Solution: Daily Problem Practice for 2022 History Optional [World History: Day 24]

Solution: Daily Problem Practice for 2022 History Optional [World History: Day 24]

Q. Give a detailed account of the rise and growth of Arab nationalism. [20 Marks]


Arab nationalism is a nationalist ideology that asserts the Arabs are a nation and promotes the unity of Arab people, celebrating the glories of Arab civilization, the language and literature of the Arabs, calling for rejuvenation and political union in the Arab world.

The premise of Arab Nationalism was the political, economic cultural, religious, and historical unity among the people of Arab nations. Arabs have many things in common, like common Arabic language and common Islamic religion (except in few cases). Pan-Arab nationalism’s one of the main goal was to achieve independence of Western influence for all Arab countries.

Arab region is a vast region comprising the parts of Asia ans Africa, consisting of several regional limits such as Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arab, Quwait, Oman, Egypt etc. This was the region of origin of Islam and rise of the successors of the prophet known as caliph. The region came later came under the control of the ottoman empire and the Arab caliphate was also abolished by Ottomans. ©

The rise and growth of Arab nationalism:

  • Anti-Ottomans:
    • The prolonged rule of the Ottomans could not completely impede the growth cultural awareness and the heightening of the spirit of individualism in the subjected countries.
    • Arabs resented against the Turkish control & dominance and they also considered themselves the representatives of pure islam and Turks as groups defiling pure islam.
      • The Muslims of these countries considered Hussain of Mecca as their Caliph. Hence, political and religious factors together contributed to the growth of disloyal sentiments among the Arabs.
    • The scenario created ground for rise of nationalists sentiments of the Arabs.
    • In 18th century, there emerged a movement known as- Wahabi movement and the founder was Abdul Wahab.
      • The movement stood for purification of Islam but gradually it acquired a political form, and. gave impetus to the nationalistic sentiments of the Arabs.
    • In 19th & 20th century, the nationalism gathered strength. There emerged Arab intellectual organisations, Arab writers and they contributed to the strengthening of Arab Nationalism.
    • At the opening of the 20th century, the twin questions of an Arab nationalism separate and distinct from Ottomanism and the formation of an independent Arab nation state, were in minds of only a very few.
      • However, the nationalist movement and feeling surrounding it were already reaching a degree of development that could explode at any moment onto the international scene.
    • In 19th century, Ottoman empire was declining and in the early years of 20th century, the process of decline got intensified. Turkey had already been at war from 1911 to 1913, but, her involvement in the clash of great powers was a shattering experience. Turkey participated as allies of the Triple alliance and was defeated. During the war, the immediate Arab reaction was twofold.
      • One group looked upon the outbreak of war as an opportunity to obtain a united and independent Aran national state.
      • The other group, consisting of princely Arab families and their client regarded the war as a time to rebel against the Ottoman Sultan and to try to establish independent Arab kingdoms.
  • British involvement:
    • The British government seized this opportunity and encouraged the latent Arab national sentiment against the Ottoman Sultan.
      • The British roughly calculate any effort to awaken the nationalist sentiments of the Arabs and to encourage their rebellion against the Sultan, would obviously weaken the foundations of the Ottoman empire. This would make it weaker and therefore would enable the Allied troops to crush her with less difficulty.
    • While the First World War was unfolding in the Middle East and shattering the Ottoman Empire, it was under the encouragement of such British liaison officers as Colonel T.E. Lawrence, Colonel C.C. Wilson, and Sir Reginald Wingate, that the Arabs began to express themselves as a nationally conscious people.
    • Colonel Lawrence, in particular, became friendly with Emir Faisal, a son of Hussein of Mecca and with he Arab, in general.
    • He was very popular in Turkey and came to be known as Lawrence of Arabia. On receiving British equipment and funding, the Arabs under Hussein, the Sharif of Mecca, broke out in revolt and Faisal captured Aaaba and Mean.
    • He entered Damascus in October 1918, at the same time as the British.
  • The Paris Peace Conference, 1919
    • Prevailing scenario of WW-I greatly boosted up the newly rising Arab nationalism.
    • But in PPC, this hope was shattered because the victors placed Arab regions under Mandate system.
      • The claim behind this system was the protection of these regions and prepare them for eventual freedom but in essence it was a move to retain the control.
      • Some important mandate was:
        • French mandate in Syria and Lebanon.
        • British mandate in Iraq, Transjordan and Palestine.
      • Certain other regions which were not placed under mandate were under western control. e.g. Egypt was a British protectorate.
    • At the Paris Peace Conference , the representatives were persuaded by the British Government to recognise Hussein as the ruler of Hedjaz, his third son Faisal as the ruler of Iraq, and his other son Abdullah as the ruler of Transjordan.
    • All these came as a shock to the Arabs and their national aspiration were injured by the inclusion of Syria and Palestine as mandated territories under the European states.
    • The rearrangement of the Arabian states by the European powers after the WW-I was to a great extent responsible for the continuing discontent of the Arabs.
    • From now on-wards, the Arab nationalism acquired anti-western character.
  • Palestine issue:
    • The British under General Allenby captured Palestine and the Ottoman province of Jerusalem in 1917 and so until 1 July 1920, it was occupied and administered by the British army.
    • The Balfour declaration, stated that Britain viewed with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.
    • This intended to establish a link between the British military and the Jewish population of Palestine, through which the latter would join the Allied forces during the First World War.
    • As a natural result of this declaration, a great majority of Jews started to flock of Palestine and to, settle there once it was given the status of a mandated territory under the British.
    • The influx of the Jews in large numbers in Palestine was much to the disliking of the Arabs and they resisted the coming of the Jews. This resulted into open clash between the Arabs and the Jews.
    • A commission was appointed by the British Government to resolve the matter. The Britain wanted to incorporate Palestine into their empire because of its proximity to the Suez Canal, its suitability as an outlet for oil and its strategic position with respect to Arabia.
    • The Commission proposed dissection of the country into two parts, for Arabs and Jews respectively. The project was however rejected by the both parties. During this time Palestine was in open revolt and on the verge of civil war.
    • After WW-II, the Palestine commission was appointed by the United Nations to provide a solution to the Palestine issue. In accordance with its recommendations the country was partitioned into two halves, whereby Israel was given to the Jews.
    • Since then, the anti-Israel feeling has been a dominant part of Arab nationalism. It resulted in numerous conflicts between Arab nations and Israel.
  • Oil Imperialism:
    • Discovery of Oil in the Arab region gave birth to what is known as Oil imperialism.
    • Oil imperialism also gave impetus to the nationalistic sentiments of the Arabs.
    • In the beginning Britain was the most dominant player in Oil imperialism but later U.S. and some other European powers also got involved. Gradually, US became the most dominant, particularly after WW-II.
    • Oil imperialism created rivalry among western powers and there began a race to procure the rights to explore and extract oil.
    • The entire oil scenario was dominated by western oil companies and what Arab regions received was small amount of royalty.
    • So, western oil imperialism added a new dimension to the exploitation of the region and became a major factor in the growths of Arab Nationalism.
  • Gaining independence:
    • To free their country from the clutches of foreign interference, the Arabs started an agitation against the British, which, after continuous agitation, meant that Iraq became independent in 1932.
    • This enabled King Abdullah of Transjordan to exert greater efficiency in administrative matters. In this regard, he was mostly assisted by British officials. Abdullah, in a similar way to Hussein of Hedjaz, was immensely indebted to the British.
      • Hussein became extremely dependent on the British and such dependency on the British made the Arabs all the more resentful and hostile towards him.
    • This boiling situation helped Ibn Saud to capture Hedjaz, which was newly named as Saudi Arabia. A born leader, Ibn Saud restored confidence. He provided able guidance and a just and honourable administration, all of which brought the economic prosperity to Saudi Arabia.
    • He also did away with the many of the commercial privileges that foreign had so long been enjoying in Arabia.
      • This gave a fillip to the local merchants and the their mercantile and commercial operations. He also initiated the modernization of transport for the economic upliftment of his country
    • In the post WW-II period, Arab regions began to gain independence but not in one go rather in a process.
      • France recognized the independence of Syria and Lebanon in 1943. But, final withdrawal of French troops took place in 1946.
      • Trans-Jordan gained independence in 1946 from the British control.
      • Kuwait– which was under British control since end of 19th century, became completely free in 1967 i.e. much later.
      • South Yemen, which was under British control made free in 1967 and later north Yemen and South Yemen were united in 1990.
        • North Yemen became free earlier in the wake of collapsing Ottoman empire.
      • Tunisia and Morocco was sunder French control and both was granted independence in 1956.
      • Libya had come under Italian control during WW-II, then it was occupied later by British and French troops and was made free in 1951.
      • The independence of Egypt was more complicated mainly due to strategic importance of Suez Canal. British intervention and military deployment created resentment among the Egyptian. In 1956, after Suez Canal crisis, the western intervention was uprooted.
  • Towards the end of the WW-II, many Arabs devoted much time and energy to the promotion of Arab national unity.
    • In 1945, the Arab league was formed. The Arab League fostered the unity among its member states which included Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and others.
      • This organisation operated on the idea of Arab nation. Above all, the creation of the League was intended to ward off any kind of foreign aggression against the Arabs and to protect their liberty and sovereignty.
      • However, its achievements were limited due to internal conflicts.
    • Pan-Arabism received a boost under the energetic leadership of Colonel Nasser of Egypt who had gained prestige in the Arab world after the 1956 Suez Crisis.
      • In 1958 Syria joined Egypt to form the United Arab Republic with Nasser as President.
      • However, it lasted only until 1961 when Nasser tried to dominate the Union.
    • After Nasser death in 1970, the Federation of Arab Republics was formed as a union between Egypt, Libya and Syria.
    • Again in 1974, Muammar Gaddafi and Habib Bourgiba attempted their two nations of Libya and Tunisia to form the Arab Islamic Republic.
      • All these attempts failed due to internal disputes among member states.
    • Common enmity against Jewish state of Israel had also gave boost to Arab unity regardless of their boundaries.
  • After Arab regions became free, there was also the growth of Neo-colonialism and the oil resources of the region was the main factor behind this.
    • In this period, the free Arab regions began to use oil as weapon also, against western powers, such as increase in the oil prices, nationalisation of oil fields, cancellation of rights of western companies etc.
    • Oil as weapon was mainly used over issue of Israel.

However, Pan-Arab state could not emerge and Arab nationalism stood for national independence of separate Arab states:

  • In spite of their similarities, there were many differences among Arabs which hindered pan-Arabic nationalism and it was not possible for their complete agreement over the formation of an Arab state without any national boundary.
  • Jordan and Saudi Arabia were ruled by conservative royal families who were criticised for being pro-western by other Arabic states like Egypt and Syria, which were pro-Arab nationalists as well as socialists.
  • Personal interests of the ruling families also hindered pan-Arab unity as they would have lost their ruling power in case of any disappearance of the nationals boundaries.
  • There were also historic variations among the Arab world. Many states like Egypt had ancient origin while states like Syria and Libya was modern creation by European powers.
  • Unity based on the common enmity against Israel could not overcome internal disputes (like territorial disputes, political disputes etc.) of the Arab states. Even Anti-Israel attitude of Arabic states were not consistent. Egypt had signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 which led to the expulsion of Egypt from the Arab League.
  • Western Powers had also works towards disunity of Arabs by playing one state against other for the fulfilment of their own interests.

To conclude, the Arab nationalism had a peculiar character. It stood for nation independence for separate Arab States as well as for the unity of all Arabs irrespective of their state boundaries.


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