In an article in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, Israeli Druze poet, writer, essayist and translator Salman Masalha wrote that the Arab countries' insistence not to refer to Israel by name, but rather as "the state of gangs," "a false entity," or "an artificial state," shows their disregard for reality and for the fact that Israel, which has developed regional roots and has prospered, is leaving the Arab nations far behind. The article, written on the occasion of Israel's 67th Independence Day, compared the instability in Arab countries in the region - Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine - to the stability of non-Arab countries - Iran, Turkey, and Israel - and wondered if the reason for the Arabs' troubles lay in the Arabs themselves.
Salman Masalha (Image: library.osu.edu)
The following are excerpts from Masalha's article:
"This week, Israel celebrated its 67th independence day. It is not easy to speak of this event in an Arab newspaper, because the mere mention of Israel's name in the Arab arena arouses many emotions. For the past decades, Israel's name has, in the imagination of Arab peoples, been tied to the name Palestine and [Palestine's] Nakba. So much ink has been spilled, and so many hours of broadcast have been devoted to discussion of the so-called 'primary problem of the Arabs.'
"Uttering the name 'Israel' has not been easy for Arabs, from their leaders to their mouthpieces to their intellectuals. Israel's name is sometimes written in scare quotes, as part of the attempt to ignore the reality that writers see on the ground. Dealing with this reality has become a kind of rhetorical contest in Arab discourse; some have not settled for using scare quotes but have gone so far as to ban mention of that name in Arab writing, replacing it with the term 'the state of gangs.' Later, the Arab rhetoric became even more impassioned, and to this series [of epithets] was added a new term - 'the false entity.' All this arrogant stubbornness in Arab discourse is not ended, and continues to this day, with the addition of such epithets as 'the deviant state' or 'the artificial state.'
"In this context, it should be mentioned that when the state of Israel was established, the number of Arab states could be counted on the fingers of two hands, but that now the region has hatched a substantial number of fledgling Arab countries that are also artificial, and counting them requires the digits of both hands and feet, perhaps even more. Does it not stand to reason that all the countries of this region, and, in fact, all countries of the modern world, are artificial?
"Thus, while the propagators of this Arab discourse kept their heads buried in the sand, Israel continued to deepen its roots in the region - while on the other side, the [Arab] discourse aimed at arousing emotions and at mobilizing [these emotions] to serve those who silence common sense in the minds of people continued. In fact, the discourse on Palestine... was obviously no more than a tool used by the Arab leaders to avoid [admitting] that these Arab entities are just as false... And so the years passed, and here we are some seven decades later, during which we were born, grew up, and got old on this plot of land, and what do we see around us? Undoubtedly, any Arab with a smidgen of understanding finds himself facing the same questions: 'Where are the states of the gangs - and where are the false entities?'
"Just for the sake of inventory, [let us do] some simple math: 'Yemen the Joyful' is more miserable today than it was before independence. Libya, another false entity, has returned to its roots and to the tribal divisions that predate its establishment. The 'false Iraqi entity' has [also] broken down to its sectarian and ethnic groups. The 'false Syrian entity' has broken down as well, and has been extinguished in a sea of blood and crimes [perpetrated] by the 'resistance' [axis, i.e. Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah], with no redemption in sight.
"As for Lebanon... This Lebanon, with its tiny territory and large population, cannot [even] choose a president... This entity was born, lives, and will die on a sectarian basis. Every sect there has a leader, and every sect elects its own leader for life.
"As for Palestine - it, like Israel and the rest of the countries in the region, is also a 'false entity'... Many years ago, two entities began establishing themselves on the ground, one in Gaza and one in the West Bank. Today, decades later, the Palestinians are finding that their problem is no longer 'the primary Arab problem' and that their Nakba is no greater than other Arab Nakbas, because Greater Syria [for example] has experienced a far greater Nakba that overshadows their own.
"And so we have reached a situation in which every Arab is concerned with his own problems and everyone talks about what preoccupies him personally - that is, his own troubles. If we look at what is happening around us in this region, we will see that the most stable entities are not Arab, and that they are strong and developed entities - from Iran through Turkey to what Arabs call 'the false entity' and the world calls 'Israel.'
"Therefore, how should we describe our situation? Perhaps in this way: 'Our troubles come from us,' as the popular saying goes."