By Richard Sale, author of Clinton’s Secret Wars
I probably should have dealt with this question first.
Who or what are the Arabs?
Adherence to Islam is the criterion for any attempt at a definition. There were many Christian and other minority sects in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine or Egypt. Millions of Muslims live in lands as remote as Indonesia or the Philippines or, nearer by in Turkey and Iran. Muslim countries used to fall themselves Arab. Not the Egyptians. They saw themselves as Africans, the descendants of the Pharoah and, in their eyes, different from and superior to the Arabs of the desert.
But according to Middle East experts I’ve talked to, Arabs appear to be descended, without inter-marriage, from the people who lived in the Arabian Peninsula, the Bedouins who moved to place and now reside in what are called Arab countries. They were Semites. But there were also other Semites who had also been Bedouins called Hebrews, the descendants of Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Did these groups of Semites have a right to nationhood because of the commonality of religion or origin or culture? Rabbi Khedouri had cautioned his people that the Sephardic Jews of the Middle East and Africa have nothing more than religion in common with the Ashkenazi Jews of Europe and the rest of the Diaspora where language and culture differ vastly from their coreligionists who had been born in South Asia.
In any case, it seems to be that Israel has to be judged as a sovereign state and not on grounds of religion.
But the common ancestry of the Arab and the Jews underlines the moral that no quarrel is more bitter than a family quarrel.
But I know very little about these things. I have the Rabbis book somewhere, but Pat should take care to modify my stupidities.
IMO the "Arabs" of the countries conquered by the early Muslims are "Arab" by language and preference. Many of the inhabitants are genetically the descendants of all the diferent peoples who have lived in these places. pl