For many, the Palestinian leader embodied Arab nationalism and liberty.
To complement our coverage of the theme of Arab unity we asked our readers from across the world whether it is an achievable goal or a pipe dream. What are the necessary conditions for it to be achieved? How has Israel’s presence in the Middle East affected this goal and have the key players in the modern history of the region helped or hindered the cause of unity?
Join our Arab Unity debate on the Your Views section of the site to let us know your thoughts.
Culturally speaking, the most significant commonality between the Arab nations is the common ‘written’ language, which was brought forth by Islam to what would have otherwise been unique and different nations/cultures.
feiz99, Montreal, Canada
The Arabs will never unite as long as Gulf coutries have oil and money. They are so selfish that they will never allow other poor Arab countries to part of that wealth. They would rather have money sitting in banks in Europe and the US building their economies and not helping their brothers.
carthagesam, Reston, USA
Having lived and worked in the Middle East, I come to recognized that there is no one Arab identity as there are many Arab identities, each still live in its own ways and having a different perspective on life and its position in the region and in the world, despite a common belief in Islam and speaking a commom Arabic language. [..]The various Arab nations did not come to being until the defeat of the Ottoman Empire by the British and local Bedos. Furthermore, Arabs suffered the same backlash from being western colonies after the Ottoman defeat and never had a chance to fully develop its own ethno-nationalism. Nasser tried and failed in Egypt.
Max, San Francisco, USA
Sharing one culture, language and religion will never be enough to really unite a big ethnic group, the Christian states are a shining example for this fragile illusion. The last time I can think of the Arabs speaking with one voice was the oil embargo in the early 1970s, when even the mighty Saudi Arabia joined in, obviously without fearing a possible western military intervention. But the world has become more aggressive meanwhile, and with a view to most Arab nations these are probably rather deterred than encouraged by the fate of Sadam because of his unrelenting fight for the sovereignty and national pride of his people. The incredibly rich Gulf states, however, still seem to be satisfied with driving their German luxury cars and sometimes! Make us tourists jealous instead of using their vast resources to strengthen their self-confidence by building a counter-force against the West and thus also against the extremism on their soil.
Arab economic unity has already started in the Persian Gulf region with the Gulf Cooperation Council, and is likely to expand much further across Arab countries. It has enormous economic and political potential and vast amounts of untapped wealth. In this manner, there will be no need for religious, racial or national ‘purity’, and all Arabs can deal with each other as equals internally and also become stronger against Israel or other colonialists.
Niloufar, Tehran, Iran
Arab unity? Just ask a Palestinian.
Robwash, Los Angeles, USA
Arab Unity? What about Muslim unity? Which one is more important? Which one will Allah smile upon? Which one did the Prophet (pbuh) himself dictate that we should adhere to?
Urban Bedouin, Freehold, NJ, USA
I think I see the steel in the Arab soul finally shining through. Al Jazeera may be the only example I can cite as a visible example. But, there are the not so overt signs that many of us cannot admit. I see other knees buckling under the pressure.
Arab unity is possible only when we get rid of dictators from the Middle East to North Africa. The list is appauling, the average age of a dictator exceeds 10 years in power or more in certain instances. We need a new breath of fresh air from military junior officers to take the helm of the country with a vision that takes into account the interest of the nation before the individual, family and tribe’s interests. We could have done better with the resources that we have, from oil to agriculture to tourism. This economic stagnation is due to fierce control of every citizen and what he does on a daily basis. This frustration is making the best qualified manpower in the Arab world emmigrate to where they feel accepted and doing something positive for humanity at large. I also blame the stagnation of the so called religious leaders.
Be Humble, United Kingdom
The problem here is not the Arab unity, it is already there. The failure of the representation of that unity is the problem. Unfortunately, this is the state that has lead to the majority of the problems and uncertainties that the Arabs are facing right now. In time, as it is in Iraq and Afghanistan, the name of governing systems may change but unless, the people of the Arab nations decide to break the ice, express their dismay and fight for their wellbeing and the true representation of their wishes nothing will really change. The tyranny will continue all to the benefit of their puppeteers on the other side of the earth.
Rizan, Kandy, Sri Lanka
It will require you Arabs to change. You need to be more self-critical and open to new ideas instead of just following what your parents did, and more than anything else you have to change your flawed understanding of what the word ‘Pride’ means. If you want to be proud of something it has to be of something you are doing, not something you did 600 years ago. You might even have to think about planning for your future just a little bit, instead of just focusing on the past and now. You have so much potential, but that is not enough. You have to act. You must demand and make changes happen in your respective countries first in order for that potential to be realised and become a reality. Until that happens you can talk about Arab unity till the cows come home knowing that it is nothing and will never be anything more than a pipe dream.
Ed, Los Angeles, USA
It appears that the concept that ‘Arab’ countries are essentially the same is a Western stereotypic idea, so unity likely would be difficult to achieve. Still, some sort of unification might help to defend against Western cultural imperialism on the one hand and radical groups on the other. But given past history and the present reality the diversity which exists among and within countries probably will prevent all but a superficial union to take place, perhaps a modification of the present Arab League.
Jim H., USA
Arab unity will take at least a century to come about (by Arab I mean the Arabic peninsula). I base this on the Italian and German unity experience. Language while understandable across country lines yet divides. Religion while existing across country lines divides. Economic interests divide. When one speaks about pan-Islamism the problem becomes even greater. Language becomes more of a problem as does culture and tradition.
Salad Bowl, Traverse City, USA
Honestly, from an outsiders viewpoint it does not appear that the Arab League has done anything for it’s people. The Arab League compares itself to the EU but they are nothing alike. There does not seem to be a cohesive team in the Arab League, they talk a lot, but they do not DO anything. The best thing for Arab culture would be to form a union of some sort. A union of countries who can assist each other; economically as well as militarily. All Arab countries knew the attrocities Saddam had committed but not one was willing to show compassion for the Iraqis and take him out. Palestinians are poor, but the US contributes the most in foreign aide to Palestine (we make up about 30 per cent of their foreign aide…where is the Arab concern for them?). Personally I would rather NEVER see another American soldier go into an Arab country; unless it is on a vacation. I would much rather see Arab countries unite – we may even be friends then!
Nicholas, Atlanta, USA
Why does anyone think this can happen? Arabs have shown that they cannot be peaceful in their own countries. Do people think that a more diverse populace would make things better? The main problem is that many people in Arab countries only care about their religion, and let religious leaders guide their every day lives. The further the ME gets away from religon, the closer they will be towards stability of the entire region. Do you really think that Saudi Arabia and Iran are going to share power/influence?
Tom Dougherty, Atlanta, USA
Arab unity hardly seems attainable. As long as ruling families are in power – sorely out of touch with their mainstream populace and leadership is passing on from father to son – there will always be divisions and instability. Coupled with this, the view that ‘radical Islam’ is now gaining a foothold in most of these countries – is food for thought.
ferozbham, Benoni, South Africa
Wouldn’t it be magnificent if the Arab oil producing states united to halt their production in order to force the US to stop it’s blind support for everything the Israel lobby wants. The current oil prices should have ensured they can survive a while without income – it would not take long.
GMB, UK, bristol, United Kingdom
Arab Unity? Isn’t that like oil and water or Shia verses Sunni or car bombs in Beruit? You guys do not need the Americans or the Israelis! You are klling each other in the name of Allah. Unbelievable! Ariel Sharon was quoted as saying: ‘Israel’s stongest weapon is Arab disunity and treachery towards each other.’ I have not seen anything to prove him wrong.
Sub Driver, Boston, USA
The Arab world is far too complex for Arabs to truly want a single nation. Just look at the variety of systems of government they enjoy (or suffer in some cases), not to mention the gap between the rich and the poor Arab nations, and who would be willing to pay to bridge that gap? The reason why the EU has a semblance of unity is because all members already had the same basic system of government and very much the same laws, not a perceived ethnic or religious unity – even so, it has taken half a century just to get this far.
Patricio, Algeciras, Spain
If the Arabs cannot be decent Muslims, how can they be anything else? I refer to the treatment of Muslims when they go for Hajj to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are rude, boorish, haughty, arrogant and regard themselves as superior to others, not different from the Zionists! Besides, they allow American soldiers a free run of their country, yet, fellow Muslims are restricted to Mecca and Medina only – no detours! Also, their treatment of foreigners (workers from the East) is a big question mark. Add to this; there is horseracing in a Muslim Arab country but no betting – yet, millions are wagered over the internet with bookies! The Arabs are fortunate with their oil, but, history will damn them for their arrogance, opulence and disunity!
hanif safrica, johannesburg, South Africa
Arab unity is a very bad thing. The unity should come from all the citizens of the Earth. The major problem on the Earth today is the proclivity of people (the same as chimps) to form gangs, clubs, associations, sects, local governments, state governments and national governments. We are ONE. The Arab, Persian, Anglo, African, Chinese, Japanese etc. are all the same RACE, the same Family, BROTHER AND SISTER. I do not mean spiritually – I mean biologically. It is time for the HUMAN RACE to come out of the darkness of the past, into the LIGHT of REASON and KNOWLEDGE. We need to set the same RIGHTS and STANDARDS for ALL PERSON on the EARTH. The Jew is the Brother of the Palestinian, the Mongol is the Sister of the Urban American, the African is the Brother of the Norwegian. WAKE UP and Celebrate the FAMILY. Peace and Prosperity to ALL Our Brothers and Sisters of Earth.
Fred F. Jones, Pueblo, USA
I think we should forget about Arab unity and stick to Islamic unity. Religion is the main reason why the EU is united, why the Jews are united and the Americans. Laws can be changed but religion cannot. So, as long as we share the same religion lets build on that foundation. Besides, there are more Muslims than Arabs. Arabs only make up 13 per cent of the Muslim population. And as long as the Arab League has existed, it has done not one good thing for any of its members. It is a sad thing that half its members are facing extinction. Look at Somalia, it is invaded by Ethiopia. Look at Iraq, it is invaded by Americans. Look at Lebnon and Palestine, they are occupied by Israel; and all the others are on the brink of fear. Besides, as an educated Somali, I see that from history all empires were built on religion not on race.
muhamud, muqdisho, Somalia
Maybe the conditions for unity were right when Saddam invaded Iran. I cannot remember how many Arab capitals were crowded with demonstrations against his action. Were there any? Nor can I remember how much the Saudis and others gave to help him, but it ran into tens of millions of dollars. Arab unity? Muslim brothers? Who is paying for the treatment of the victims of that invasion? More is written and said about the ‘rockets’ falling on Israel than was ever said about the tens of thousands who died and suffered from nerve and mustard gas that the Arabs and others paid for. A common set of aims may be the answer but religion. Tell that to the dead, and those still suffering.
Terry Davidson, Leamington Spa, United Kingdom
Does the taking of a photo toghter mean unity?
kakapi, ny, USA
I wonder if anything can compare to the wars Europeans fought among themselves. But there is an EU.
elise, Bemidji, USA
Arab unity? What unity?
Andrew, London, United Kingdom
Why are people searching for Arab unity? I am an African-Moroccan and the only good thing the Arabs brought us was Islam. With the pan-Arabism our whole community is forgetting its language and history, but that does not have to be a bad thing if we as Muslims work together and unite ourselves, not only Arabs but every Muslim on earth. Either way as I mentioned before, we should get rid of Arab nationalism and search for Muslim unity throughout the world. Remember we have 1.4 billion Muslims among us and Islam is the fastest growing religion. We should take profits of this advantage and start taking care of each other as God really meant in the Quran. Don’t you see, almost all the natural resources are based in Muslim countries from Morocco to Indonesia. That cannot be just a coincidence.
crazykarimo, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Superb question folks! A united states of Arab countries, a United States of Africa. The United Kingdom of Arab states. They all sound wonderful. However the powers that be would never allow this. It does not fit into their grand scheme of things. England, Israel, America would all try and undermine its success, in their underhanded below board ways of functioning. Look at the peace or lack of peace in the Middle East. This is not because Arab countries want strife, war and unrest. It is the outside forces that keep perpetuating their agenda. Like it has always been.
Sherpa, montreal, Canada
Arab Unity is very important, not only for the quality of life of ordinary Arab people but also for security of oil supplies to China, the USA and Europe. We should be doing everything possible to promote harmony and co-orperation in the Middle East and giving them a fair deal for their oil. A war involving the US, Israel and Iran will work directly contrary to Arab unity and in the long term serve no-one’s interests. I pray that the political leaders of the USA and Iran will seek all ways to peace so that we can get on with business as usual, and pay the Arab nations reasonably for their commodity of oil. War wins nothing – please seek a route to cooperation and peace, mutually respecting each country’s different and yet equally valid cultural background. Thanks. May God bring peace and harmony to a difficult political situation which must not escalate into World War Three.