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Written by Noha Khalaf   
Saturday, 22 April 2017 14:59


By  Dr. Noha  Khalaf

Coordinator  of the Round Table on Palestine (ALHEKMA)

Presented    for

The Bandung + 60


Building Sovereignty, Preventing Hegemony

An International and Multidisciplinary Conference of commemoration of the 60Th Anniversary of the 1955 Bandung Asian-African Conference,

Jakarta-Bandung -Jakarta

October27-31, 2015


Noha Khalaf


In view of the escalation of violence and the evolution of the actual dangerous situation in Palestine with the most recent attacks by the forces of Zionist occupation in September 2015 against Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, it seems  more than ever vital, 67 years after the occupation of Palestine in 1948,  and almost fifty years after the fading away of the aura of Arab Nationalism, following the 1967 June war, to look into the reasons, both external and internal, that aborted one of the most engaged attempts at the regional  and global levels  to unite the new emerging nations of the South in the face of the great powers,   and  neocolonial policies, one of the most important being the  occupation of Palestine through the  holding of the important ‘Bandung Conference’ in 1955.[2]

It  seems therefore  necessary , in commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Bandung Conference,  to  attempt to elaborate a new theoretical framework which would allow us to state the right questions about the failure of the Twentieth century to provide  a brighter future for the Arab world and to solve its central  complex problem  of Palestine, which is one of the main causes for the present catastrophic situation in the Middle East.

In order to proceed in  elaborating that framework, we shall  start by comparing briefly between two historical moments:  the seemingly optimistic general trend of the times in the mid twentieth  century, with particular reference  to the third world and the  Arab emerging nations   which were  witnessing the rise of ‘Naserism’ and ‘Ba’thism’, as unifying Arab  ideologies and part of the anti-colonialist movement, in conjunction with the struggle of Algeria which was still fighting for its independence,on one hand,   and  the present pessimistic mood in the Arab World, due to its exposure to a long and deep crisis of fragmentation, disunity, chaos and strife  with a resurgence of neocolonialist forces  and the persistence of Zionist Colonial policies, who are benefiting from the general disarray, on the other hand.

It is also worth noting that   the sixtieth anniversary of the Bandung  conference coincides with the centennial of the Sykes Picot agreements of 1916 which  were  followed by the Balfour declaration of 1917, two of the main historical documents that spelt the death toll for Palestine.

It is  also necessary to  recall that the Bandung conference took place only three years after the Young Officers  took over power in Egypt, and only seven years after the 1948 catastrophe that  befell Palestine due to the establishment of the Zionist colonial entity in the heart of the Arab world, in application of both the Sykes -Picot agreements and the Balfour Declaration.[3]

So paradoxically, while the mood of some  Arab nations seemed  optimistic in 1955, especially those  at the verge of ‘independence’ or  those  who  had just  gained  their  independence,  the question of Palestine which had just gone through the ‘Nakba’ with its refugees scattered around the Arab world lingering in refugee camps and  suffering from their many wounds, was not seriously addressed;

It is also ironical that Naser, the hero of the Arab World  and of Arab Nationalism had  stressed on two occasions in his 1955 pamphlet entitled “The philosophy of revolution “that Palestine was not one of the priorities of the Egyptian revolution.[4]

The vital questions that have to be stated today are more complex and are based on different ‘webs of concepts’[5] than those used in  the mid of the Twentieth century.

As we proceed  we shall attempt to pinpoint the dilemmas which led to transformations of ‘webs of concepts’ due to changing  political contexts.

Such dilemmas emerged in the  life span of ‘Arab Nationalism’ as well as in the life span of ‘the spirit of Bandung’. Dilemmas  have also risen within capitalist, liberal and even imperialist movements, that have always invented  new concepts to face such dilemmas and to   integrate them in their world views.

It is therefore vital for African and Asian Nations  and to the distinguished elite which represents them to  be equally aware of the need for new concepts to explain changing contexts.


Albert Hourani, one of the most reputed historians of the Arab World, refers to the years 1950 -1960 as those of ‘the Climax of Arabism’.[6]

According to Hourani:

This was the period when the idea of the ‘Third World’ became important: the idea that is, of a common front of countries in process of development , mainly belonging to the former colonial empires, keeping themselves uncommitted to  either of the two blocs, that of the ‘West’ and that of the communist ‘East’, and exercising a a certain collective power through acting together, and in particular through their command of a majority in the General Assembly of the United Nations. A second element was the idea  of Arab unity: that the newly independent Arab states had enough in common ,  in shared culture and historical experience as well as shared interests to make it possible for them to come in close union with each other, and such a union would not only give them greater collective power but would bring about that moral unity between people and government which would make government legitimate and stable. To these elements another one was now added-that of socialism-that is to say the idea of control of resources by government in the interests of society, of state-ownership and direction of production, and equitable distribution of income through taxation and the provision of social services. [7]

This last idea was a reflection of the strength of socialist and communist movements all over the world

Consecutively communist and socialist groups and parties were emerging in the Arab world in opposition to both imperial rule and later against their new governments, especially that independence had been reached in several countries by manipulations, both internal and external.[8]

Communist parties were fragmented but attempts were undertaken to create movements which could combine all three concepts . The center of this activity was in Egypt where historians began to interpret Egyptian history in Marxist terms: Mahmud Amin al-‘Alim and Abd al ‘Azim Anis offered a socialist critique of Egyptian culture.[9] But due to the fragmentation of the left, other  important attempts to amalgamate the main concepts of Arab nationalism were elaborated,  the most important one being the ideology elaborated   by the main thinker of the Ba’th party in Syria, Michel ‘Aflaq : there was a single Arab Nation with the right to live in a single united state.

In the mid fifties the Ba’th party became more overtly ‘ socialist’[10]. The appeal of its  ideas spread in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq and in some countries of the Arabian peninsula. The Ba’th played an important  role both in the attempt to create the United   Arab Republic in 1958 and in its dissolution three years later.[11]

The other important trend of Arab Nationalism  was developed by the army officers which took power in Egypt in 1952, with Abdel Nasir as the uncontested leader calling for social reform, which was justified by an idea of ‘Arab socialism’, different from Marxism, where the whole society was supposed to unite around a government representing the interests of all.[12]

According to Hourani,  while these were the two main trends which solidified the idea of Arab nationalism in the fifties, these ideas  then started to disintegrate after 1967,  leading to what he calls ‘a disturbance of spirits’[13] where ethnic and religious divisions emerged to the forefront in countries such as Lebanon ,  Iraq  , Kuwait Bahrain, Saudi Arabia ,  Syria   due to the presence of large Shi’i populations.

However , according to Hourani “A certain Islamic element would always remain important in that combination of ideas which made up the popular nationalism of the age…. Whether it was the Islam of the modernists or that of the ‘Brothers’, it remained on the whole a subordinate element in the system”.

If one translates Hourani’s analysis of Arab Nationalism as constituting  a Web of concepts, these would be the concepts of the ‘Third World’, of ‘Arab Unity’and ‘Socialism’ with the question of religion being omitted from the central web.

The growing gap between rich and poor in most Arab countries took new proportions in times of  rapid economic change  and  constituted another factor in destabilizing the post independence Arab regimes.[14]


Since the most important figure representing the Arab world at  the  1955 Bandung Conference was Gamal Abdel Naser, the main hypothesis in this following section of my article is that while Egypt played a major role in this movement at the start, its internal political and social  and contradictions constituted later  the main reason  for the fading away of the  ‘Bandung’ momentum  a few years later.

According to Anwar Abdel-Malek, the late famous Egyptian thinker and sociologist,  in 1954 there was no mention of positive neutralism or even of neutrality  in  Naser’s " philosophy of the revolution,", and more generally "no definition of principle regarding the relationship with the forces who are competing for the world, " yet according to the author, from 1955-1956,  "positive neutralism will took root in the land of Egypt  for  the first time  as one of the three main elements that make up the ideology of the military regime, which AnwarAbdel Malek  refers to as ‘nationalitarisme’, as distinct from ‘nationalisme".[15]

"The orientation towards neutralism was influenced  therefore both  by negative and positive elements. "’Negative’ as a result of Western policy towards the military regime;  and ‘positive’, that is to say, as a result of  the ideological and political influence of foreign countries" : the negative elements compelled Nasir  to abandon the traditional orientation of Egypt towards Europe. In the middle of Anglo-Egyptian negotiations, he had said that "it is not useful to talk about neutrality, since the term  has no meaning, especially in times of war, unless the countries  adhering too it  are strong enough to maintain their neutrality. "[16]

Salah Salem, Minister of "national orientation"  in  Naser’s regime, explains what is meant by neutrality, "you can call our new political  orientation ‘neutrality’ or any other name , as you please. Some might have a different notion of neutrality: what we mean  is that we take a hostile posture towards   anyone who stands against our dignity and freedom, while we support and collaborate with anyone who helps  and supports us. "[17]
At the same time that socialist ideas were being debated in Egypt, paradoxically , Anwar Sadat , one of Naser’s closest allies was  presiding  in the foundation of the Islamic Congress, which was at first  led by him, and  then by Hussein Kamel al-Din since  January 1961.

The Islamic Congress aimed at  creating a permanent  link between Egypt and the entire Muslim world in Asia, Africa and other continents. Its intention was to work for the spread of Islam, through economic rapprochement and  the organization of programs of cooperation between the different Muslim countries.

It is, however, thanks to the initiative of Nehru that 'positive neutralism' became a mainstay of  Naserist  policy  starting  1955. Nehru visited Egypt twice - in 1952 and 1953 - , seeking  to elaborate a common front  against  the great powers. After the second visit, an Egyptian spokesman said that "it is possible that Egypt aligns with the neutralist bloc of Asian countries to try to put an end to the imperialist occupation of the Suez Canal by Great Britain ". The five principles adopted by Nehru and Chu An Lai became known in Egypt in 1954. On April 6, 1955, a treaty of friendship was signed between Egypt and India in Cairo. Between 17 and 24 April,  the conference of thirty countries in Asia and Africa, which met in Bandung, on the initiative of the ‘group of Five’of Colombo".
Later "the other Europe" will  join the movement  through the implication  o fthe president of Yugoslavia Tito. On February 5th, 1955,  the first meeting between Marshal Tito and Nasser takes place . The Yugoslav head of state  then made his first official visit to Cairo between the 28 th December 1955 and  January 6th, 1956, but the Egyptian-Yugoslav  agreement was consolidated during  the Brioni meeting in July 1956, when  Joined by Nehru, the  Heads of State formulated the main thesis of positive neutralism: "the current division of the world into powerful blocs tends to kindle their fears (...) we must try to achieve peace, not by division but by global collective security, by extending the area of ​​freedom and the end of  domination of one country over another; it is essential to move towards disarmament to reduce the fear of conflict (...). Continued efforts to accelerate the development   of newly independent countries   is one of the main tasks leading to the establishing of a permanent and stable peace between nations ...
It was therefore obvious that the first major negotiations with the socialist countries was intended  to send a message  to the ‘West’ which was at the time consolidating  its military presence in the region through the signing on February 24th, 1955  of the Baghdad Pact  between Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan and Britain, to which  Naser responded  by establishing a tripartite Arab command between Egypt, Syria and Yemen. Following  the unfruitful negotiations in view of purchasing weapons from the West -  - Naser announced September 2nd, 1955 the conclusion of an arms agreement with Czechoslovakia. Naser made it clear that if the Americans refused to finance the construction of the High Dam, (except under their conditions), Naser  was out to seek substitutes.
In Africa, Naser's policy provided political , military and financial support to nationalist movements. In 1955, Egypt set up the African Liaison Office 'and, from 1959 offices for representatives of African liberation movements were opened: the freedom fighters from Rwanda and Burundi from 1959 to 1961, the National Democratic Party in Southern Rhodesia from 1960, the Congress of the African League (ALC) and the ANC of South Africa, MPLA and UNITA in Angola from 1961 to 1972, of the PAIGC Guinea-Bissau from 1961 to 1974, FRELIMO of Mozambique in 1963-1975, ZANU and ZAPU in 1964, Zimbabwe in 1965. During the summer of 1957 the "Voice of the Free Africa, which broadcasts programs in seven African languages ​​had been launched from Cairo.
In fact,  Egyptian neutralism from1955 to 1958 was supported , , by three fractions of Egyptian society according to Abdel-Malek, :First: the large industrial and banking bourgeoisie, traditionally anti-communist, was forced to defend itself against the West, by participating in ‘bargaining tactics’; Second:  the left wing movement  represented  by the group of ‘al Misa’  who believed in the anti-imperialist struggle  based on the perspective of ex-colonized   or colonized nations ,in  view of  establishing  peace and coexistence. And third:  in the center,  stood the military  who tried to balance these centrifugal tendencies.

While Naser became, at Bandung, the arbiter of a coalition composed of the center and the left, back in Egypt  an intensification of  Islamic propaganda was disseminated by the Islamic Congress of Anwar Sadat..

In the solidarity conference of Afro-Asian peoples, initiated by Asian left parties, including the Indian PC (between December 26, 1957 and  the first of January 1958), which included delegations from 46 Asian and African countries, the focus was on the fight against underdevelopment and against all forms of neo-imperialism. At this conference, the Egyptian left  was playing a prominent role during that conference, powerfully aided by revolutionary groups in different countries. Despite the censorship in the previous composition of  the Egyptian delegation, the Egyptian government was alarmed , and  Sadat  reacted by  electing  a rightist, Youssef al Seba'i, to the key post of permanent secretary general, in order  to neutralize the growing Communist influence, including that of  Popular China , and to prevent the success and overflow of the Egyptian Marxist left.
Other factors had interplayed to produce  the offensive against the left in Egypt between January and March 1959: the unification of the communist movement, the  arising differences with the Syrian Communist party and the left turn of the Iraqi revolution. From April 29 to May 16, 1958, Naser went to the Soviet Union, where he declared  diplomatically his  friendship and gratitude, but  later, expressed in closer circles his intimate  apprehensions and the need to distance himself from an "immeasurably powerful “ally . Upon his return to Cairo, he declared  to the crowd  coming to greet  him that he had been informed that the United States had adopted a new policy with regard to the United Arab Republic (UAR) and that they would respect its neutrality and independence. In early summer, the censorship of the press was instructed to forbid any attack against Foster Dulles and against US policy in general. This  readjustment  in policy continued and Naser’s anti-communist speech on  December 23rd at Port Said,  was a prelude to the offensive against the left, leading to a change in perspective from   ‘neutrality’ to  ‘non-alignment’, and this is why 1958  could be considered as the "the transition year ‘ of change from ‘positive neutralism’ to ‘non-alignment’.

In 1959 the UAR declares  itself non-aligned and  Khrushchev publicly criticized the new anti-communist orientation of the UAR.

Betwenn September and December 1959, relations have also deteriorated with Beijing, which declared that egyptian  anti-communism was incompatible with the Afro-Asian movement.

In the eyes of the Egyptians leaders, Bandung no longer existed.

Mohamed Hassanein Haykal  one of Naser’s closest advisers and spokesman declared: "Bandung was a step (...),  loved moments we have experienced (...). But the page is turned. "

Haykal  explained the evolution of the neutralist ideology in three stages:"  ‘non-engagement’, prior to 1955, when  third world countries felt too weak and helpless to act; ‘positive neutralism’ after Bandung and Suez, when the imperialist offensive forced the young independent states to ally with the ‘devil’; and finally  ‘non-alignment’ at the time of the nuclear balance between the two main blocs. " [21]

These are the themes that Naser expressed in his speech at the Belgrade Conference on September 1st, 1961,  which were included d in the 25 resolutions of the Conference.

According to Abdel-Malek, in Belgrade, a clear differentiation occurs in the Afro-Asian world, "Neutralism, an Asian  initiative after the Second World War, had found its way to Africa and  moved towards  'Latin America " . For Abdel-Malek, "nothing illustrates better  the new face of  non-aligned Egyptian neutralism that its African policy between 1960 and 1962".

Finally according Georges Corm, "third world countries subsumed  under the name 'non aligned’ reorganized themselves in the  ‘Group of 77’, as a middle road  between East and West”.[22]

According to this author , this group still exists today, but  has become insignificant in the course of international events, while concurrently  , the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) led by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the ‘two tenors of anti-Sovietism, customers of American power’, have been competing  with the non aligned trend.[23]


It is my contention in this essay that revisiting Samuel Huntington’s theory “The Clash of Civilizations”, published in 1993 in Foreign Affairs, and which has greatly influenced US policy makers, might be of great significance in shedding light on the overwhelming Middle Eastern rift, which has pervaded all aspects of the Middle East today, since this theory, had influenced, since its inception the Middle Eastern political elite, especially its traditional variant, who adopted blindly some of its precepts, in a lopsided manner.

This is what can be deduced today, given the great dilemma and tight straits through which the Middle East is passing and which has submerged Arab societies in a murderous impasse.

When coining his theory, the US Hawk, Huntington, was in fact searching for a formula which would preserve Western hegemony over the globe at the end of the cold war. He reached the conclusion that the best way would be through transferring armed and violent conflicts away from the Western ivory tower towards the non Western world and the Eastern hemisphere. He explained his basic precepts in the following terms:

“It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future. Conflict between civilizations will be the latest phase in the evolution of conflict in the modern world”, adding further “In the politics of civilizations, the peoples and governments of non-Western civilizations no longer remain the objects of history as targets of Western colonialism but join the West as movers and shapers of history.”

One of the obvious flaws in his theory at first hand is his classification of civilizations: “Civilization identity will be increasingly important in the future, and the world will be shaped in large measure by the interactions among seven or eight major civilizations. These include Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African civilization. The most important conflicts of the future will occur along the cultural fault lines separating these civilizations from one another.”

Huntington also distinguished between what he refers to as variants and subdivisions within civilizations” Civilizations obviously blend and overlap, and may include sub-civilizations. Western civilization has two major variants, European and North American, and Islam has its Arab, Turkic and Malay subdivisions. Civilizations are nonetheless meaningful entities, and while the lines between them are seldom sharp, they are real. Civilizations are dynamic; they rise and fall; they divide and merge. And, as any student of history knows, civilizations disappear and are buried in the sands of time.”

Strangely at the time, Huntington did not mention Iranian, Persian civilization or Sh’ism as one of the major sub-civilizations within the confines of Islamic Civilization. This omission was perhaps due to the absence of personal expertise in the region.

Neither did he mention the Zionist state’s status within his typology, which might lead one to assume that he had implicitly considered it as a cultural offshoot of global Western civilization, despite its geographical positioning in the Middle East,

Other American Middle East specialists, however, have made up for such omissions, by introducing the traditional rift between the two main Islamic currents and the convenience of facilitating the breakdown of conflict between the two major sub-civilizations in Islam i.e. that is between its Shi’a and Sunni components, a scheme which had explosive potential especially in the light of the US’s enmity with Iran and its alliance with both Israel and Saudi Arabia. It seemed according to them that such a clash would be the perfect model for a clash of civilizations breaking out at the fault lines between them, especially since these fault lines fall within the territories of three main Arab states and that therefore such a clash would accomplish several goals concurrently: It would first of all delay and foreshadow a clash with the Zionist movement, considered part of Western civilization and would weaken the Arab region which contains huge quantities of oil, and would finally eliminate in an irreversible manner the tendency to revert to Third World ideologies and alliances between Southern states against the affluent North, and put an end to all conflicts of an ideological character, especially those which had dominated the scene during the cold war era, particularly between variants of socialism and a growing neoliberal capitalist ideology.

My main hypothesis, which I shall try to develop briefly in this article is that the Huntington’s theory was simplistically understood by Arab intellectuals as one calling only for a ‘civilizational’ and cultural war between Western and Islamic civilizations, and despite various criticisms addressed at this theory, many intellectuals fell in its ideological trap and believed in the relevance of a civilizational clash in contradistinction to an ideological or economic one .This led them to magnify the importance of the concept and consecutively their own importance, by concentrating their efforts in attempting to prove and demonstrate the superiority of their own civilization, while engaged in a show of force in competition with Western culture and values. By so doing they inflated their narcissistic tendencies as thinkers and intellectuals, over blowing their own egos, with the encouragement of some Western institutions supported by Arab funding from Gulf States and which promoted an intellectual trend which could be referred to as ‘Islamo-philia’ , in the face of an increase in Western ‘Islamo-phobia’, to the extent that several of these intellectuals became ’caricature’ reflections of the Judeo- Western ‘best and brightest’ syndrome, while they ignored the real dangers that were threatening to erupt within their own societies and which had been implicit within the theory of the ‘Clash of Civilisations’, namely : 1- The question of transferring future armed conflicts from the West to the East, since the West had already experienced armed conflict within its boundaries through the first and second World Wars and was not ready to experience once again such conflicts, and that therefore the ‘democratic West’ which is composed mainly of the US and Western Europe and their allies, will resort to a peaceful resolution of its own conflicts which are mainly based on economic rivalry and competition, while the ‘despotic East’ including Eastern Europe and southern countries shall resolve their inner conflicts by armed and violent means. 2- The propagation of the theory concerning the end of ideologies,  was sustained by other American post cold-war theoreticians like Fukuyama and his theory ‘The end of History’. The aim of such theories being the relegation of socialist ideas into the dustbins of history, leaving scope for the mushrooming of neo-liberalism as the ideological counterpart of Western hegemony and neo colonialism as the dominant form of relationships on the international level , while camouflaging the inner economic and class distinctions within the boundaries of Western societies themselves. 3- The propagation of an anti ‘Third World’ ideology, aiming at abstracting third world conflicts from their economic dimension and reducing them to ‘cultural’ and ‘civilizational’ conflicts, in view of eliminating the possibility of the reemergence and empowerment of international trends like those of non-alignment and preventing the resurgence of political moods similar to those emanating from the Bandung Conference and the emergence of Third World leaders such as Tito, Nehru and Abdel Nasser.

The main critique I attempt to develop in this article is directed at the response of Arab intellectuals to the falsely overwhelming theory of the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ and their falling into the conceptual trap, implicit in that theory, thus leading them to put aside the ideas of ‘balanced political and economic development’ with all its conceptual ramifications such as the ‘agricultural revolution‘, ‘industrialization’ and ‘cultural revolution’ , while ignoring the concept of third world solidarity and national liberation, and exerting all their mental efforts on the question of a ‘civilizational clash ’ especially in its religious rather than cultural aspects.

Their superficial and subjective understanding led to the appearance of an ideological fashionable ‘vogue’ based on misconceptions in the thought of political elites, including the liberal minded as well as the conservative classical religious factions of the intelligentsia, who neglected the production of any theory outside the religious paradigm, whether by calling for a linkage between Islam and socialism , between Islam and nationalism and finally between Islam and neo-liberalism, while secular and left –oriented thinkers were marginalized whenever they did not conform with the trend, and due to the ‘aging’ factor in the ideas of the Arab left, their intellectual production remained stalled while living in the nostalgia of the golden and glorious age of socialism, Marxism and communism, that is in case these thinkers were not corrupted themselves or co-opted by the powerful financial arm of the‘ Gulf Arab oil financial oligarchies’ with their media and cultural world wide subsidiaries.

The political elite, with its Arab pseudo intelligentsia also started to neglect the growing economic tentacles of the Zionist state in the third world and its increasing impunity in dealing with the Palestinian people and Arab lands, a neglect which was of course encouraged by the dwindling peace process and the Oslo accords , at the same time that Western capitalist concepts fabricated by institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund such as ‘restructuring’ and ‘sustainable development”, alongside their political counterparts of ‘responsibility’ ‘liability’ ‘transparency’, ‘good governance’ , ‘accountability’ and ‘ liberal democracy’ versus ‘tyranny and despotism’ had replaced the old socialist and Marxist jargon, concepts which the neoliberal Arab elites gulped and propagated without adding any local input and thus failing to give them any practical resonance, at the same time that such elites had fallen prey to the strict conditions of foreign aid and funding.

Thus three years ago, with the Arab popular revolt gaining momentum, one faction of the Arab elite was busy engaging in its mythical cultural, civilizational and religious war with the West, which unleashed the emergence of a panoply of religiously dominated factions, some of them more fundamentalist and extremist than others, while the more liberal faction s were busy reaping the fruits of foreign funding through various non-governmental as well as governmental institutions, while the global economic conditions were looking dim, and the rich were getting richer through speculation and the poor were getting poorer due to their total abandonment by the state apparatuses which had fallen in the hands of corrupt speculators referred to as ’the new businessmen’. US strategists had by then added other ‘bright’ concepts to the theory of the Clash of Civilizations’ such as the theory of ‘creative chaos’ conceived by Condolezza Rice and her neoconservative bedfellows ‘ with all its catastrophic consequences in Iraq, Lebanon and presently in Syria.

This is why I believe that the responsibility of the catastrophic situation that has befallen the Arab world is shared by the Arab political elite and its intellectuals (whether Islamists or liberals) since they have all fallen prey to the western ideological trap, thus becoming estranged from the prevalent realities of Arab societies..Meanwhile the Arab regimes , were being eroded by corruption and were exercising their repressive rule against most forms of opposition, while failing to develop any strategic thought or vision, thus deepening the schism resulting from structural underdevelopment and the ‘backward values’ inherent both in the infrastructure and superstructure of their societies , such as tribalism, confessionalism and nepotism, while surrounding themselves by mercenaries and henchmen under the control of members of their families or clans to protect their illegal acquisitions.

By the time these regimes were totally losing their legitimacy in the face of their constituencies and population, slogans calling for rebellion were circulating among the Arab younger generations through internet, face-book and twitter, a phenomenon which speeded up the triggering of the mass upheavals referred to as the’ Arab spring’, which took all factions of the older generations of the Arab elite by surprise, whether from within the ruling establishment or from the classical, liberal or  left opposition, since none were objectively ready to deal competently with the overwhelming waves of popular dissent.

Due to the magnifying effect of the religious factor within the mindset of the Islamic movements which had gained confidence in their self acclaimed capacity as the new heroes and dynamic agents of social change in the Arab world, while encouraged by various Western institutions, their leaders were lured into believing that the time had come for them to revive the grandeur of their Civilization by jumping on the long sought bandwagon of political supremacy in order to establish Islamic rule, going as far as the claim by some of these movements for the restoration of the Caliphate, while in reality a neoliberal pro Western faction of businessmen had mushroomed within their ranks, consuming all kinds of modern goods,  utilizing modern technologies while paradoxically calling for a return to a  pure past free of  all such technologies. They also vied for control of the state apparatus, a product of modernity which is in contradistinction with their beliefs.

Due to the absence and marginalization of any coherent political elite, Western and Arab media exploited the political and cultural void by’ instrumentalising’ religious extremism by stirring up traditional and latent inherited differences between the two main trends within ‘Islamic Civilization’ , until it evolved into violent and destructive armed conflict , leaving the Israeli state, a so called offshoot of Western civilization, immune and protected by its military arsenal, expanding and engulfing Arab territory, while appearing in the eyes of  Arab populations as an equal to Arab regimes in its capacity for destruction and killing, and as a democratic and peaceful island in a sea of Arab barbarians , in the eyes of the whole world.

The main question which therefore remains unanswered is whether the Arab political elites will be capable of putting an end to this rift and extract the region from the vicious cycle of violence and destruction, while starting at last to face the real dangers that threaten their societies such as poverty , hunger and foreign control of their economies, and by forming alliances with other third world and southern countries to challenge an unjust world order, instead of indulging in the game of “civilizations” which has overturned the tables against the Arab populations and transformed Arab states into ‘failed states’,


A special issue of Foreign Affairs, published in January and February 2012, on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of this influential political periodical had as  its major theme  : “The Clash of Ideas: The Ideological Battles That  Made the Modern World and Will Shape the Future”. [24]

In the era of globalization, it therefore seemed necessary to review and understand  the ongoing  ideological debates in the West and  worldwide in order to see whether and  these  debates and clashes affect the ongoing ideological clashes in the Arab region and whether one can detect  their repercussions on the Arab revolutions.

The first impression one  got  from the  adoption of the term ‘clash of ideas’, is  that it was  meant  to be  a reminder  or an answer to the famous  theory of  the ‘Clash of Civilizations’, elaborated  by  Samuel Huntington  in  1992[25].

What is worth noting is that Huntington’s framework,   was developed at the beginning of the 90s following  the dismantlement of the Soviet  Union, along with  what seemed to be , especially for United States decision makers, the  obvious  decline in significance  of Marxist and communist thought, so that the preceding ideological clash with  communism and its basic concept of ‘class struggle’ represented by the Soviet bogey ,was  counteracted and replaced through the publications of  thinkers such as Huntington  by the ‘clash of civilizations’,  mainly between Western and Eastern Civilizations, with Islamic Civilization being at the top of the Eastern list.
Several other writers adopted the same framework  through various  other less hawkish forms such as the book entitled “Jihad versus Macworld”[26] published by Barber in 1995.

By the end of 2001 and especially after 9/11, Huntington’s  theory seemed like  a bad dream come true,  with  all its nightmarish consequences , ending with Islamo- phobia becoming the name of the game and replacing totally the old Communist  phobia .

Interestingly, however, a careful revision of the ideological debates of the time  (end of eighties and beginning of  nineties after the dismantlement of the Soviet Union ) reveal that Huntington’s 1993 article on “The Clash of  Civilizations’ had  emerged as part of a raging ideological debate of the time  in counter trend   to  Francis Fukuyama’s  famous theory entitled ‘The End of History’. Fukuyama , a famous liberal American philosopher ( of Japanese origin)  had also become renowned in 1989  for his article published in the international affairs journal, The National Interest[27] and later expanded in 1992 in his book: The End of History and the Last Man , where he argues that  Western Liberal Democracy will pervade the world and thus become the ideal final form of human government.

The  philosophical debate  that had  been raging at the time was in fact between these two schools of  Western Thought  : that is between  Fukuyama’s liberal  ideology and Huntington’s conservative and hawkish rightwing philosophy.
Fukuyama, as  a liberal philosopher, was also staunchly anti Marxist but a faithful adept  of Hegelian idealism. He therefore saw history as evolving  through a ‘clash of ideas’  instead of through a ‘struggle between classes’,and  thus  concluded that its ‘end’ would come when one ideology would become dominant on a global scale, instead of the hegemony of one class, the proletariat, according to Marxist materialism .

Put in a nutshell, Fukuyama’s philosophy could be summarized in the following terms  according to his own words:

“ What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western Liberal Democracy as the final form of human government."][28]

Fukuyama’s  defense of liberalism , while being counteracted on the right by Huntington’s hawkish  call for a clash of civilizations, was also  counteracted  and  refuted on the left by Marxist thinkers. The famous French Philosopher Derrida  in  his book Specters   of  Marx[29] published in 1993, declared that the quick celebrity achieved by Fukuyama’s ideas was  nothing but  ‘a symptom of the anxiety’ on the part of the intellectual branch of current ‘Western Hegemony’ to ensure the ‘death of Marx’ while spreading  its "New Gospel".

Derrida added “that instead of celebrating the end of ideologies and the end of the  great  emancipating discourses, let us  never  neglect this obvious macroscopic fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the earth”.[30]

Two decades later, it seems that the old debate is still ongoing with a tilt by Foreign Affairs,  in favor of the  framework based on the ‘clash of ideas’ rather than ‘the clash of civilizations’ and what seems to add   to the significance of  this 2012 special issue of  Foreign Affairs is  its publication of  a more  recent  article by Fukuyama, the philosopher of the late eighties, which surprises us by celebrating the return of    ‘history’ on the intellectual scene,  since it is entitled ‘The Future of History: Can Liberal Democracy Survive the decline of the Middle Class?” [31]contrary to his previous views about the ‘end’ of history.

In this new article Fukuyama seems to revise his past optimism about  the success of liberal democracy as the dominant global ideology . His points are worthy of consideration,  not so as to celebrate the good of liberal democracy, but in order to reach a better understanding of  the main ideological trends in the era of globalization, especially that such trends have permeated the international arena reaching the Arab world, despite  the denial of intellectuals who still believe in national and cultural specificities.

Fukuyama,  starts his article by saying ‘something strange is going in the world today’, and this thing appears to be “the lack of left wing mobilization” adding :

“that the chief reason for this lack is ‘a failure in  the realm of ideas’ leading ‘the ideological high ground on economic issues to  be held by a libertarian right. The left has not been able to make a plausible case for an agenda other than a return to an unaffordable form of old-fashioned social democracy. This absence of a plausible progressive counter-narrative is unhealthy, because competition is good for intellectual debate just as it is for economic activity. And serious intellectual debate is seriously needed , since the current form of globalized capitalism is eroding the middleclass social base on which liberal democracy rests”

Liberalism, according to Fukuyama , was “the first major secular ideology    to have a lasting worldwide effect” -“ a doctrine associated with the rise first of a commercial and then an industrial middle class in certain parts of Europe in the seventeenth century.” The legitimacy of the state according to classic liberal thinkers derives ‘from the state’s ability to protect the individual rights of its citizens’ amongst which is ‘private property’. He adds ‘At first Liberalism did not necessarily imply democracy”.

Finally one can say that Fukuyama’s main hypothesis is that the erosion of the Middle class  which is becoming apparent in Western societies will threaten the supremacy of the liberal democratic model of governance, and according to him one of the main reasons for this development is globalization where “the benefits of  the new order accrued disproportionately to a very small number of people in finance and technology”.
Fukuyama  considers that one of the “most puzzling features of the world in the aftermath of the financial crisis is that so far, populism has taken primarily a right wing tone, not a left wing one ’and he explains the failure of the left as being an ‘intellectual one’ given that ‘it has been several decades since anyone on the left has been able to articulate, first a coherent analysis of what happens to the structure of advanced societies as they undergo economic change and second a realistic agenda that has any hope of protecting a middle class society’.
Further dissecting  the left with sarcasm,  he adds:

“the main trends in left wing thought in the last two generations have been frankly disastrous , as either conceptual frameworks or tools for mobilization. Marxism  died many years ago and  the few old believers  still around are ready for nursing homes. The academic left replaced it with post modernism, multiculturalism, feminism , critical theory and  host of other fragmented intellectual trends that are more cultural than economic in focus’

In his attempt to visualize a future ideology for the West , Fukuyama states that most of the ideas have  been around in bits and pieces for some time ; the scribbler would have to put  them in a coherent package and “the critique of globalization, that is, would have to be tied to nationalism  as a strategy for mobilization in a way that defined  national interest in a more sophisticated way…”  and  “the product would be  a synthesis from both the left and the right , detached from the agenda of the marginalized groups that constitute  the existing progressive movement”,  concluding that  “the ideology would be populist; the message would begin with a critique of the elites that allowed the benefit of the many to be sacrificed to that of the few and a critique of money politics, especially in Washington, that overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy.”

Another article published  in that same issue,  entitled “the Democratic Malaise: Globalization and the threat to the West”, by Charles A Kupchan[32] , professor of international affairs at Georgetown university and Senior Fellow at the Council of  Foreign Affairs, speaks of  ‘the crisis of governability’ that has engulfed the world’s most advanced democracies” adding :“It is no accident that the United States, Europe and Japan are simultaneously experiencing political breakdown; globalization is producing a widening gap between what electorates are asking of their governments  and what those governments are able to deliver, the mismatch between the growing demand for good governance and its shrinking supply is one of the gravest challenges facing the world today”.

While Fukuyama’s analysis concerns mainly the West and  particularly the United States, it seems  so flagrantly appropriate  for an understanding of the dynamics of the social movements that have engulfed the Arab world and that constitute what is referred to as the ‘Arab spring’.
The similarities are striking on a number of level: First: financial interests in the Arab world have been so unjustly distributed , with only  a few incurring all profits at the expense of the many  who are increasingly impoverished.  Second:  the middle class  is  ailing and starting to disappear as a result of this unjust distribution of wealth.

Third: Left wing  movements are almost invisible from the political scene and have failed to engage with the Arab revolts constituting the ‘Arab spring’, making leeway for the more religious Islamic parties, which have  a more populist ideology .Fourth: The  main ‘clash of ideas’ in the ‘Arab Spring’ was  often referred to as the ‘clash’ between ‘Liberal’ parties and ‘religious Islamic parties’  as  was  the case in Egypt) , without any clear explanation of what ‘Liberalism’ means in the Arab world.

Following these observations, several issues need to be debated seriously in the Arab World, especially those concerning the relationship between global ideological trends and regional ones on the one hand ,  and that  between regional trends and national ones on the other hand.

Several questions have to be clearly stated  concerning the ‘clash of ideas’  in the Arab World and attempts to find convincing answers will definitely enrich the  highly required and necessary  ideological  debate


In an article entitled “Mainstreaming Utopia: a global challenge”[33],  Marc Fleurbaey ,  professor at Princeton,  presents a ‘few thoughts’ about

‘how ideological evolutions as well as the globalization trend in society and science require reviving the interest in social transformation but also shaping the new efforts in a quite different way from the previous intellectual endeavors and social movements that made the twentieth century eventful, and sadly , terribly lethal.

In summary the points he makes are the following:

-utopian thinking , understood not a delusionary dreaming but as the rational study of social transformation , is needed especially nowadays.

-Research in social transformation can no longer be left to the solitary’ intellectual’ who was the typical utopian thinker of the previous centuries

-A simple, concrete way of making progress might be to congregate the available knowledge about principles and possibilities for social change into a report produced by a panel of experts, in interaction with the relevant social actors.[34]

The author adds that “ the need for reviving the studies of social transformation and more specifically the interest in social ‘progress’(a word that has fallen into disrepute) is as strong as ever nowadays, in a time of deep economic social and moral crisis”.

The globalization trend itself which promised to erase boundaries and shorten distances… has been exploited by the wealthy and the powerful to increase their supremacy …The new utopian research that is needed .. has to do with a rational study of the perspectives for social change, with a special focus for the most disadvantaged populations .
Such a study has to combine a normative component since “social change without social ethics is like a ship without a compass”. In as far as social transformation can be led  by conscious and organized efforts of social actors, these actors need to know, discuss and coordinate on the direction they wish to pursue .[35]

Fleurbaey adds:

“Today social scientists look back with some melancholy  to the glorious time of intellectuals and the aura that surrounded their domain in the second half of the 20th century . Perhaps we should instead welcome the fact that the charisma of the intellectual has vanished, if this protects us and our descendants from new waves of simplistic an totalitarian doctrines”[36]

The author concludes that what is required today is a new kind of scholar who works in a more cooperative way and adopts a more modest attitude:

The ‘global intellectual that is now needed is a group, a network, a cooperative endeavor. Social sciences, paradoxically, have remained the most individualistic of the academic disciplines, but we do observe an increase in collective projects involving teams , as well as the growing importance of articles as opposed to books , reflecting the larger proportion of contributions which are highly specialized; this fragmentation can be viewed in a positive light , because it provides the building blocks for new better forms of syntheses

Edgar Morin the French philosopher in an article  “Au delà du réductionnisme et du holisme : la complexité du global”[37] states that  one has to avoid what he calls ‘réductionnisme’ since we cannot understand the ‘whole’ by starting with the ‘parts’ given that the ‘whole’ is more than the sum of the parts according to Aristotelian logic

Moreover according to Morin, one of the defects of ‘réductionnisme’ is that it neglects contexts;  while on the other hand the defect of ‘holisme’ may be that the whole could be flat and empty, which means that the greatest problem resides in the relation between the whole and the parts and that the main obstacle lies  neither in ‘réductionnism’ which tends to be surpassed, nor in ‘holisme’ which will dissolve itself by itself, but  that the obstacle lies in the compartmentalization of the disciplines-without which knowledge could not find nourishment_ but which are closed and isolated . The  obstacle according to him  is in the ‘closure’. [38]

Moreover Morin distinguishes between what he call ‘total’ thinking and ‘global’ thinking firstly because the totality of knowledge,  of reality, not only  on the world level, but as ‘reality’, is beyond the  limits and aptitude of the human soul , not only quantitatively but also logically and rationally.[39]

Global thinking contains within it, and shall always contain  an element of uncertainty, the unexpected. It is therefore a thinking that is in permanent movement; it has to be ‘correlated’ with different places on earth, since from every area around the globe emerge different points  of view which are in fact complementary. Global thinking is an adventure… a ’dangerous adventure ‘but also a ‘marvelous one’ but it is the only  adventure that we can undertake.

Morin adds :“ It is the only adventure that concerns our lives, individually and collectively. It is the only adventure that links us to others, to our co-citizens, and to humanity.”[40]


Finally, since the original aim of this paper was to replace the Question of Palestine within a global  context , several questions have to be addressed   concerning the past while trying to elaborate a blueprint for the future.

The Palestinian problem,  still persists despite  the rise and fall of several ideologies, whether Arab  Nationalist, Marxist or ‘Third World ‘ ideologies such as those embodied in the Bandung spirit,

In fact I believe that this question which involves the persistence of  an illegitimate military occupation for over sixty years, and the subjugation of an innocent population which identifies itself  as part of the world liberation movement, is proof of the failure of intellectual elites, on the Arab , third world and international levels  to  state the right questions  and look for the right answers. The Palestine problem lies at the crossroads of all issues that need to be addressed to reach a more just world order.
In Palestine a local population  is being subdued and subjugated by  a fierce military occupation. In Palestine the original population is assassinated, arrested,  becoming more and more impoverished everyday,  its environment polluted , its waters diverted, its cities,  homes, Mosques and Churches  are  destroyed and violated(the most recent example  being the actual attacks by the Israeli forces of Ocupation against Al Aqsa Mosque) .

Palestinian refugees are denied the  inalienable right of return to their cities of origin, while that right is being usurped to allow other peoples foreign to the area  to immigrate on a religious basis, making of the Palestinian refugee problem an exceptional one  in history..

It is impossible at this point to go over all the details of Zionist ideology and its use of religion to oppress another people. So much has been written and said to that effect , but any person with honest and clear insight can see that the disintegration of the Arab world today benefits the Zionist expansionist dream.

Unfortunately, all the ills produced by capitalist globalization  have found roots in that small area.  A small but influential part of  its elites have been co-opted just like others in the Arab world by the global order, while  ‘Israel’ which is recognized by the Western world as a ‘democratic state’ has the fourth most powerful army in the world and is engaged in arms sales and training of mercenaries throughout Africa and Asia, bastions of  the ‘third world’.
The Palestine problem is proof of a ‘failed’ twentieth century, in terms of its capacity  to restore justice,  and establish peace in a more human world.
Yes I think that Palestine needs new ‘global intellectuals’ who think of the future, not simply through the existing  international agencies which often function as shields to the real problems of humanity.
Only a new ‘global intellectual’ collective  enterprise can  restate the right questions in order to elaborate a functional strategy to restore peace and justice in Palestine.
Such an endeavor can only be launched within forums such as those that had emerged in Bandung 60 years ago. However they should be undertaken by wiser independent intellectuals and not necessarily  by governments who might  still  be under  indirect colonial hegemony  and of the ‘liberal capitalist world order’ which encourages all kinds of inhuman practices  and ideologies such as  Zionism and racism, while making tremendous profits from a flourishing arms industry.

This is why we shall attempt through this distinguished forum to rethink the how  all emerging peace loving forces in the world can  support    Palestine in view of liberating it  from one of the most lethal and brutal occupations in history.


[1] Penser global: Internationalisation et globalisation des sciences sociales et humaines, sous la direction de Laurent Levi -Strauss et Gwenaelle Lieppe, Maison des sciences de l’homme, Paris 2015 ;This book is a collective work  with about thirty contributions from various social scientists and philosophers in the search for new approaches in the social sciences ;

[2] “Bandung Sixty years later: The Arab World from Sunrise to Sunset”, published in Arabic , Rai al Youm, April, 1975 by Noha Khalaf, reconstitutes the spirit  and context of the time by undertaking some research on the international historical juncture  and the political personalities who were the spiritual mentors of  such a project and those who followed and attended the Bandung conference­.

[3] For a detailed analysis of the Balfour Declaration, see, Noha khalaf, Balfour’s Legacy: Between Past and Present, a paper presented to the Conference held in Haddington, Scotland, November13-14, 2005.

[4] Gamal Abdel Naser, the Philosophy of Revolution, (Falsafat al Thawra), 1955.

[5]The term ‘web of concepts ‘ has been elaborated by various authors to study changes in ideology , such as Reinhart Kosellek , author of Futures past. On the semantics of historical time, 2004. His studies direct themselves to the semantics of central concepts in which historical experience of time is implicated. Webs of concepts Is a constellation of concepts evoked by  members of a movement. Within a web of concepts , concepts are evoked , omitted, contested and modified by various members of a movement. They  and are not fixed. Bevin in the “Logic of the history of ideas, 1999, suggests that dilemmas are points at which webs of beliefs change in order to adapt to new contexts,  whereas  deliberately or unintentionally new concepts are added and previous concepts expelled to make room for new beliefs.

[6] Albert Hourani, A History of theArab People, Warner Books, 1991.p. 401.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid. p. 402

[10] Iibid. P.404

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid. p. 405.

[13] Ibid. P.435.

[14] Ibid. P.436.

[15]Nationalitarisme’ was a term used  by Abdel-Malek in  distinction to ‘nationalisme’,  he explains this diffrence : « we could say that « nationalisme»is the period of national edification — whereas  « nationalitarisme » refers to a   period engaged in ‘positiveness’ and the creation of progressive values and institutions, Anouar Abdel-Malek, La Pensée Ppolitique Arabe Contemporaine, . Seuil, 1979, p.19.


[16] Anouar Abdel Malek, Egypte Société Militaire, Editions du seuil, 1962. Ce livre a été dédié par AnouarAbdel-Malek : « A la mémoire fraternelle de Chohdi Attia el-Chafei (Alexandrie 1911-Abou Zaabal 1960) qui fut l’honneur de notre génération, mon ami. » p.219.,

[17] Ibid.p.220-225

[18] Ibid .

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid , p.130.

[21] Ibid, pp.231-232

[22] Georges Corm, , Orient-Occident, la fracture imaginaire, Editions La Decouverte, 2002. p.26

[23] Ibid.

[24] Foreign Affairs, January-February 2012

[25] Samuel Huntington, the Clash of Civilizations, Foreign Affairs, 1993.

[27] Francis Fukuyama, The End of History, the National Interest, 1989.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Derrida, les Spectres de Marx, 1993

[30] Ibid.

[31] Francis Fukuyama, ‘The Future of History: Can Liberal Democracy Survive the decline of the Middle Class?”Foreign Affairs , January-February, 2012.

[32] Charles A Kupchan, “The Democratic Malaise: Globalization and the threat to the West”, Foreign Affairs, op.cit

[33] Marc Fleurbaey, « Mainstreaming Utopia : A global Challenge” in Penser Global: Internationalisation et Globalisation DesSciences Humaineset Sociales, Editions de la Maison des sciences del’homme, 2015 . pp.93-102

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Edgar Morin, Au-delà du réductionnisme et du holisme :la complexitté du global. Le débat, in Penser global, op. cit. pp. 449-457.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.


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