypt and Syria - alas nothing came of it.

    Over the last fifty years, it has not been just the great powers that has kept us apart; much of the blame for our failure is our own quarrelsome petty ambitions that have seen us set up 22 sovereign Arab states, which have become paralysed by their own indecision..
As his Highness Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan has often pointed out, “It is the divisions among Arabs that are a source of strength for our enemies.” These divisions have led to the humiliation of the people of Palestine, and the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children.

    So my friend, what we could not achieve for ourselves, is now being achieved by the blindness of the new imperial powers of this new century. Should we see this as a blessing in disguise? This new imperialism is acting as a catalyst for all the frustrations, anger, fear and injustice felt by our people towards countries that we thought would be our friends – particularly after the 1991 Gulf war.

    The New World Order  is the embodiment of all that we fear. For years we have felt uneasy at the West’s cultural imperialism through its materialistic values; our portrayal as the ‘bad guys’ in Hollywood movies and the swamping of our airwaves with Western music, our stores with Western clothes, and our countries with ‘fast food’ outlets. All of which are seducing our young people away from their cultural heritage and traditional values. While this is a cause for dismay, we are much more afraid of the consequences of this new imperialism on our Palestinian brothers, and the unquestioning support that the Zionist State of Israel gets from the capitals of the West.

    Despite numerous UN resolutions clearly stating that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is illegal, America for instance, still continues to give Israel 40 percent of its entire foreign aid budget, totaling more than $3.5 billion annually. To add insult to injury, this money is then squandered in building illegal settlements on Palestinian land, and buying fighters and helicopter gun ships to oppress the civilian population.  This fuels our resentment, while the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after the Gulf war that have led to the deaths of over 500,000 children so far, ignites it.  Whose enemy were these innocent children? The West sanctimoniously presses for continued sanctions accusing Saddam of violating United Nations resolutions, but unfailingly stands by Israel, when it blatantly flouts all UN resolutions over the occupied territories.

    It is actions like these that made us Arabs resentful; but we always felt we could do little about them. This resentment has resulted in the terrible attack on the American people on September 11th 2001. But rather than addressing the root cause of Arab resentment, the West has embarked on a course of action that only seeks to punish. This has inflamed Arab and Muslim fears and made them deeply suspicious of the West’s intentions in our region. This approach is seeing the innocents suffer, as a lethal force is sanctioned and used to conduct an overt and covert war on terrorism.


"The New World Order  is the embodiment of all that we fear. For years we have felt uneasy at the West’s cultural imperialism through its materialistic values"

    Unfortunately the perpetrators of the attack on America were of Arab origin, so of course, the main targets of the ‘war against terrorism’ are all Arabs and Muslims. The West then decided to invade an Islamic country, Afghanistan, and overthrow its government in pursuit of those it believes attacked America. This act of interventionism is followed by the passing of blatantly racial laws in some Western countries that discriminate against all Arabs, on the basis of their religion and/or country of origin, thereby forcing Arab residents in some countries to register with the federal authorities. It has been reported by many civil liberties groups in America for instance, that thousands of Arabs who voluntarily went to register, have been arrested, allegedly because their residence papers were not in order. Thanks to these unenlightened actions, the western press and it pundits have been demonising Arabs and Islamists. Read these words from Anne Coulter, an American columnist, who wrote, “we should invade their [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.”  In another article she advocates that the American administration deport all Arabs and Muslims, and force them to get approval from a federal agency, before boarding any plane in the United States.

    This demonising of Arabs and Muslims has not been lost on Ariel Sharon, who has engaged all the famous communication skills of the Israeli State and the Jewish lobby in the West, to ensure that the ‘proper’ message is heard about ‘terrible Palestinian terrorists’. He is portrayed by the Israeli media machine as the lone friend of the West in the Middle East, fighting ‘Arab terrorism’ to keep the West safe, by oppressing and killing all those greedy troublesome Palestinians, who dare to want their homeland back. Now, with America’s help, he wants to make the West even safer, by driving all these nasty Arabs into the sea.

    These actions, to protect Western countries from this perceived threat of terrorism has stirred up   much racism, hatred and intolerance. This oppressive hatred of all things Arab and Islamic has started a fire in the hearts of our people, that will be difficult to extinguish. Stop anyone on a street, in any city, town or village in the Arab world, and ask how they feel about the treatment of Arabs by the West and Israel, and almost all will say that it seems very much like a war against them and their religion. This rapidly growing resentment is uniting us in a way not seen before.

    Now the West is going to add fuel to the blaze of Arab anger by invading Iraq. How many will lose their lives in this latest demonstration of imperial power? No one can know. But what is certain is that out of this inferno of war and hate, a new spirit of Arab national identity will emerge. It will be one that is unlike all that has gone before.

    Taryam, old friend, this new Arab identity will not, I fear, be the peaceful uniting of all our people that we had hoped for.  It will be a unity forged out of the West’s demonising of our way of life, and be based on the wish of our people, to be able to stand up and proudly declare their pride in the cultural heritage and historic contribution to the human development of the Arabs, rather than directives from some of our leaders. If it is not hijacked by extremism, or fractured by petty nationalism, it will be strong enough to eventually overcome the antipathy of the West and fulfill our dream of rekindling the greatness of our people, to bring about a renaissance of Arab culture, and embark on an era of economic growth and freedom, that would entitle us to a prominent place at the table of nations.

    Old friend you have travelled beyond all these worldly concerns. All your Arab brothers and I are obliged to, as an old Chinese saying states, “to live in interesting times”. But rest assured, many of your Arab brothers will do all in their power to help bring our people together and thus fulfill your dream.



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