Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I just found this fascinating article from the Palestine Post, August 22, 1948:

Robert Martin, who had been in the Arab States since the outbreak of the Palestine war, went to Cyprus to file dispatches on the situation which the Syrian military censors refused to pass for transmission.

He summarizes his impressions as follows:

A tragically unexpected and potentially dangerous result of the conflict in Palestine is the increasing trend among the Arabs toward meek acceptance of nationalistic, totalitarian governments. 

The Arab League was formed in 1945 to protect the independence of all Arab countries...But critics of the League believe that it is tending to become Islamic rather than Arabic.

One minor point of evidence is that the former Lebanese Foreign Minister, Kamid Frangieh, a Maronite, had never been permitted to attend a League meeting. When the League's Military Committee assembles, the Lebanese Chief of Staff, Gen. Fuad Shehab, a Christian, is barred, and his place is filled by a Moslem officer of inferior rank.

Other critics believe that the League ismoving away from its former professed ideal of promoting regional unity and democracy, and has become fundamentally a bulwark against the West. If true, the League will become the spokesman of reaction rather than of progress.

In the eyes of some Arabs, the chief offenders are the youth groups, especially the Young Men's Moslem Association and the Moslem Brotherhood, whose leaders are in part graduates of Al Azhar University. Under their guidance, Islam is tending to become more and more a retreat into the past, breaking away from everything that is Western and progressive. They preach Moslem orthodoxy, and in their minds religion and politics are inextricably entwined. They have progressed beyond the mere acceptance of the constitutional provision that "the religion of the state is Islam" and now look to the State to bar all outside thought or culture.

Self--centered and feudalistic, this concept of Islam inevitably denies the oppressed people in the Arab States any improvement in their status. For these interpreters of the revived Islam are linked up with their landlords, who are the keystones in the feudalistic family, tribal and social system.

Martin's major mistake, of course, was to attribute this pivot towards Islamism as being a reaction to Israel. (Linkage has been around a long time!) After all, even he admits that the banning of Christians from meetings was happening from the beginning of the League, and the League's apparent first decision was to boycott Jewish products - not Zionist, but Jewish - back in 1945.

Even so, his description of radical Islam of 1948 is remarkably similar to what we are seeing in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world 65 years later.

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