The Formation of Modern Syria and Iraq
by Eliezer Tauber
London: Frank Cass, 1995. 417 pp. $37.50.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
Tauber continues the work begun in his two pathbreaking studies of 1993, The Emergence of the Arab Movements and The Arab Movements in World War (both reviewed in MEQ, Sept. 1994). As in those volumes, he here establishes the basic facts of the Arab nationalism movement in the World War I era. His main conclusion concerns the fate of the movement: he deems Arabs, not Westerners, responsible for the dissipation of Arab unity in favor of Lebanese, Syrian, and Iraqi independence. In the author's words, "there was no basis for placing the blame for the emergence of the local movements on the shoulders of European imperialism. . . . When the peoples of the Fertile Crescent faced the choice, they preferred separate states." In great detail, he shows how the Arabs of one region either feared or dominated those of others. Some Syrians, for example, feared domination by Hijazis (residents of today's western Saudi Arabia) more than Zionists. And, in fact, King Faysal (originally of the Hijaz) reigned but did not rule during his two years in Damascus, 1918-20. Instead, the secret Arab society Al-Fatat was "the main political power" in the country during his time.
Tauber writes in the terse and relentlessly factual style that characterizes much of Israeli scholarship and many of Frank Cass's Middle East publications. His exemplary scholarship has settled many of the abiding controversies of the World War I period. But beware: this superb study is not intended for any but the most serious reader.
Related Topics: Daniel Pipes | June 1996 MEQ
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