By Troy Southgate
WHILST I first began writing articles in support of the Arab struggle against Zionist imperialism some thirty-five years ago, I have devoted rather less time to the history of Arab identity in general and hopefully the following essay will help to redress the balance somewhat.
Following the steady collapse of the Ottoman Empire between 1908 and 1922, the increasing presence of Western powers in the Middle East led to the emergence of Arab nationalism and calls for unity in the face of European interference. The idea that Arabs should form a political, cultural, spiritual and linguistic union stretching from the Atlantico-Mediterranean coastline of North Africa to the Eastern waters of the Arabian Sea, first began to take shape in the late-nineteenth century.
In accordance with the aspirations of each Arab nation concerned and the domestic policy-making of their respective governmental administrations, however, there have often been vast differences of opinion with regard to the precise form that such a vast geographical alliance should take. For some, Arab nationalism implies the construction of a single Arab nation based on the centralisation of political, social and economic power, rather like the old Soviet Union, but for others this notion involves a type of Pan-Arab unity that strives to retain and nurture the unique sovereignty of each member-state.