Our troubles come from us

Salman Masalha ||

Our troubles come from us

"This week, Israel celebrated its 67th independence day. It is not easy to speak of this event in an Arab newspaper, because the mere mention of Israel's name in the Arab arena arouses many emotions. For the past decades, Israel's name has, in the imagination of Arab peoples, been tied to the name Palestine and [Palestine's] Nakba. So much ink has been spilled, and so many hours of broadcast have been devoted to discussion of the so-called 'primary problem of the Arabs.'

"Uttering the name 'Israel' has not been easy for Arabs, from their leaders to their mouthpieces to their intellectuals. Israel's name is sometimes written in scare quotes, as part of the attempt to ignore the reality that writers see on the ground. Dealing with this reality has become a kind of rhetorical contest in Arab discourse; some have not settled for using scare quotes but have gone so far as to ban mention of that name in Arab writing, replacing it with the term 'the state of gangs.' Later, the Arab rhetoric became even more impassioned, and to this series [of epithets] was added a new term – 'the false entity.' All this arrogant stubbornness in Arab discourse is not ended, and continues to this day, with the addition of such epithets as 'the deviant state' or 'the artificial state.'

"In this context, it should be mentioned that when the state of Israel was established, the number of Arab states could be counted on the fingers of two hands, but that now the region has hatched a substantial number of fledgling Arab countries that are also artificial, and counting them requires the digits of both hands and feet, perhaps even more. Does it not stand to reason that all the countries of this region, and, in fact, all countries of the modern world, are artificial?

"Thus, while the propagators of this Arab discourse kept their heads buried in the sand, Israel continued to deepen its roots in the region – while on the other side, the [Arab] discourse aimed at arousing emotions and at mobilizing [these emotions] to serve those who silence common sense in the minds of people continued. In fact, the discourse on Palestine... was obviously no more than a tool used by the Arab leaders to avoid [admitting] that these Arab entities are just as false... And so the years passed, and here we are some seven decades later, during which we were born, grew up, and got old on this plot of land, and what do we see around us? Undoubtedly, any Arab with a smidgen of understanding finds himself facing the same questions: 'Where are the states of the gangs – and where are the false entities?'

"Just for the sake of inventory, [let us do] some simple math: 'Yemen the Joyful'[2] is more miserable today than it was before independence. Libya, another false entity, has returned to its roots and to the tribal divisions that predate its establishment. The 'false Iraqi entity' has [also] broken down to its sectarian and ethnic groups. The 'false Syrian entity' has broken down as well, and has been extinguished in a sea of blood and crimes [perpetrated] by the 'resistance' [axis, i.e. Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah], with no redemption in sight.

"As for Lebanon... This Lebanon, with its tiny territory and large population, cannot [even] choose a president... This entity was born, lives, and will die on a sectarian basis. Every sect there has a leader, and every sect elects its own leader for life.

"As for Palestine – it, like Israel and the rest of the countries in the region, is also a 'false entity'... Many years ago, two entities began establishing themselves on the ground, one in Gaza and one in the West Bank. Today, decades later, the Palestinians are finding that their problem is no longer 'the primary Arab problem' and that their Nakba is no greater than other Arab Nakbas, because Greater Syria [for example] has experienced a far greater Nakba that overshadows their own.

"And so we have reached a situation in which every Arab is concerned with his own problems and everyone talks about what preoccupies him personally – that is, his own troubles. If we look at what is happening around us in this region, we will see that the most stable entities are not Arab, and that they are strong and developed entities – from Iran through Turkey to what Arabs call 'the false entity' and the world calls 'Israel.'

"Therefore, how should we describe our situation? Perhaps in this way: 'Our troubles come from us,' as the popular saying goes."


[1] Al-Hayat (London), April 23, 2015.
[2] Al-Yemen Al-Sa'id – a common appellation for Yemen.

Translated into English by MEMRI


For Arabic, press here

  • Iran’s Messianic War

    The Islamic revolution, which brought the ayatollahs to power in Iran, awakened messianic demons from their sleep. The rulers dreamed of a greater Iran and acted to export the revolution beyond their borders.

    The decay in the Arab world

    With great sadness, it can be said that in the absence of a sane civil alternative, the Arab world will continue along this path.

    Read more

  • The Massacre of Arab Nationalism

    It must be admitted that the siege imposed on Gaza ever since Hamas took power there isn’t just an Israeli siege. It’s also an Arab one – because a single Egyptian decision would be enough to break the siege on Gaza’s border with Egypt.

    A Feeble Middle East

    The West learned on its own flesh that this region conducts itself by other codes. Iran has continued to entrench its standing by means of its religious ideology. The toppling of Saddam Hussein shattered the illusion of the existence of a unifying “Iraqi identity” .

    Read more

  • Neither Arab nor Spring

    The vicissitudes that have, for some reason, been collectively dubbed the "Arab Spring" are neither Arab nor Spring. One can say that they are actually living proof of the identity crisis and reverberating bankruptcy of Arab nationalism.

    Read more

  • Welcome Back to History

    Islam, like other imperialist ideologies, still needs enemies to flourish. Enemies have served Islam in the past as fuel for its wagons. Without enemies Islam declines and stagnates...

    Read more

  • The pit and the pendulum

    In those days, we did not drink four goblets of wine, because everything that gladdens the human heart is not a part of our custom.

    Read more

  • Solomon’s Mosque

    Religion, every religion, is the No. 1 enemy of nationalism. But under conditions of tension, such as tribal warfare, these polar opposites combine into a toxic soup that consumes all common sense.

    Read more

  • Never-ending tragedy

    The Israeli right, in all its forms, wants exclusively Jewish control over all of the Land of Israel. To the Palestinians who live in this space, it promises residency – temporary, of course, on condition that they keep their heads down, accept their designated status and behave accordingly.

    Read more
  • Hamas in the service of Israel

    Hamas rule isn’t the enemy of the Israeli right. Au contraire, it’s the loyal servant of all the right-wing governments. Since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War, all Israeli governments have devoted all their time and energy to fighting the Palestinian national movement


מיון החומרים


Selected Topics

  • Martin Niemöller

    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the Socialist
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Read More

  • Salman Masalha

    Beyond my door which faces west
    Lives a woman who'll never rest.

    She likes to tease my nomad soul
    With words she keeps for gloomy fall.
  • Balkrishna Sama

    He who loves flowers, has a tender heart.
    he who cannot pluck their blooms,
    has a heart that's noble.

    Read more