The Arabs have
forfeited their right to lead the Middle East
eighty years of failed Arab attempts to destroy her, Israel
is now entitled to impose her own solution for the problems
of the whole region.
Middle East peace
is not divisible
Middle East Confederation
The path to stability
Condensed from a paper by Myles Robertson,
commissioned in 1983
The purpose of
this project is to speculate about certain aspects of the
Middle East problem though there are several
problems beyond the conflicts of the 1980s.
One way of decreasing
the number of conflicts and of reducing the tensions which
plague the region would be to develop the processes of federalism,
that is, for states to join together for mutual benefit. Hopefully
they could do this on the grounds of economy, shared interests
and for the progress of all the units which make up the federation.
The central assumption
of this paper is that present policies will change radically;
as a result Middle East government will undergo re-organisation
and re-structuring in response to regional demands and altering
A change of approach
is needed and federation is one way to achieve this.
present-day states are the core of this study on the future
for federalism Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Syria,
The Gulf States and to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia. From
a variety of Arab, Israeli and European sources the paper
examines the issues from four viewpoints:
of the region and their prospects
(ii) The federal idea in principle and practice
(iii) Some present examples
(iv) Possible models
the people who stand to benefit most from federation, hence
their importance in this study. The mosaic of peoples
as they have been termed, which collectively comprise a large
part of the population of the region as a whole, are often
referred to by Western observers as minority peoples
(the term is indefinite but has become the standard means
More often than
not, forces beyond their control have denied basic rights
to those ethnic communities seeking autonomy. In the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries attempts to establish a satisfactory
sense of identity have been frustrated by external powers,
political backwardness and military repression.
Ottoman administration the millet (nation) policy granted
to communities a juridicial autonomy in their internal affairs,
religious institutions and supervision of education. On the
whole this policy succeeded in producing a system capable
of managing though not always benevolently, a multi-ethnic
empire. But the feudal structure of the system proved too
rigid and incapable of adapting to the nationalist challenge
that emerged even before the Ottoman collapse at the end of
World War One.
of Ottoman power by Kemal Ataturk and the rise of Kemal republicanism
was followed by a period of harsh persecution of minorities:
The Armenian people were deported en masse from Anatolia (1915-20)
and suffered heavy loss of life in the process; the Greek
population was expelled from Asia Minor. Both groups became
refugee communities elsewhere in the region.
Great Power conferences
after 1918 briefly raised hopes among the former subject peoples
of a re-organisation along autonomous lines. In particular
the Treaty of Sevres (1920) promised the Kurdish and Armenian
nations that they would receive independent homelands, as
did a joint British-Iraqi declaration in 1922 which recognised
Kurdish rights to form a Kurdish government within Iraqi
Such hopes were
short-lived. The Turkish War of Independence (1920-22) and
the dictates of British political and strategic necessity
forced an altogether different course to be pursued in practice.
Their legitimate status unrecognised, their claims overruled,
the minorities found themselves once again as subject peoples
of a divided region.
For example, in
part of Arabia various unrelated ethnic communities were arbitrarily
amalgamated in 1921 into the Transjordan Emirate.
Syria was another interesting case of artificiality.
The term originally applied to the countries now known as
Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and Syria itself. After World War
I Greater Syria had been reduced by half and was
given to the French as a mandate. They met so much armed resistance
that they sub-divided the area into Lebanon and Syria to make
it more easily controllable.
The British, to
exercise command over resources in the oil-rich Mosul district,
added it to the districts of Baghdad and Basra in Iraq. They
also split up Iraq for administrative purposes, a process
which put the Jews of Baghdad under the brutal bureaucrats
of the Iraqi civil service. These bureaucrats hated the Jews
and organised violence against them. Shops were wrecked and
looted, bombs were thrown and members of the community were
murdered in the streets. In June 1941, 600 Jews were massacred
in Baghdad and in 1950 an Iraqi law virtually forced the survivors
to leave within a year.
boundaries arbitrarily and artificially and by failing to
protect minorities, the Powers created great problems. Their
re-organisation was not merely geographical but political.
While holding ultimate control, the Imperial powers found
it useful to support the Arab peoples as the basis of local
power. Consequently Arabism and pan-Arab nationalism expanded
at the expense of the less-organised and less-powerful ethnic
ideologies, such as the Jewish communities. The inter-war
years, 1918-1939, were periodically disturbed by armed clashes
provoked by the nationalist aspirations of powerful Arab elements.
Clearly it was into the hands of these activist factions
an amalgam of religious leaders, bureaucrats, army officers
and middle-class traders that control was destined
to fall after the colonial powers had relinquished authority.
The post-war (1945)
rise of military and authoritarian regimes backed by revolutionary
ideologies intensified control by the central state power.
All potentially divisive forces, such as minority aspirations,
were ruthlessly suppressed. Even previously tolerated communities
were encumbered by new restrictions. as were the Copts in
Egypt. Many were banned from citizenship, had property confiscated,
were forbidden to use their own language and practise their
own customs. Others were forced to live in ghetto conditions
or driven into exile. Such was the fate of the Jews of Iraq
and the Christian Assyrians of north-east Syria and of Iraq.
The Armenians of Syria and the Greeks of Egypt chose to emigrate
rather than endure the continued oppression, while others
turned to armed struggle to assert their claims. the Egyptian
Copts, though numerous, simply endured their near-persecution.
can be made about minority groups within the Middle East.
Each ethnic groups situation is a product of particular
national circumstances and not that of some transnational
in the Middle East
In the geographical
area termed the Middle East the idea of statism
is still in a state of evolution, because many of the countries
have only recently achieved independence from the colonial
powers. Their idea of territorial sovereignty, while strong
in some quarters, is not irrevocably established. Professor
Elazar of the Jerusalem Institute for Federal Studies has
said, ...the élites have bought the Continental
notion of state in toto, but the mass has not.
The idea of the state exists in constant tension
with three other main forces: ethnic or national consciousness,
Islam, and social change. As the relative influence of these
forces towards each other has fluctuated from state to state,
so the fortunes of minorities have varied.
Many of the problems
of the Middle East are minority problems. The root of the
difficulties of identity and stability was cogently evaluated
by Professor Ben-Dor of the Shiloah Institute, Tel Aviv, who
argues that to be tolerant towards a minority one really
needs a state majority. He means that the majority
need not then fear the minority. The theory that tolerance
must follow does not necessarily hold true the Sunni
Muslims of Egypt are in an 8-to-1 majority over the Copts
but widespread intolerance exitsts. There is a further difficulty
that of defining which groups constitute the majority
in any particular Middle Eastern state. A classic example
is Lebanon. The last census was held in 1932 so nobody knows
how its population is made up.
It follows that
it is just as difficult to decide under these circumstances
which groups are in a minority by using minority
you created a problem - use national groups (ED). Professor
Maoz of the Truman Institute emphasises this point.
.........It is very important to bear in mind that each
country has in its own way a unique situation.
also PAX ISRAELITA, the editorial of The Scribe No. 45, November
1990, reproduced elsewhere in this issue
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