As an assignment, I was to write a review of the movie Lawrence of Arabia. Part of the such review included, of course, a comment on the Arab Revolt, which I think might be relevant to share. In any case, for the relevant parts, here we go:
The status of the Arab Revolt is complex, especially when considered by an Arab. While on the one hand, the Arab Revolt signifies a rebirth of the Arabs, in which attempts for independence re-emerge, and in which the yearning to greatness after years of dormancy is rekindled. In that respect, there is a big chance that Sherif Hussein’s correspondence with the British to secure an independent Arab future lead to the existence of the modern Arab states. One the other hand, however, while the Arab Revolt might signify the birth of Independent Arab entities, it also embodies some sort of death; a more serious Arab decline.
The deep involvement of the British with the Arab Revolt, as well as the Hashemite-British alliance have given leverage to Britain over the Arabs and allowed it to secure an autocratic role in handling the remains of the Ottoman Empire after its dissolution. The Arab Revolt, instead of resulting in the Birth of a unified and independent Arab state in the Arab regions of the Ottoman Empire, lead to the partitioning of the entire empire, the creation of artificial nation states, often with imported regents or rulers, the birth of the Palestine Question and the greater Arab-Israeli Conflict, the continued ‘colonization’ of the fragmented Arab states as a weak periphery ever supporting the west.
This complex two-sidedness of the Arab Revolt makes it particularly hard, especially for an Arab, to determine one’s views towards it. While an Arab might owe it to the revolt to still call oneself ‘an Arab’, its long term political failure means that an Arab also owes it to the revolt that he probably is, with an increased probability, regretful of being ‘an Arab’.
I do not think I am in a position to comment if the Arab Revolt was benign or not, worth it or not, positive or not. My point is not to comment on Sherif Hussein’s efforts in the revolt, nor the efforts of the Arabs as a people, because I think it is largely irrelevant. Regardless of the motivation, goals, and intentions of the revolt, the reason I view it with some sort of melancholy or regret is the end result of fragmentation and instability. And I do not think that Hussein or any of his peers had an impact on that. I look at the revolt with melancholy because of the British involvement, the broken promises, the double-alliances, and the way history unfolded. What a shame.