JOHANNESBURG (Jan. 10)
At the start of 1980 Israel is well-advanced in the peace process with Egypt, a country representing half the Arabic-speaking world. Yet Egypt, in the worlds of the Cairo scholar, Dr. Hussein Fowzi, is not of the Arab people.
In the course of a recent talk at Haifa, Fawzi remarked that the Egyptian people could not go along with Gamal Abdel Nasser’s attempt to merge the North Africans with the Arabs. According to Fawzi, the Egyptians own view of themselves is that they are in fact “Pharoonic and hence non-Arab.”
Though this has been known by Middle East scholars, the public declaration by an Egyptian of Fawzi’s stature is significant and has far-reaching implications. It helps to explain Egypt’s ability to live without membership in the Arab League. But it also raises questions about the Arabness of, say, the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership, many of whom are regarded as Egyptian– including Yasir Arafat –by, for example, the American authority and researcher, Thomas Kieman.
Jews have their own debates on identify to exercise them, and Israel is less interested in the complexities of “Who is an Arab” than it is in extending the current peace process to the rest of the Arabic-speaking world, particularly to the Arab countries in Asia. At present, the latter comprise the heart of the rejectionist front.
This rejectionism seems to be still a function of their hate fear syndrome vis-a-vis modernistic, democratic Israel, whom they regard as a “threat” to their own totalitarian failings and as a “bad” example for the Arab masses. For a generation Israel has been depicted by the Asian Arabs as more dangerous than the superpowers and their rivalries.
HAD WELCOMED ZIONISM AND ZIONISTS
The loss thing the rejectionists would like to be reminded of is the fact that, a more two generations ago, they were the ones to welcome Zionism and Zionists to what they, the Asian Arabs themselves, termed the Jewish “land of their fathers.”
At that time, the pan-Arabs were led by the Hashemites, an aristocratic group who–to do them justice–saw the benefits of bringing together what they called the “Jewish Arabs, the Christian Arabs, and the Muslim Arabs.” Regrettably, on the other hand, the Hashemites thought in terms of empire rather than Common Market regionalism.
Those Arab father landers–in a sense the However Zion of Pan-Arabism–wanted neither Egyptians, Iranians nor Turks as part of the future Arab scheme of things. Indeed, as Nejib al Azoury observed in 1905, the Egyptians were to be excluded because they do not belong to the Arab people; they are of the African Berber (Hamatic or Moorish) family; and the language they spoke before Islam bears no similarity to Arabic.”
All this is unlikely to be news to a modern Egyptian like Fawzi, or to President Anwar Sadat for that matter. But it does raise the question, at least of Barbary’s age-long contribution to the culture and politics of Araby. And Israel, being on the borders of Africa and Asia, has a special stake in peace between Araby and Barbary.
EARLIER PEACE TREATY RECALLED
Realists as well as romantics will recognize the poignant element in the current strains and stresses of Israeli-Egyptian peace-making when it is realized that Israel Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s uncle, Chaim Weizmann, achieved a peace treaty with the then-leader of the pan-Arabic Hashemites, the Emir (later King of Iraq) Feisal bin Hussein, the great-uncle of Jordan’s King Hussein, two generations ago That was in 1919.
That agreement consisted of nine articles, introduced by sentiments such as “the ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people, “and underscored by the realization that “the surest means of working out the consummation of their national aspirations is through the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab state (to be) and (then-British ruled) Palestine.”
The Feisal-Weizmann pact’s articles speak of accredited agents being exchanged, of definite boundaries, of mutual guarantees, of stimulating Jewish immigration “as quickly as possible,” of freedom of religion, of protecting holy places, of economic surveys, of accord and harmony, and of mutually agreed arbitration.
The spirit of this agreement was exemplified by the remarks of the Syrian pan-Arab moderate, Choqri Ganem, who stated that the Arabs had suffered too much like the Jews not to “throw open to them the doors of Palestine. “Even though Ganem thought of linking Syria and Jewish Palestine through federation, which is not a true regionalist solution, how different that all sounded to today’s “heirs” of Pan-Arabism–the Baathists with their anti-Christian, anti-Jewish principles and neo-imperial charter.
(At the height of their power the pro-Hashemite pan-Arabs were in the ascendant in the Hejaz, Jordan, momentarily in Syrian and in Iraq until 1958. The pan-Arab Baathists today dominate Syria and Iraq and attempt to play a role in North and South Yemen, elsewhere in the peninsula, and in Eritrea across the Red Sea, and of course in Lebanon.)
THE DREAM DID NOT DIE
The dream of an Israeli-Arab Asian peace did not die, notwithstanding the eclipse of the Hashemite-led pan-Arabs, the results of the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Treaty (first made public by Leon Trotsky), the Axis interlude in the Mideast, the intro-Arab divisions, and of course the later superpower rivalry across the region. Thus British Cabinet Minister Richard Crossman wrote in the “New Statesman” of the potential cooperation among “fifty million Semites.”
In the time of Israeli Premier Moshe Sharett and his Lebanese counterpart, President Charles Habib Malik, talk was heard of Israel joining the Arab League via a regional defense pact. Yet the Middle East, being the region it is, took the unexpected turn in the form of the Israeli-Egyptian peace process.
From a regional point of view, Zion is at the apogee of peace-making with her neighbors. The potential for disintegration may be a more powerful fact in international relations than is the integrative impulse, but cooperation also with-Arab Asia cannot be excluded forever.
Hope dare not be lost for Zion to draw the full circle–to reactivate the abiding terms of the Weizmann-Feisal pact of 60 years ago. Whether Israel ultimately joins the Arab League or, with also non-Arab neighbors gets drown together with the region by way of the European Economic Community’s Mediterranean policy, or in the shape of an entirely new Mideasterm regional organization–it is regionalism which remains the overriding, the weightiest of priorities.
Whatever the tactics of peacemaking, the regional strategy is unquestionably more salient than spending political time on Arafat’s terrorists. After all, West European leaders did not build the EEC by first waiting for the Boder-Meinhoff terrorist question to be resolved. Afghanistan is a terrible reminder of the real issues involved.