Somehow it never works. Arab co-operation, let alone unity, remains fitful and unreliable. The leaders of the Arab world seldom trust each other- and not surprisingly, for each country’s leadership shifts from figure to figure, ideology to ideology, incessantly down the years…
A few staunch statesman had relatively long runs and survived longer than their peers: King Hussein of Jordan, Bourguiba of Tunisia, Nasser until his death- Mubarak had a good run for what it was worth- Gaddafi and family.For the rest, the Arab policy makers come and go in baffling succession- kings and presidents, sheiks and imans, generals of the left and revolutionaries of the right; which has left the rest of the world generally, not merely confused but, in the end, actually uninterested in the musical chairs.
Yet, beneath it all, that sense of brotherhood really is alive. The idea of a Pan-Arab destiny, so long dormant or discredited, still seizes the imagination, and inconceivable after WWII. No people have changed so fast and so impressively in the last sixty years: this new awakening of the Arabs is potentially much more astonishing than the first. Of course, the West can still flex a divide and conquer mindset within this context leading to a possible ending in the same way, in fissiparous disillusionment that chronically repeats itself. Or, is its mere inspiration, like Marshal McLuhan’s medium, complete in itself?
It may be that the Arabs will never constitute a single nation: that their true strength will remain metaphysical, spiritual, the Word and the Revelation. Or it may be that they have leapfrogged, so to speak, a historical stage and are ahead of the world in their fragmentation.Certainly, one can detect something avant-garde or prophetic in this fits and starts renaissance. With their ambiguities, paradoxes, and evasions, their uncertain identity, their jumbled patriotism, they seem somehow suited to a throwaway age. Those who believe in the permanence of technical civilizations are inclined to consider the Arabs, on the whole, not merely primitive but probably irredeemable- scarcely ready for the nineteenth century let alone the twenty-firs; the Orientalist position.
But to those of us who sense that the technical culture is past its apogee, and that the world will in some measure revert to simpler ways, nearer the earth and the poetic imagination, the Arabs present a different prospect. Dappled, shifting,charming,indistinct, they look readier than most people to carry us in the twenty-first century, which is perhaps why so many young, in particular, all over the world, find themselves instinctively, as well as politically in sympathy with their mood.
What is an Arab? Perhaps, in this metaphysical sense, it is what we all are. To many Westerners the Arabs have always seemed among the most foreign of foreigners; but now we begin to see that their world is only a mirror of our own, in whose cracked, discolored, but still elegant glass we may observe, however puzzlingly distorted, some unexpected aspects of ourselves.
(see link at end)…As I sat poring over my books and preparing for exams, I heard the song
d the harangues on radio. The Israelis, the media assured us, were nothing more than a heterogeneous and disharmonious mixture of various racial and cultural groups and individuals who came from all over the world to settle illegally on Palestinian land. Bringing them down to their knees was a question of time, no more. It was, in fact, a historical necessity, as inevitable as the triumph of good over evil.
The religious establishment did not lag behind, either. The Nasser regime, for all its proclaimed socialist views, its alliance with the Soviet Union, as well as its notorious treatment and imprisonment of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood, was never openly hostile to Islam. Religious principles and creeds (Islamic and otherwise) were treated with veneration and in times of crises often invoked. So the sheikhs in countless mosques in Egypt, as elsewhere in the Arab world, urged Friday worshippers to participate in the struggle.
… On 5 June 1967, the news was released that war had finally broken out and that our soldiers were fighting valiantly and ferociously.
We understood the point about the bravery, but the ferocity came as a huge surprise. We had been led to believe that marching into Israel would be a piece of cake. In the course of the following few days, great numbers of enemy fighter planes and tanks were reported to have been damaged or destroyed. We believed it all. With no access to foreign media, we had absolutely no idea about the pre-emptive air strike that virtually annihilated our air force from day one, leaving our ground forces without any aerial cover.
For four days, the absurd drama continued. The news of victories poured in despite the dismal realities of defeat, which were not apparent to us. The cover-up, however, could not be sustained any longer.
On 9 June, the announcement of a speech by Nasser kept everyone guessing. With wishful thinking more than reasoned thought, we were hoping he would declare the all-out victory once and for all. However, when he appeared on television, the man we saw was a different Nasser from the person we knew or expected to see.
“I have taken a decision,” he announced, “for which I need your support. I have decided to withdraw totally and for good from all official posts and political roles, and to return to the ranks of the masses, to perform my duties in their midst, like any other citizen.”
He took full responsibility for the mess that had happened and was abdicating responsibility and returning to the ranks of the people as a private citizen.
What happened after the speech is quite hard to comprehend. Throngs of people came out on the streets demanding that Nasser stayed in his position as head of the state. It was more like a passionate and nervous explosion than a reasoned decision by the people. For years, Nasser acted like big daddy. People looked up to him and expected to be saved by and through him. When the danger of his disappearance became a reality, everybody was simply aghast. It was unthinkable. How would Egypt survive without him?
In a matter of hours all the streets of major cities were swarming with wailing women and crying men, all shouting “Stay, Nasser, stay”. People in their millions were out on the streets to say that in spite of the defeat, they were still holding on to their dreams. It was a vote of confidence not in Nasser or his regime, which had obviously bungled things so badly, but in their dream for a better life. For me it felt like a preview of what it would be like on doomsday.
People knew, though, that the country had met with a colossal defeat. Soldiers and officers returning from the front, looking haggard and scruffy, became a familiar sight. They came back with tales of horror, some real and others imagined, stories of heroism and humiliation. People wavered between extreme pity and intense anger. There were rumours of attacks by the mob against soldiers, who more than any other segment in society bore the brunt of the defeat, and of popular frustration.
In a matter of months, the military went from being the pampered favourites of the regime to being the despised and blamed category whose inefficiency had brought about the collapse of a once beautiful dream.
June 1967 represents a turning point in my life, marking the end of innocence and the advent of adulthood. I also see it as marking my nascent cynicism. This was the time when the nationalist and socialist ideals inculcated in a whole generation of my contemporaries suddenly collapsed, leaving a frightful vacuum. The country was in shambles and the future was as uncertain as the morning mist. ….Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/may/27/egypt-1967-very-personal-defeat