Monday, June 20, 2011

Aflaq's "Us and the Opponents of Arabism"

I gave a briefing on Syria, Lebanon, and Sectarianism to Congressional Staffers earlier last week. It was very well received, and generated a healthy conversation. However, some unreformed Arabists in the audience objected to my quoting Michel Aflaq, and one of them actually came to speak to me in private, after the Q&A, telling me that "it behooved us Arab public intellectuals [and with "us" she meant me, as well as her] to not air out the ugly aspects of Arabism in front of Americans." This woman was dead serious! A well spoken, elegant, and highly educated senior congressional staffer, of Syro-Lebanese extraction, still peddling a hateful ideology, and still attempting to sanitize it and advance it as the only face of the Middle East. And then we wonder why the failures of interpretation, failures of scholarship, and failures of policy vis-à-vis the Middle East continue!

Below is the segment (pp. 40-41 of the 1959 edition of Aflaq's في سبيل البعث / For the Sake of the Baath) which I quoted in my talk.

I reproduce it here because it was removed entirely from subsequent editions of Aflaq's collection (form 1961 on.) I have wrestled for quite some time with the English translation, attempting to make its exquisite ugliness as close to the original Arabic as possible. Although terms like “extermination” (when speaking of “opponents of Arabism”), and “orgasm” (when describing the feelings a violent Arab nationalist might draw from “exterminating” non-Arab opponents might) seem inconceivable to modern Western readers—especially those “liberals” besotted by Arab nationalism—the following were indeed Aflaq’s words. The fact that they were removed from all subsequent editions of في سبيل البعث is all the more disturbing—and perhaps even a validation of the fact that, although perhaps uttered in the heat of passion, were an expression of a deep visceral sentiment of Aflaq's vis-à-vis non-Arabs. The rest of في سبيل البعث, even when not "cleaned up", does, anyway, confirm the psychopathic nature of the Arabist creed.

I reproduce the Arabic below, because it needs to be documented and anthologized, for the benefit of Anglophone readers—even as modern Arab nationalists seek to conceal this disturbing reality.
العمل القومي القابل للنجاح هو الذي يدفع الر الكره الشديد، حتر الموت، نحو الاشخاص الذين فيهم الفكره المعاديه لفكرته. فمن العبث ان يكتفي افراد الحركه بمحاربه النظريات المعاديه لنظريتهم، وان يقولوا ما لنا وللاشخاص. [...] ان النظريه المعاديه لا توجد وحدها وانما تتجسم في اشخاص يجب ان يبيدوا حتى تبيد هي ايضاً. ان وجود عدو حي لفكدتنا يبعث فيها الروح ويحرك فينا الدم. فكل عمل لا يحرك فينا الانفعالات الحيه ولا يشعرنا برعشه الحب وانتفاضه الكره ويغير جريان الدم في عروقنا ودقات نبضنا هو عمل عقيم
In order for their Arabism to triumph, Arab nationalism must be imbued with a hatred unto death, towards any individuals who embody an idea contrary to Arab nationalism. Arab nationalists must never dismiss opponents of Arabism as mere individuals […] An idea that is opposed to ours does not emerge out of nothing! It is the incarnation of individuals who must be exterminated, so that their idea might in turn be also exterminated. Indeed, the presence in our midst of a living opponent of the Arab national idea vivifies it and stirs the blood within us. And any action we might take [against those who have rejected Arabism] that does not arouse in us living emotions, that does not make us feel the [orgasmic] shudders of love, that does not spark in us quivers of hate, and that does not send the blood coursing in our veins and make our pulse beat faster, is ultimately a sterile action…
It doesn't get scarier than that! Specially if you factor in the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Syria today.

1 comment:

  1. Your English translation is God awful and totally biased. You are inserting the phrase "Arab nationalism" where it is not written to lend a totally different meaning to the passage.

    Secondly, the Arabic text itself is written incorrectly.

    Thirdly, there is only 1 single reference online to this quote in Arabic, making me doubt its veracity to begin with.