Quite simply stated, the Arab conquest of the region gave birth to the Arab World, to the notion of Arab unity and to the Arab peoples themselves. It took a diverse group of people and gave them a common language, culture, religion and, over time, a common identity. It is, thus, that the Arab conquest of the region stands out as one of the most significant turning points in the history of the Middle East and, indeed, the roots of Arab Nationalism can be directly traced to it (Hitti, 1943). Arab nationalism, tracing its roots to the Moslem conquest of north Africa and the Levantine, has survived over the millennia due to a complex set of historical and political circumstances.
The concept of the Arab nation and of Arab nationalism is based on historical circumstances which have a strong psychological appeal. As argued by Karsh (2001) in "Misunderstanding Arab Nationalism," this concept represents the historical successes, and power that the Arabs had achieved when they were united as a single empire from the eleventh to the nineteenth century. Since the collapse of that Empire, however, the Arabs have achieved little and have, indeed, devolved into twenty-two third world nations which have little, if any, political and economic influence over world affairs (Karsh, 2001). Indeed, until recently, there was hardly a country in the Arab World which was not colonized and whose sovereignty was not in question. Even today, and despite the supposed collapse of colonialism, many of the Arab countries remain under the political, economic and military domination of Western powers. Iraq is occupied; Sudan suffers political and economic sanctions; parts of Lebanon and Syria are occupied by Israel and, most of Palestine has been lost, and the remainder is under Israeli occupation. As Baram (2003) contends, as they look at their present, the Arab people increasingly realise the extent of their weakness and tend to connect their present situation to their division, even as they relate their past glory to their historic unity. Comparisons between their past and present maintain the dream of Arab unity and ensure that the concept of Arab nationalism remains alive. Hence, if Arab nationalism is rooted in history, it also has its roots in the current reality of the Arab nations and populations.
The psychological appeal and popularity of Arab nationalism are reflected in the ideologies that emerged from the Arab World following the collapse of colonialism. These ideologies, such as Baathism and Nasserism, were based upon the concept of pan-Arabism and Arab Unity. Baathism, developed in Syria in the 1930s as a specific response to the weakness of the Arab nation and their status as colonized countries (Baram, 2003). Baathism was based on the argument that the Arabs shared a common language, history, and culture making them one people. Accordingly, the natural condition for the Arabs was unity and strength and the unnatural condition was division and weakness (Baram, 2003). The significant point about Baathism is not just that it became the official ideology of Arab countries like Syria and Iraq, but that it was extremely popular among the Arab masses. Another popular ideology in the Arab World, Nasserism, emerged in the 1950s and similarly argued that Arab unity was the goal that all Arab countries should work to reach. As a matter of fact, it is possible to argue that the