Christian Arabs

The Syrian rebellion is exposing a dangerous contradiction in the Shia of the Middle East. Why are the victims supporting the victimizers?

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I was in bed at a New York hotel when my stock trader called to say that one of the Twin Towers had been hit by an airplane. “A horrible accident,” he surmised, adding “unprecedented” to the presumption. He told me to turn on the “tube,” such nomenclature dating him as middle-aged. The phone rang again: “The second tower is on its way down. And, of course, this means it is no accident at all.” Which was my intuition as soon as I’d heard the first terrible tidings. Moreover, I knew instinctively who’d done the dreadful deed; and it wasn’t a new version of the Unabomber.

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Of course, the issue of residential segregation in Israel comes up mostly between Arabs and Jews. And the fact is that it is the pattern but not the law. Arabs are a communal group with tight bonds among the generations. These bonds are often frayed—and often more than frayed—by what are sometimes multi-generational feuds.

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It is now a little more than half a century ago that George Antonius (an Alexandria-born Greek Orthodox writer of Palestinian background) published his manifesto, The Arab Awakening. All the grand themes of Arab nationalism were foreshadowed in Antonius's work: the "secularism" of the Arab nationalist movement, the primacy of the PanArab movement over "smaller" loyalties, the fragmentation of that movement at the hands of the colonial powers, and the presumed centrality of the Palestinian question to the entire Arab world. Antonius wrote with an Anglo-American audience in mind.

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