Nationalism Issues


The issues related to nationalism tend to become more important nowadays. The reason is that numerous countries and nations search for their identities and want to determine the optimal political structure for advocating their interests at the international level. It may have both positive and negative outcomes. On the one hand, nationalism may contribute to finding optimal solutions for various countries such as in the case of Arab nationalism if these principles are implemented peacefully. On the other hand, it may lead to the armed confrontation between rival nationalism as in the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. The current paper examines the major issues related to nationalism in its different forms. In general, the ultimate results depend not only on the initial ideas per se but also on their correct implementation.

Meaning of Nationalism

Nationalism refers to the shared population’s feeling of importance of their a geographical region with its independent culture or ethnicity. Thus, such concepts as culture and religion play a crucial role in forming ideas of nationalism. Arab nationalism may be defined as the belief that Arabs should constitute a single political community and have a single government (Goldschmidt & Davidson, n. d., p. 24). It should be stressed that being an Arab means not only speaking Arabic or living in these countries but also identifying oneself as a representative of this nation. In other words, individuals should share the basic cultural aspects of an Arab worldview and be open to integrating with other Arabs.

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Another important element of Arab nationalism is Islam (Hourani, 1962, p. 260). This religion is dominant in all Arab countries. Moreover, it plays a highly important role as it determines the Arabs’ understanding of external events and assessment of other individuals’ or nations’ strategies. Therefore, Islam may serve as a unified element for Arabs in their endeavors to form a single nation and government. One of the major obstacles towards Arab nationalism is the policies of other influential governments that consider Arab nationalism as a potential threat to its development and global dominance. For example, the French opposed Arab nationalism and ruled Syria as their colony. Moreover, they divided it into smaller units to make the implementation of the ideas of nationalism even more difficult (Goldschmidt & Davidson, n. d., p. 34).

Arab nationalism differs from local nationalism as it focuses not on the current political structure but on the historical and cultural characteristics of nations and individuals. As Arabs share basic cultural and religious beliefs, the proponents of Arab nationalism consider that they should form a single government. It is also different from Islamism as religion is viewed as only one of the united elements. Therefore, the role of other cultural factors should also be respected. Finally, it is different from tribalism because it advocates not the union of tribes but the single government for culturally similar individuals from Arab countries.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Arab Nationalism

Arab nationalism originated in the 1860s, and these ideas became popular at the end of the 19th century and later. It is evident that Arab nationalism has both considerable strengths and weaknesses. The first strength is strong historical traditions. During the era of the High Caliphate, the Muslim government was able to unite people and protect them from foreign invaders (Goldschmidt & Davidson, n. d., p. 25). As a result, proper conditions for people’s cultural and scientific development were created. It contributed to the development of not only Arab countries but the whole world’s civilization. The second strength is the role of Islam as a unified force. The role of Islam is very high because “the Quran is in Arabic, the Prophet was an Arab, and he preached first to Arabs” (Hourani, 1962, p. 260). The third strength is that the united Arab government may be one of the most powerful in the world. Thus, it may advocate for the interests of Arab people more effectively than a large number of comparatively small governments.

However, some weaknesses also exist. First, the Arab world is not as homogenous as advocates of Arab nationalism claim. There are different local traditions and cultures. Second, it may be problematic to implement the ideas of Arab nationalism due to substantial resistance from the developed countries that oppose any attempts of concentrating the power in the single Arab government (Goldschmidt & Davidson, n. d., p. 34). Finally, the modern world is very different from that during the era of the High Caliphate, and the existence of the single Arab government may not correspond to Arabs’ interests anymore.

Israeli Nationalism

Jewish nationalism is different from nationalist movements in other Arab countries. The reason is that large Jewish communities live both in Israel and the United States. As a result, they have separated and now support slightly different ideas of the state of Israel and nationalism. Citizens of Israel suggest that religion should form the basis of their policy and worldview while American Israelis suggest that the government and religion should be separated. The major strengths of Israeli nationalism and Israeli unity are as follows. First, they appeal to the historical traditions and development of this region. The supporters of Zionism advocate the reestablishment of the country according to the borders of the historic land of Israel. Second, Jewish nationalists are highly open to Jewish immigrants from the United States and other countries (Goldscheider, n. d., p. 153). Third, Jewish nationalists do not impose their religion on others (non-Jewish people).

The major weaknesses are as follows. First, the citizens of Israel and the Diaspora are unable to reach mutual agreement regarding the strategy. As a result, their efforts are disintegrated and often inefficient. Second, Arab Israelis are deprived of some basic civil and individual rights. They are not even “officially integrated into Israel as citizens” (Goldscheider, n. d., p. 150). Third, the attempts of reestablishing Israeli unity are based on the assumption that historical borders can be reached with the help of religion and traditions. However, the changes in the global world demonstrate that this territory is occupied not only by Jews but also by Arabs. As they have different religions, it is impossible to reestablish Israeli unity on the basis of religion.

Conflict between Palestinians and Israelis

The long-going conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is one of the most dramatic in the modern history. The reason is that both parties rely on the use of force and violence and neglect the arguments of the opposite party. It can be considered as the clash of rival nationalism for the same territory. Palestine is a historical “area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River” (Robinson, n. d., p. 120). One of the sources of this problem is the contradictory policy provided by the British government at the beginning of the 20th century. The members of the government made promises both to Arab Palestinians and Jews regarding the same territory (Robinson, n. d., p. 120). Thus, the future conflict was inevitable.

As Arabs and Jews had different religions and worldviews, they were unable to reach mutual agreement and negotiate a mutually beneficial solution. Therefore, large-scale military conflicts originated in the middle of the 20th century. Although Israel was able to occupy Palestine, it did not solve the problem. On the contrary, it “led to the success of Hamas in the 2006 parliamentary elections” (Robinson, n. d., p. 129). It resulted in establishing close control over Gaza and the growing armed resistance to Israel’s occupation (Robinson, n. d., p. 130).

The Diaspora mostly advocates for peaceful resolution of the conflict. In particular, it is necessary to recognize the inalienable rights of Arab Palestinians and abandon any discrimination in this field (Farsoun & Aruri, n. d., p. 145). However, both Palestinians and Israelis are over-concentrated on their religious and cultural beliefs rather than the norms of international law. Therefore, they rely only on their nationalist view and reject any rights of other people. It seems that the current armed conflicts between rival nationalism for this territory may continue for a long time if the international community does not initiate the effective process of peaceful negotiations.

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It may be concluded that Arab nationalism is very different both from local nationalism and tribalism. The supporters of Arab nationalism rely on the common historical aspects of development of all Arab countries as well as Islam as a unified religion. However, Arab nationalism has both substantial strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, the future of these initiatives is uncertain. Israeli nationalism is more complicated as its supporters belong to two different groups: the citizens of Israel and the Diaspora. It is also characterized by serious strengths and weaknesses. A long-going military conflict between Palestinians and Israelis may be considered as an example of the clash of rival nationalism. The positions and perceptions of the problem by both parties are such that they are unable to find a mutually beneficial and peaceful solution. As a result, the current armed conflict may continue in the future. It is necessary to consolidate the international diplomatic efforts to achieve the progress in Gaza. In general, the ideas of nationalism are still very popular worldwide, and they impact the global political affairs considerably.

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