Pan-Arabism, general term for the modern movement for political unification among the Arab nations of the Middle East. Since the Ottoman Turks rose to power in the 14th cent., there have been stirrings among Arabs for reunification as a means of reestablishing Arab political power. At the start of World War I, France and Great Britain, seeking allies against the German-Turkish alliance, encouraged the cause of Arab nationalism under the leadership of the Hashemite Sherif Husayn ibn Ali, a descendant of Muhammad. As ruler of Mecca and a religious leader of Islam, he had great influence in the Arab world, an influence that continued with his two sons, Abdullah (Abdullah I of Jordan) and Faisal (Faisal I of Iraq). From the 1930s, hostility toward Zionist aims in Palestine was a major rallying point for Arab nationalists.

The movement found official expression after World War II in the Arab League and in such unification attempts as the Arab Federation (1958) of Iraq and Jordan, the United Arab Republic, the Arab Union (1958), the United Arab Emirates, and the Arab Maghreb Union (see under Maghreb). The principal instrument of Pan-Arabism in the early 1960s was the Ba'ath party, which was active in most Arab states, notably Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. Gamal Abdal Nasser of Egypt, who was not a Ba'athist, expressed similar ideals of Arab unity and socialism.

The defeat of the Arabs in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 and the death (1970) of Nasser set back the cause of Pan-Arabism. In the early 1970s, a projected merger between Egypt and Libya came to nought. However, during and following the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the Arab states showed new cohesion in their use of oil as a major economic and political weapon in international affairs. This cohesion was fractured by the signing of the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel and by the Iran-Iraq War. Pan-Arabist rhetoric was used by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in an attempt to stir opposition the UN coalition forces during the Persian Gulf War, but many Arab nations joined the anti-Iraq coalition.

See G. Antonius, The Arab Awakening (1946, repr. 1965); H. a Faris, ed., Arab Nationalism and the Future of the Arab World (1986); B. Pridham, ed., The Arab Gulf and the Arab World (1988).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Pan-Arabism: Selected full-text books and articles

The Arab World Today By Dan Tschirgi Lynne Rienner, 1994
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Pan-Arabism begins on p. 124
Iraq between the Two World Wars: The Creation and Implementation of a Nationalist Ideology By Reeva S. Simon Columbia University Press, 1986
Librarian's tip: "Pan-Arabism in Iraq: The Issue of Palestine" begins on p. 65
The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History By Walter Z. Laqueur Praeger, 1958
Librarian's tip: "Pan-Arabism and British Policy" begins on p. 100
The Origins of the Eisenhower Doctrine: The US, Britain and Nasser's Egypt, 1953-57 By Ray Takeyh St. Martin's Press, 2000
Librarian's tip: "The Triangular Dilemma: US Cold War Objectives, Egyptian Pan-Arabism, and British Imperialism" begins on p. 49
Israel's Place in the Middle East: A Pluralist Perspective By Nissim Rejwan University Press of Florida, 1998
Librarian's tip: "Pan-Arabism Runs Its Course" begins on p. 152
Israel in Search of Identity: Reading the Formative Years By Nissim Rejwan University Press of Florida, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Arab Nationalism and Pan-Arabism"
Arab Nationalism and British Imperialism By John Marlowe Praeger, 1961
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Pan-Arabism begins on p. 168
The Middle East and the United States: A Historical and Political Reassessment By David W. Lesch Westview Press, 1999 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 11 "The United States and Nasserist Pan-Arabism"
Political Parties in the West Bank under the Jordanian Regime, 1949-1967 By Amnon Cohen Cornell University Press, 1982
Librarian's tip: "Nationalism and Pan-Arabism" begins on p. 86
Between Memory and Desire: The Middle East in a Troubled Age By R. Stephen Humphreys University of California Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "The Strange Career of Pan-Arabism"
From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East By Bernard Lewis Oxford University Press, 2004
Librarian's tip: Chap. 17 "Pan-Arabism"
The International Politics of the Middle East By Raymond Hinnebusch Manchester University Press, 2003
Librarian's tip: Alternative Identities and Foreign Policy: Pan-Arab Nationalism and its Rivals" begins on p. 58
Inside Pan-Arabia By M. J. Steiner Packard, 1947
Librarian's tip: Chap. 16 "Pan-Arabia, Myth and Reality"
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