Indian historians are no longer the indisputably stupidest on the planet. They have competition from Ussama Makdisi- a Professor at Rice. Can he write a single sentence which isn't egregiously false or utterly foolish? Let us examine an essay of his in Aeon magazine to find out.
The Arab East was among the last regions in the world to be colonised by Western powers.Nonsense! The Portuguese occupied Muscat from 1507 to 1650.
It was also the first to be colonised in the name of self-determination.Rubbish! A League of Nations mandate was not a colony.
An iconic photograph from September 1920 of the French colonial general Henri Gouraud dressed in a splendid white uniform and flanked by two ‘native’ religious figures captures this moment.What moment? A moment of colonization? Nothing of sort occurred. Gouraud commanded the Fourth Army and liberated Strasbourg. To call his a 'colonial general' is as silly as calling Wellington a 'sepoy general'. The suggestio falsi here is that France was hoodwinking the League of Nations and planned to do to Syria what it had done to Algeria ninety years previously.
Seated to one side is the Patriarch of the Maronite Church, an Eastern Christian Catholic sect.This is true. But why refer to the guy as 'native' in inverted commas. He was a native of the place. It would have been peculiar if he were from Norway or Ecuador.
On the other side is the Sunni Muslim Mufti of Beirut.Equally true- but how is this sinister? Gouraud represented the Mandatory power. The two clergymen represented the indigenous religions. They were not assenting to French conquest or colonialism. Rather they were accepting French help to become fully sovereign members of the League on an equal footing with France.
Gouraud’s proclamation of the state of Greater Lebanon, or Grand Liban, which was carved out of the lands of the defeated Ottoman empire, served as the occasion.The Ottomans had been defeated, in part, by Arabs. The suggestio falsi here is that the victors were carving up spoils of war.
With Britain’s blessing, France had occupied Syria two months earlier and overthrown the short-lived, constitutional Arab Kingdom of Syria.It was the League of Nations which conferred the mandate for Syria and Lebanon on the French. King Feisal agreed to depend solely on the French and it is possible that the Arab Kingdom could have survived a little longer on this basis. However, his hot headed Defense Minister attacked the French with a tiny force. Thus Feisal was chucked out of Syria, though the Brits found him a throne in Iraq while his brother got Jordan- which crown the Hashemites retain to this day. The father was less lucky, losing Hejaz to the Ibn Saud because he had antagonized the Brits. He assumed the title of Caliph but nobody took any notice of him. His own son lost patience with him and so the old man was an exile in Cyprus till he had a stroke and was able to return to Jordan to die. The real story about the 'constitutional' Kingdom of Syria is that it was a mirage. It had no local support. The Hashemites were outsiders. In Jordan and Iraq, they were able to survive by accepting British help. In Syria, they could have done the same thing by depending on the French. What was impossible for them was to sustain themselves on any throne anywhere, even their native Mecca, without Great Power help.
The pretext offered for this late colonialism was one that continues to be used today.Really? Is the United Nations handing out Mandates to the great powers?
The alleged object of France in the Orient was not to aggrandise itself, but to lead its inhabitants, particularly its diverse and significant minority populations of Lebanon, towards freedom and independence.Which is precisely what happened.
France separated the Christian-dominated state of Lebanon from the rest of geographic Syria, which itself was parcelled out along sectarian Alawi, Druze and Sunni polities under overarching French dominion.In other words, France respected the principle of self-determination. It may not have had the British flair for doing things cheaply- France had 30,000 in Syria while Britain had only a few hundred in Iraq- but what it was doing was not colonialism but Nation building.
This late colonialism was allegedly meant to liberate the peoples of the Arab world from the tyranny of the Ottoman Muslim ‘Turk’ and from the depredations of notionally age-old sectarian hatreds.Why is 'Turk' in inverted commas? The Ottomans were Turks and the Young Turks spoke Turkish and were Pan-Turanian nationalists. They had alienated the Arabs which is why many Arabs supported the Allies. However, the Arabs were in no position to rule themselves. They needed help. Even Ibn Saud took a British subsidy and did a deal with the Americans.
Why does the author speak of 'notionally age-old sectarian hatreds'? These hatreds are all too real and continue to operate in an increasingly virulent form to this very day. This is not the fault of the Brits or the French but, rather, is the fault of Arab politicians.
Thus General Gouraud appeared in the photograph not as a vanquisher of supposedly barbarous native tribes; he was neither a modern Hernán Cortés toppling the Aztec Montezuma nor a French reincarnation of Andrew Jackson destroying the Seminoles of Florida.Nor was he a can-can dancer. Why saw what he was not in order to suggest that he was indeed that very thing?
The French colonial general who had served in Niger, Chad and Morocco was portrayed as an indispensable peacemaker and benevolent arbiter between what the Europeans claimed to be the antagonistic communities of the Orient.This French general's exploits in Africa pale into insignificance compared to his leading the Fourth Army against the Germans. The 'inhabitants of the Orient' were and are deeply antagonistic to each other. If this were not the case, the place would be easy to rule.
The colonisation of the Arab East had come after that of the Americas, South and Southeastern Asia, and Africa.Muscat is Arab and in the East. It came under Portuguese control at the start of the Sixteenth Century. The Brits had Aden from 1839 to 1967 while the U.A.E became independent in 1971 after about a century and a half of British paramountcy.
This last great spurt of colonial conquest ostensibly repudiated the brutal and rapacious rule of the kind that King Leopold of Belgium had visited upon the Congo in the late-19th century.Because it was not colonial conquest at all. France received a Mandate which it discharged in a reasonable manner.
Instead, after the First World War, Europeans ruled through euphemism: a so-called ‘mandate’ system dominated by ‘advanced’ powers was established by the new British-and-French-dominated League of Nations to aid less-able nations.Nonsense! Europeans ruled their colonies in the same old way. They ruled mandates somewhat differently. Thus there was never any question of permanent White settlement in the Tanganyika mandate, whereas at one time the Brits did think of keeping Kenya, which had become a Crown Colony at around the same time.
The new Lebanese and Syrian states blessed by the League were ‘provisionally’ independent, yet subject to mandatory European tutelage.Yes, unlike African mandates, these were 'Class A mandates' being fast tracked to full independence- which is precisely what happened.
Drawing on the British experience of ‘indirect’ rule in Africa, the victorious powers cultivated a native facade to obscure the coloniser’s hand.Rubbish! The Mandatory power sought to magnify, not obscure, its military power. It was not cultivating a facade because, once the Americans turned isolationist, there was nothing stopping them from dropping any pretense in this regard. Had the Americans stayed in, then it is possible that France would have lost its Syria mandate because of local opposition to it as reported by the King-Crane commission.
British 'indirect rule' required traditional Kings or Chieftans who had at least some bed-rock support. This is what was lacking in Syria for the Hashemites. However, in Iraq, King Feisal was able to arrive at a modus vivendi with various tribal leaders and local magnates so Iraq became independent in 1931.
Perhaps most importantly, this late colonialism claimed to respect the new ideals of the US president Woodrow Wilson, the presumptive father of so-called ‘self-determination’ of peoples around the world.French and British Mandates did become independent. Unlike German concessions in China which Japan seized and never had any intention of leaving, the European mandatory powers played by the book. However, they found the thing an expensive pain in the ass. Indeed, the whole world has now come to look upon this region as massive headache.
Throughout modern history, the weight of Western colonialism in the name of freedom and religious liberty has distorted the nature of the Middle East.But not so much as those lovely guys have distorted the fuck out of each other with any weapon they can lay their hands on.
It has transformed the political geography of the region by creating a series of small and dependent Middle Eastern states and emirates where once stood a large interconnected Ottoman sultanate.Which was loathed by all even more than they loathed each other. The Ottomans neglected their Arab provinces and their paramountcy was merely nominal along the coast or among the scattered oases of the peninsula. The Young Turks were nationalists- indeed there were Jews among their number- and this alienated the Muslim Arabs.
Not content with pretending that the Ottoman Caliphate was 'interconnected', our Professor now says something more startling yet-
It introduced a new – and still unresolved – conflict between ‘Arab’ and ‘Jew’ in Palestine just when a new Arab identity that included Muslim, Christian and Jewish Arabs appeared most promising.This is utterly mad! Political Islam- as opposed to hereditary Islamic potentates- has proved time and time again to be utterly lethal not just to non Muslims but also to the wrong sort of Muslims.
To be clear, Palestinians only recently gained an identity as 'Arab'. But the distinction between 'Muslim' and 'Jew' goes back 1500 years. Furthermore, 'quawmiyya'- pan-Arab nationalism- as opposed to 'wataniya' patriotism- has always had a Religious tinge. The Muslims are the purer Arabs and non-Muslims have a subordinate position.
This late – last – Western colonialism has obscured the fact that the shift from Ottoman imperial rule to post-Ottoman Arab national rule was neither natural nor inevitable.Why not? Were the Arabs incapable of throwing out occupiers? If so, why? Do they have some genetic defect or is their culture inferior in some way? If they could conquer the Persians and the Byzantines fifteen hundred years ago, why could they not overthrow corrupt and incompetent Turks or Franks or anyone else?
European colonialism abruptly interrupted and reshaped a vital anti-sectarian Arab cultural and political path that had begun to take shape during the last century of Ottoman rule.Nonsense! The Arabs had risen up by themselves but still had a way to go in terms of forming stable governments. Thus, they were good candidates to be 'Class A' Mandates and did become independent within a couple of decades unlike the UAE which became independent almost thirty years after Syria.
We can see why having a Mandatory power could fast-track a country to full effective sovereignty by comparing Saudi Arabia with Syria or Iraq. The latter had superior administrative and military capacity till very recently. It took a long time for Saudi Arabia to become self-assertive in the same way and it is by no means certain that it will succeed.
Despite European colonialism, the ecumenical ideal, and the dream of creating sovereign societies greater than the sum of their communal or sectarian parts, survived well into the 20th-century Arab world.Survived? These ideas arose in the 1860's and found European sponsors- like W.S Blunt- but there was a hidden agenda to this. Ottoman reform was being castigated as 'un-Islamic'. 'The sick man of Europe' was supposed to turn into a European puppet- like the Nizam of Hyderabad. Meanwhile, the Italians had helped themselves to Libya, which they, like the French in Algeria, regarded as a permanent colony to be settled by their own people. Italy also had its eye on Albania. After the War, Clemanceau and Lloyd George tried to give Smyrna and the littoral to the Greeks, confining the Turks to the Anatolian plateau but, under Ataturk, this plan was defeated. By contrast, Syria and Iraq and Lebanon were never meant to become the permanent property of any European power.
The ‘sick man of Europe’ – the condescending European sobriquet for the sultanate – was not, in fact, in terminal decline at all in the early 20th century.So how come it kept getting thrashed by everybody?
Contrary to hoary stories of Turkish rapacity and decline, or romanticised glorifications of Ottoman rule, the truth is that the final Ottoman century saw a new age of coexistence at the same time as it also ushered in competing ethnoreligious nationalisms, war and oppression in the shadow of Western domination.Nonsense! That century of military defeats culminated in the Armenian genocide- a marvelous example of 'coexistence', which is why the Syrian Kurds now prefer Assad to Erdogan.
The violent part of the story is well-known; the far richer ecumenical one, barely at all.Because, though it is a fantasy, it does not feature a super cool Genie who grants wishes or even a flying carpet.
Along with almost every other non-Western polity in the 19th century, the Ottoman empire retreated in the face of relentless European aggression.But it was itself European and treated its Arab portions worse than the Brits treated the Indians.
Anyway, the Ottomans established themselves by relentless aggression and fell because their military capacity declined for purely internal reasons.
The empire grappled with how to maintain sovereignty and accommodate itself to 19th-century ideas of equal citizenship.Its attempts at reform failed and it came under debt-slavery. What kept its carcass together was the mutual rivalries and jealousies of the predators.
It was hobbled by the rise of separatist Balkan nationalist movements that enjoyed support from different European powers.But it was Egypt's victories over it, not Greece's liberation, which made its decline inevitable. If the Caliph could not hold Muslims together, what hope did he have of resisting the warlike Christian nations of the Balkans?
The Ottomans were at war in virtually every decade of the 19th century.This was also true in the seventeenth century. But now they were losing what they had previously gained.
If the Ottomans fretted about how to preserve the territorial integrity of their once-great empire, they also invested in reforming and refashioning it in almost every way, from its military and politics to its architecture and society.They did this on borrowed money and thus ended up with less effective sovereignty, not more.
The empire had long discriminated between Muslim and non-Muslim in the name of defending the faith and honour of Islam.That was its strong point. Once it ceased to do so- at least formally- its doom was certain.
It also discriminated against heterodox Muslims.By killing them.
Over centuries, it had built an imperial system that enshrined Ottoman Muslim primacy over all other groups.Which is why it was hated by everybody who was not an Ottoman Turk.
In the 19th century, Ottoman sultans fitfully refashioned their empire as a ‘civilised’ and ecumenical Muslim sultanate that professed equality of all subjects irrespective of their religious affiliation.But nobody was taken in by this fantasy.
Muslim, Christian and Jewish subjects adopted the red fez as a sign of their shared modern Ottomanism.Does the author not get that the fact that if everybody abandons the turban or whatever headgear is normative in their religion then this is evidence that there is no 'equality' or 'liberty' whatsoever? This is a dangerous, hypocritical, despotism in terminal decline.
During the Tanzimat era (1839-1876), the Ottoman empire officially espoused a policy of nondiscrimination between Muslim and non-Muslim.What happened next? Did the Turks not go back to their bad old ways when it came to Armenians or Assyrians or any other type of Christian they could lay their hands on?
The idea of equality between Muslim and non-Muslim in the empire acquired the force of social sanction and law with the promulgation of the Ottoman constitution of 1876, which declared the equality of all Ottoman citizens.This led to a backlash against unarmed Christians by furious Muslims, some of whom were refugees from areas lost to the enemy. Thus non-Muslims did not welcome the Tanzimat reforms. However, 'Abdul the Damned' turned out to be an even more vicious foe.
The Ottomans failed to reform their economy and to win the loyalty of nationalities over whom they ruled. That is why they could not resist predators. In the end, they were so useless that they were overthrown by Turkish patriots.
No matter how much the Ottomans secularised their empire, Britain, France, Austria and Russia demanded more concessions.
By contrast, the Austrians did a deal with the Hungarians and gained a new lease of life. However, absorbing more Southern Slavs proved a bad idea. The Hapsburgs lost their throne because of their taste for the flesh of Europe's sick man.
Each European power claimed to protect one or another native Christian or other minority community, each coveted a part of the Ottoman domains, and each jealously sought to negate their rivals’ influence in the Orient.The French and Russians did so. But the English and Germans stood aloof.
This diplomatic wrangle was referred to at the time as the ‘Eastern Question’. The breaking up of the ideological and legal privileging of Muslims over non-Muslims in the empire was not without controversy, especially because European powers consistently intervened in the empire along sectarian lines.What the Professor means is that irate Muslims would kill any unarmed Christians in the vicinity.
The Ottomans, for example, abolished the medieval jizya tax on non-Muslims but pledged to Europe in 1856 to respect the ‘privileges and spiritual immunities’ of the Christian churches;Because of the Crimean War.
while they exempted non-Muslims from military service in return for a tax, they conscripted Muslim subjects to fight in seemingly endless wars; they opened Ottoman markets to an influx of European goods and tolerated Western missionary proselytisation of the empire’s non-Muslims.Which is why life for non-Muslims got so much worse thanks to Tanzimat.
In July 1860, an anti-Christian riot erupted in Damascus.Tragic. But our Professor can turn even tragedy into comedy-
Despite the edicts promulgating nondiscrimination, a Muslim mob rampaged through the city, pillaging churches and terrorising the city’s Christian inhabitants. Newspapers in London and Paris and missionary societies condemned what they saw as ‘Mohammedan’ fanaticism.As opposed to what? Islamic moderation?
The French emperor Napoleon III sent a French army to the Orient, allegedly to aid the sultan to restore order in his Arab provinces.That same French Emperor had, with British help, stopped the Russian Tzar from gobbling up a large part of the Turkish Empire. He alleged he was doing this because he was the protector of the Catholics, against the Orthodox, in Jerusalem- but this was just the old Franco-Turkish alliance against, not the Hapsburgs this time, but the Rooskies.
Anyway, the Damascus massacres were the outcome of a Christian vs Druze battle.
European powers set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the massacres of 1860.Which they needed to do coz back then nobody knew a Druze from a dromedary.
Their humanitarian motives, however, were conditional and political.The motives of politicians are always political. Statesman don't do things unconditionally.
No corresponding commission, after all, was formed to investigate the US oppression and persecution of people of African descent or its extermination of Native Americans, the decades of French colonial terror in Algeria, or the British suppression of the anticolonial uprising in India in 1857.But the US or the French or the Brits had the power to fuck up anyone who fucked with them. The Ottomans were weak and had been saved from the Rooskis by the Brits and the French just a couple of years previously.
Despite being singled out by Western observers as a peculiarly non-Western and even Muslim problem, the massacres of 1860 reflected a global struggle to reconcile equality, diversity and sovereignty that manifested across the world in very different contexts.I suppose what the Professor means is that the Christian peasant who started the revolt was opposed to both the Druze as well the Maronite elite. Thus, he could be considered a forerunner of the Communist Revolutionary- if Communists demand that Shiah Muslims convert to Christianity. The Druze proved better fighters and prevailed. However many innocent Christians in other cities- like Damascus were massacred. France's intervention has been described as the first humanitarian initiative of a type familiar to us today. They restored peace and left within a year.
So while the Ottomans were facing a genuine crisis about how to reform and maintain their grip over a heterogeneous multiethnic, multilinguistic and multireligious population, halfway across the world, the US was simultaneously fighting the deadliest war in the 19th-century Western world over slavery, racism and citizenship.The US was very strong militarily and economically. The Ottoman Empire was a walking corpse. France did intervene in Mexico, taking advantage of the Civil War, but they soon ran away before the Americans could kick their heads in. Thus, it was the Prussians who got to rid them of their 'Second Empire'.
The Damascus riot occurred just after the last illegal cargo of enslaved and brutalised Africans was unloaded from the schooner Clotilda on the Alabama coast.So what? What is the connection between these two events? The last caravan of brutalised African slaves entered the heart of the Ottoman Empire did so some some 50 years later. Prior to 1908 you could buy yourself a black slave in Constantinople. In nominally Turkish territory, the slave trade did not cease till much later. However, by 1970, slavery had been abolished in almost all Arab countries.
The anti-Christian riots of 1860 in Damascus were terrible, but they reflected only one aspect of the contemporary Ottoman empire.A reflection which must have been of great consolation to those who were slaughtered.
Far less noted than the episodes of violence sensationalised in Europe was a noticeable and widespread accommodation, if not an active embrace, by many Ottoman subjects of secularisation and modernisation.Actually, this was noticed. Why? These modernized Turks visited Europe. If they hadn't created a favorable impression the Caliphate wouldn't have been able to borrow the money it needed to keep up a semblance of life.
The empire constituted a vital laboratory for modern coexistence between Muslim and non-Muslim that had no parallel anywhere else in the world.Says a historian of Arab descent who, obviously, does not know that Queen Victoria had more Muslim subjects than the Caliph.
Nowhere was this coexistence more evident than in the cities of the Arab Mashriq. From Cairo to Beirut to Baghdad, Arabs of all faiths shared a common language and showed little inclination to separate politically from the Ottoman empire.Cairo had already separated itself. If the Brits hadn't forced the Egyptians to hand back Beirut, it too would have separated itself. Baghdad was a shithole under the Ottomans. Kurdish Jews, however, were doing well there because they were useful to the Administration.
After the events of 1860, the Protestant Christian convert Butrus al-Bustani opened a ‘national’ school in Beirut.He had helped the Ottomans regain control of Syria from the Egyptians. Furthermore, he was aligned against the Maronite elites. Finally, he was close to the Americans whose missionaries had medical and technical skills greatly in demand.
At a time when American missionaries in the Levant still rejected the idea of genuinely secular education, al-Bustani’s school was both antisectarian and respectful of religious difference.American missionaries were missionaries- d'uh! This guy was doing something political which won him favor with the authorities. But once Tanzimat was over, he closed his school and died a few years later.
During an era when Africans and Asians were enduring gross racial subordination in European empires,as well as in Arab and Turkish lands
when Jews were being subjected to pogroms in Russiaand Muslim lands
, and when white Americans were embracing racial segregation across the US South,while Muslims enslaved blacks and also some White Christians
excluding Asians from US citizenshipjust as Saudi Arabia excludes Asians from Saudi citizenship
, and herding the surviving Native Americans into pitiable reservations,as opposed to massacring Armenians and Assyrians and so forth
the Ottoman empire encouraged – or did not stand in the way of – the opening of new inclusive ‘national’ schools, municipalities, journals, newspapers and theatres.Except when it changed its mind and guys like Al Bustani quickly abandoned any such activity.
A new army was built in the name of national unity and sovereignty.But it was still shit till the Germans got involved.
All these reforms were made more urgent by successive Ottoman military defeats against Russia and in the Balkans, and Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II’s resistance to constitutional change.Yup, Abdul the damned sure was a peach.
In 1908, the Young Turk Revolution deposed the sultan and promised a new constitutional period of Ottoman liberty and fraternity among the various Turkish, Armenian, Albanian, Jewish and Arab elements of the Ottoman empire – not simply the absence of discrimination.Hilarious! These are the guys who massacred the Armenians! When an Armenian killed Talat Pasha in Berlin, a German court acquitted him even though Turkey had been their ally.
Most of the secularising national reforms were far more enthusiastically pronounced than practised.They were eye-wash- a P.R exercise designed to keep the loans rolling in.
They were implemented unevenly and piecemeal across the empire.Coz the empire was a walking corpse.
Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the events of 1860, many Arab Muslims, Christians and Jews in the Mashriq believed they were participating in an ecumenical ‘renaissance’ or nahda that could be expressed in different Ottoman, Arab, religious, secular, political and cultural terms.Nonsense! This is a highly tendentious availability cascade. Why not simply say that many European Jews and Slavs believed they were participating in an ecumenical 'nada' under Hitler's benign Third Reich? After all, cowards, cretins and collaborators can always be found. Diplomats in Assad's Syria would be encouraged to meet Jews and Christians and Communists who wept with emotion as they extolled the wondrous nature of the Ba'athist Republic.
They understood collectively that they were heading into a potentially brighter, and certainly more scientific, and more ‘civilised’ future.They could only have understood this if their understanding was congenitally defective. 'Preference falsification'- to use a term invented by a Turkish economist- better describes this sort of gobshittery.
To be sure, from Egypt to Iraq, this nahda was dominated by urban and educated men who believed that they spoke for their respective ‘nations’.Till those 'nations' kicked them in the goolies.
It was a renaissance in the making, not an accomplished goal or even a unitary social or political project.Very true! It produced great scientists like...urm...Einstein? and great artists like...Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. In Film, it produced Charlie Chaplin and Eisenstein. In Music, it produced Stravinsky and Shostokovich. Truly, the Nahda produced nada.
The nahda luminaries did not necessarily agree on the precise contours of their shared Ottoman nation any more than Americans then – or now – agree on what constitutes ideal or representative Americans.Our professor has hit the nail on the head! Just as Americans can't agree as to whether Hawaii is or is not part of the United States, so too did nada luminaries disagree over whether or not their heads were up their own or each others' arses.
The balance between the ecumenism of Ottoman reforms and the harsh imperative to maintain effective sovereignty was delicate.The Ottomans did not maintain effective sovereignty over Arab lands. True, the Brits made the Egyptians hand back Syria and Palestine, but Ottoman control over these places wasn't effective at all. As for the Tanzimat, the last Caliph who believed in it was barking mad and had to be deposed after a few weeks.
The ‘Eastern Question’ politicised the future of non-Muslim communities – eventually called ‘minorities’ – because they became simultaneously objects of European solicitude and pretexts for political and military aggression against the Ottomans.Non-Muslim communities in Muslim majority areas get short shrift. Such 'minorities' decline and finally disappear. Nobody, prior to 1918 needed any pretext for robbing a corpse or annexing territory that was weakly defended. True, 'Balance of Power' considerations were a constraint. But 'pretexts' couldn't enable one to evade it.
Why is this cretin pretending that there was a United Nations and International Court of Justice way back then? Is he truly as utterly ignorant of History as a Professor at JNU? No. But he thinks Aeon readers are. Fair play to him. In the age of Trump, he is our Thucydides.
The emergence of ethnoreligious nationalisms in the Balkans exacerbated the problem when Christian Greek, Serbian, Macedonian and Bulgarian nationalists appealed to Russian, Austrian or British support seeking to break away from Ottoman control.This sentiment was always there coz nobody likes being fucked over by rapacious conquerors who are shit at running a country.
Ottoman leaders, in turn, regarded the Turkish-speaking Muslim population as the essential core of their empire.OMG! Prof said something which is true! How the fuck did such a miracle happen! The answer of course is, 'even Homer nods'.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, Armenian revolutionaries sought to emulate Balkan Christian nationalists.Yes. The Congress of Berlin was the turning point. However, it was the Tanzimat era Armenian schools which prepared the ground. The Tzarist portion of Armenia gave material support. Thus, the Turks rightly feared an existential threat- though, it turned out, the Smyrna Greeks were equally dangerous.
Of course if there ever had been a genuine Ottoman 'wataniyya' identity, these problems would never have arisen. In other words, this Professor has been writing bollocks.
They appealed for European support to achieve autonomy; the Ottoman state responded with persecution.Persecution? We are speaking of genocide.
Ottoman modernity in the shadow of Western colonialism could be both powerfully ecumenical and uncompromisingly violent.The West had modernity but this modernity was stunted by the shadow of Ottoman colonialism. The destruction of Ottoman power turned out to be a good thing for Turkish modernity just as much as it was a good thing for the modernization of all the other territories they misruled.
It promised both a multiethnic and multireligious sovereign future and a xenophobic world without minorities.No it didn't. It was a walking corpse. I may point out that two opposite promises can't be simultaneously believed. If a guy says 'I will rob and kill you' as well as 'I'll keep you safe', nobody in their right mind would say that he has promised to do two mutually exclusive things.
In the Balkans and Anatolia, the imperative of sovereignty clearly trumped the commitment to ecumenism, while in the Arab Mashriq ecumenical Ottomanism flourished more easily.Then why did Egypt go its own way and, later on, why did the Arabs revolt? The answer is that there was no 'ecumenical Ottomanism'. There was a wholly ineffective government propped up by European powers.
In the Balkans, Christians often became implacably opposed to Muslims (and other Christians) amid clashing ethnoreligious nationalisms, while in the Mashriq the Arab Christians and Muslims and Jews more easily made common cause.Against the Turks. But, once the Turks were out of the picture, their own conflicts could play out unimpeded by Great Power intervention. This, at any rate, is the continuing story of the Levant- more especially since the 'Arab Spring' which, no doubt, the author thinks was highly 'ecumenical'.
One key difference was the absence of separatist nationalisms in the Mashriq.Because under Ottoman rule, the place had so run to seed that social conflicts were of a tribal nature.
Although Britain occupied Egypt in 1882, in the rest of the Mashriq Ottoman rule remained viable.Which is why Palestine and Lebanon and Syria saw easily defeated the British and French armies. Ottoman rule was not viable in these areas coz the inhabitants could not defend these territories not because of lack of blood-lust but because they only wanted to kill each other as part of a tribal vendetta.
The shared Arabic language helped Arab Christians and Jews play important roles in the Arabic press, theatre, professional and women’s associations and municipalities.But the Arab press, theater, professional and women's associations and municipalities could gain little purchase till Ottoman misrule was swept away.
The leading Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, for example, was founded by a Syrian Christian émigré.So, this guy had to run away from Ottoman misrule to come under the protection of Britain, before he could contribute to the Arab press.
Nor was it out of place that the Jewish journalist Esther Moyal would advocate for an ecumenical ‘Eastern Arab’ identity.She did so when her family relocated from Cairo to Jaffa where it made sense to publish something called 'Voice of the Ottomanites' so as to get a bit of Government advertising and subscriptions but she soon packed it in and settled in France.
The gradual alienation and decimation of the Armenian Christian community of Anatolia unfolded at the same time when Arab Christians and Jews coexisted with their Muslim brethren in cities such as Beirut, Haifa, Aleppo, Baghdad, as well as in British-occupied Cairo and Alexandria.In other words, that particular genocide was a Turkish and Kurdish affair. In cities which could be shelled by European warships, Christians were safe.
The Ottoman era ended with the calamity of the First World War.Which it joined of its own free will.
Wartime Ottoman Turkish rulers callously turned their back on the ecumenical spirit of Ottomanism at the same time as they embraced its darker statist side.When had the embraced that spirit? Never. How could they turn their backs, that too in a callous manner, when they had never seen it or approached it or even heard about it?
In the name of national survival, these Ottomans commenced genocidal policies against Armenians.No. They just hunted them down and killed them- often relying on Kurdish irregulars to do the dirty work.
They also hanged those they considered Arab traitors in Beirut and Damascus.And were sometimes killed by others Arabs who weren't traitors to the Arab cause.
While a famine ravaged Mount Lebanon, Ottoman forces retreated before a British military invasion of Palestine. Jerusalem fell in December 1917.Unlike the disastrous campaign in Iraq, mismanaged by the Indian Army, the Palestine invasion was a British Army operation which received some not wholly inconsequential support from Takritis and Hashemites and so forth. Interestingly, Indian Muslim soldiers in Iraq often defected or were not trusted whereas the British Army had superb Islamic propagandists- including an ex ICS Indian Muslim- who depicted the Young Turks, with some truth, as un-Islamic.
Almost a year later, the empire surrendered ignominiously.The Caliph thus became available to become a British puppet. The Ottoman legacy was to be a British pension.
When the victorious Allied statesmen of Britain, France and the US assembled in Paris in 1919 to decide the future of the defeated Ottoman empire, they intervened in an empire that had been substantially transformed over the preceding century.It had been dismembered and none regretted its passing.
The victors of the First World War ignored the ecumenical heritage of the late Ottoman empire.Because it had never existed.
Instead, they sensationalised the empire’s obvious defects and were determined to divide it up. In 1919, President Wilson blessed the partition of the Ottoman empire.As he had that of the Hapsburg, the German and the Tzarist Empire. What was he supposed to do? Wail and gnash his teeth and rend his clothing?
The Greek invasion of Izmir set off a bloody war that led eventually to the victory of a new Turkey under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal, later known as Atatürk. This new Turkey secularised itself dramatically but was also draconian in its rejection of its own ecumenical Ottoman heritage.Because no such thing had ever existed.
In 1923, Turkey concluded an agreement with Greece to forcibly evict – ‘exchange’ was the euphemism used – more than a million Greeks from the new Turkey. In turn, Greece evicted hundreds of thousands of Greek-speaking Muslims. The new Turkish republic then suppressed dissenting Kurds.So what? These sorts of population exchanges were going on across the length and breadth of Europe.
The Allies, in the meantime, decided the future of the Arab Mashriq.How could they do so? They hadn't been able to decide the future of Russia or Turkey or anywhere at all where the people were sufficiently cohesive to fight back. What made the Levant different? The answer is that though it had a few windbags who prattled 'ecumenical' shite, it was so under-developed that it was just a patchwork of tribes and warring clans. Even after the end of the French or British mandates, the Area took a long time finding its feet before spectacularly falling over them again and again.
As early as 1915, Britain had pledged to support expansive Arab Hashemite ambitions to rule an independent Arab kingdom across much of the Arab East in return for their revolt against Ottoman rule. A year later in 1916, Britain and France then secretly agreed to divide the Arab provinces of the Ottoman empire between them in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. And in 1917, prompted by Zionist lobbying, the British government pledged to support the creation of a Jewish ‘national home’ in Palestine that was overwhelmingly Arab in its demographic, social and linguistic composition.We have seen the Sykes-Picot treaty and the Balfour declaration. Where is the agreement with the Hashemites? All we have is an exchange of letters between a High Commissioner and a non sovereign party who had fielded a couple of thousand fighters as against a British million.
Even if the Brits said it was a treaty, by their own laws, it could be no such thing. The price paid by the Hashemites for insisting the thing was a treaty was that they lost their own ancestral seat because the Brits withdrew their support. Thus the Hashemites changed tune and kept Jordan and Iraq as British clients.
To add insult to injury, at the Paris peace conference in 1919, Britain and France blocked native Arab and Egyptian nationalists from presenting their cases for independence directly.But what would have been the result of their 'presenting their case'? Would anyone have helped them defeat and thrown out these two Great Powers? No. Of course not. Why pretend that the Peace Conference was not the Justice of the Victors? Who was listening to those who had been defeated or those who had been defeated long ago?
They permitted, however, the Hashemite Emir Faisal, son of Sharif Hussein, to plead with the Allies to fulfil their wartime pledges to his father.This was a concession to T.E Lawrence- the war hero traipsing around in Arab robes- just as the Cairo Conference, where his pals got their thrones was a sop to a master of English prose. However it was St. John Philby who had made the better bet sucking up to Ibn Saud.
They also allowed European Zionists to present their vision for colonising Palestine and transforming it into a Jewish state led by settlers from eastern and central Europe.Because the Jews were important.
We now come to the crux of this author's delusion. Judging by his surname, he may be a Protestant Christian with Palestinian or Lebanese roots. Like every other atavistic ancestor worshiper he harks back to a just-so story about how the Holy Land ought to have been his people's- with American help.
And they heard from Howard Bliss, the son of an American missionary and the president of the Syrian Protestant College (today, the American University of Beirut). Bliss was allowed to speak on behalf of the inhabitants of Syria. While paternalistic to the Syrians, he was sensitive to the political mood in the former provinces of the Ottoman empire and recommended an impartial fact-finding inquiry be dispatched to the Middle East to document the political aspirations of its inhabitants by self-determination. The French were horrified by the idea of an impartial commission, and the British embarrassed, because neither had any intention of granting independence to the Arabs. Wilson himself, however, was the key interlocutor between the old and new forms of colonialism. He was deeply sympathetic to the American missionary enterprise. He also endorsed the idea of a commission.i.e. the culture only people like this guys grand-daddies represented by reason of being Protestant and pro-American.
‘In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants’
The resulting American Section of the 1919 Inter-Allied Commission on Mandates in Turkey was known simply as the King-Crane Commission after the two Americans who led it: Henry King, the president of Oberlin College in Ohio, and the philanthropist Charles Crane. Unlike the 1860 international commission that was established in the Ottoman empire, this one actually polled people in the region – and the commission collected numerous telegrams, petitions and letters from the inhabitants of the erstwhile Ottoman provinces and held hundreds of meetings with them. Neither King nor Crane were anticolonial in any revolutionary sense, but they also both genuinely believed that it was important to record accurately the wishes of the indigenous peoples of the region. They appeared to take Wilson’s commitment to self-determination as self-evident.
After a gruelling tour through Palestine, Lebanon and Syria in July 1919, King and Crane reached several bold conclusions regarding the Arab East. They recognised that most of the inhabitants of the region spoke a common language and shared a rich ecumenical culture.
They admitted that the political desire of most of the native population was overwhelmingly for independence. They recommended strongly that a single Syrian state that included Palestine and Lebanon be created under an American mandate (and failing that, a British one), with robust protection for minorities.Which could only happen if the entire region were ruled by people named Makdisi who might, at any moment, write Saidian shite about Orientalism on the slightest provocation.
Most importantly, they said that if the Wilsonian principle of self-determination was to be taken seriously, and the voice of the native Arab majority was to be heard, the project of colonial Zionism in Palestine had to be curtailed. ‘Decisions, requiring armies to carry out, are sometimes necessary,’ they wrote, ‘but they are surely not gratuitously to be taken in the interests of a serious injustice. For the initial claim, often submitted by Zionist representatives, that they have a “right” to Palestine, based on an occupation of 2,000 years ago, can hardly be seriously considered.’And yet, the Zionist State has established that right more securely than its eastern neighbors. Jordan had to call in Pakistani pilots to fly Saudi planes to drop American bombs on Palestinian refugee camps, whereas Israel, at its very formation, could hold its own against all comers.
The commissioners submitted their final report to President Wilson in August 1919, but their recommendations were ignored. Their predictions about Palestine, however, proved prophetic.The Zionists didn't get any help to establish their state. America only started supporting them after they fucked over all their rivals. Crane & King weren't prophets. The Holy Land developed in a manner diametrically opposite to their 'findings'.
The US repudiated any emancipatory anticolonial interpretation of self-determination, for Wilson himself never believed in the idea that all peoples were equal or immediately deserving sovereignty. Britain and France proceeded to partition the region as if the King-Crane commission had never been sent. The British foreign minister Arthur Balfour was, at least, candid on this point. The inhabitants of Syria, he said, ‘may freely choose, but it is Hobson’s choice after all’. France was going to rule Syria and Lebanon. And Britain was going to open Palestine to colonial Zionism. ‘For in Palestine,’ Balfour wrote in August 1919, ‘we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American [King-Crane] Commission has been going through the form of asking what they are.’We all know better than this cretin. Syria and Egypt and Iraq were supposed to join together in a United Arab Republic- indeed, Syria and Egypt did have a short lived union while one between the two Ba'athist countries had been agreed in the late Seventies. What happened to that type of initiative? The answer is, it was just idle talk and inflated rhetoric- shite of the sort that Edward Said or this cretin indulge in.
No matter how intently the last colonialism of the world sold itself as a purveyor of self-determination, its Western proponents knew better.
The real tragedy of the region is that fuckers like this fuckwit blame Whitey for all their troubles, yet are White themselves. I mean, the thing is cool when I do it coz I also put a bone through my nose and wear a grass skirt, but this guy is like totally White Bread and Ivy League.
The real tragedy, however, lay not in deceit but in the divisions that this deceit exacerbated and engendered. Colonial Europe claimed to arbitrate age-old religious difference in the Middle East. In reality, it encouraged sectarian politics. The consequences of this last colonialism reverberate until today.Only because, according to this writer, Turkish colonialism ended thus causing the spirit of Ottoman ecumenicism to evaporate. Britain and France may have created modern nation states in Jordan- which is still stable under a Hashemite King- Iraq which turned to shit under 'ecumenical' Ba'athists thanks to Saddam- Syria, which turned to shit under even more secular Ba'athists thanks to the Arab Spring- and Lebanon which survives but has a garbage crisis like you wouldn't believe.
On the other hand, Israel isn't shit at all. Why? It wasn't something nurtured into existence by the Brits or the French or anybody else. Its justice system does owe something to the Brits and in this matter it is like Cyprus. But everything else is indigenous. Zionism emerged at the same time, or a little later, than the Arab Nadha. But it wasn't vacuous shite. Initially, it featured kibbutzes not just kibitzing. Now it is a knowledge economy, with the Army being the biggest tech incubator. Meanwhile Professors like this cretin are, very unfairly, trying to compete with Indian savants for the title or most ignorant historian ever.
I suggest to him that he read the works of Sanjay Subhramanyam or Ramachandra Guha and pray to be reborn as an Iyer in his next life. Then and only then will he attain his aim.