The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Pan-Arabism is a movement for unification among the Arab peoples and nations of the Middle East. It is closely connected to Arab nationalism. Pan-Arabism has tended to be both secular, socialist, and against Western influence.

Pan-Arabism was first pressed by Amir Hussein , the Sherif of Mecca, who sought independence from the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of a state of Arabia. In 1915-16, the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence resulted in an agreement between Britain and the Arab world that if the Arabs successfully revolted against the Ottomans, Britain would support claims for Arab independence. In 1916, however, the Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France determined that crucial parts of the Middle East would be divided between those powers and not given to Arab self-rule; when Turkey surrendered in 1918, Britain refused to keep to the letter of its arrangments with Hussein and the two nations assumed guardianship of several newly-created states. The promised "Arabia" (later Saudi Arabia) was formed in the less valuable south. Additionally, Britain used the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as reason to administer Palestine as a British Mandate, which it became in 1920. As a result, early ideals of pan-Arabism were not realized and instead began a period of British and French domination of the Arab world.

A more formalized pan-Arab ideology than that of Hussein was first espoused in the 1940s in Syria by Michel Aflaq, a founder of the Ba'ath (Renaissance) Party, combining elements of both socialism and Italian fascism. A pan-Arab ideology lay at the basis of various attempts over the past fifty years to unite various Arab nation-states, most notably the short-lived United Arab Republic, which united Egypt and Syria, thus encompassing Sunni, Shia, Druze, and Christian Arabs, among others. In contrast to pan-Islamism, Pan-Arabism is secular and many prominent Pan-Arabs, such as Aflaq himself were non-Muslims. Similarly, Tariq Aziz, a Christian and the deputy prime minister of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, was another prominent pan-Arabist. Pan-Arabism is almost always confused with Pan-Islamism in the western world, and the distinction between them is rarely talked about in Western media.

The Syrian government is, and the former government of Iraq was, led by the Ba'ath Party, which espouses pan-Arabism. The high point of the pan-Arab movement was in the 1960s, but pan-Arabism was strongly hurt by the Arab defeat by Israel in the Six Day War and the inability of pan-Arabist governments to generate economic growth. By the 1980s, pan-Arabism began to be eclipsed by Islamist ideologies.

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13