Passion and Politics: Sample Book Review Team provides a sample book review for Passion & Politics by Sandra Mackey:

Passion & Politics by Sandra Mackey was published in 1992, that is, when the Arab World was torn apart after the Gulf War. This book starts with the appearance of Islam on the hands of Prophet Mohammed, but it is not a history of Arabs or Islam. It is a historical account and critique of Arab passionate politics. Before the book starts, three lines selected by the author from king Abdullah of Jordan could be read. The lines say: “For how many arbitrary unities have collapsed before they had seen the dawn of life?” The book deals with two major arguments. In the first, Mackey argues that the Arab unity is a myth that cannot come true as long as Arabs mix passion with politics. In the other argument, she explains why the US-Arab relations have so far been very turbulent and difficult since 1945.

In the first five chapters, the author discusses the origins of the Arab unity and how it started with the birth of Islam, but how it was never realized since the Islamic empire was divided into conflicting states. She finally comes to the most dividing element in Arab history, namely the war for Palestine which until today is considered to be the most important factor that unites the Arabs and divides them at the same time.

It is very ironical that the Palestinian cause brings the Arabs together and divides them into conflicting parties at the same time. The only interpretation for this is the fact that Arabs mix politics with passion, a combination which is fatal in the history of nations.

In the second part of the book, the author deals with seven Arab leaderships who played an important role in the modern history of Arab unity and division. The first of these is Nasser, whom she calls the Arab Messiah who revived the dream of Pan-Arabism and the Arab unity. The other six are King Hussein of Jordan, the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia, Anwar Sadat the Pharaoh of Egypt, Hafiz Assad the lion of Syria, Saddam Hussein the butcher of Baghdad and Yasser Arafat the Chairman.

Just as Arab politics rotates around individual leaders, so does it rotate around the passions of these leaders, their personal dreams and their personal interests. The lack of democracy and political awareness among the Arabs are mainly responsible for this, but this is only part of Arab culture and history. Arabs always give the lead to their leaders and never argue until it is too late.

In the war of Palestine, Arabs were united on the idea that Palestine should be liberated. However, in forty years of wars with Israel they have been divided on how it should be liberate and under which leadership. This division was far important and influential in Arab history than the Palestinian cause itself.

The Arab attachment to the individual leader is so clear and fatal to Arab politics. The death of Nasser was a death of whole political era. The future of a country such as Iraq is a hostage in the hands of a butcher. The decision of the Arab Middle East is in the hands of one man ruling with the power of the military. These are the elements that constitute the Arab reality, a turbulent reality.

As to the Arab-American relations, these have never been stable. Arabs classify their leaderships according to their relations with the US. Progressives are those who are against the US, whereas the conservatives and the reactionaries are those who stand with the US. This is mainly due to the double-balance which the US uses in its relations with the Arabs and Israel. The US only deals with the Arabs through the Israeli perspective, not through understanding the realities of the Arabs. Consequently, this relationship will remain troubled and unstable.

Mackey’s analysis is unfortunately true in many aspects. She was able to understand many elements about Arab history which many Arab leaders and politicians do not know, or simply ignore on purpose. Is there an Arab reality? If yes, then when is it?

Our Arab World is a world of troubled history and passionate politics. As long as we are unable to be objective, leaving our personal and cultural motives to control us, rather than using logic and reality, it might be very difficult for us to make any progress. Our weakness against Israel and among ourselves is not due to our division only. It is also due to our inability to see realities. We say many things, invent many slogans, create many dreams and illusions, and establish facts which never exist, but we never try to do anything.

The Arab Unity has failed on several occasions, because our leaders wanted their states to unite without considering the fact that it was people who should unite not states. Consequently, when their states conflicted, they simply broke up without considering these people. The Arab people will remain disappointed and defeated as long as their leaders and politicians mix politics with passions. But the real source of our suffering is that as Arabs, we simply give the lead to our leaders, and when we pay the price, we simply call them names and hope that the next leaders will be better. Perhaps King Abdullah was right after all: we are a people of arbitrary politics and thought.