chapter  12
17 Pages

The Roots of Arab Bitterness

WithArthur Goldschmidt, Aomar Boum

Few topics in Middle East history have generated as much heat—and as little light—as Arab nationalism. The first breakthrough for Arab nationalism was the 1908 Young Turk revolution, which restored the long-suspended Ottoman constitution. Arab nationalism could not have won Muslim acceptance if all its advocates had been westernized Christians. The next turning point in the rise of Arab nationalism occurred when the Ottoman Empire decided in August 1914 to enter World War I on the German side. From the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries most Arabs—all of them, really, except in parts of Arabia and Morocco—belonged to the Ottoman Empire. Britain responded by approaching an Arab leader in the Hijaz—namely, Husayn, the sharif and amir of Mecca. One area, Palestine, was declared the Jewish national home, leaving in doubt the future of its Arab inhabitants. These were the roots of Arab bitterness, put down almost a century ago.