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Pan-Arabism and the Professor By: Zachary Constantino
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, a time of enormous crisis in the Arab world, a prominent Arab intellectual, American University professor Clovis Maksoud, declared, “We must realize that the Kuwaiti problem, the Kuwaiti invasion, is an instant priority, but this instant priority cannot let us lose sight of the constant priority.  That constant priority is the Zionist program.”[1] 

This obsession with Zionism as the root of all Middle Eastern woes is a signature of Clovis Maksoud and the ideology of which he remains a staunch advocate: pan-Arabism. Why should this matter? Because Maksoud continues to this day to enlarge on this and related obsessions, courtesy of the U.S. media.  Since September 11, he has made over thirty television appearances in America alone and he also teaches at a major U.S. university.


In the words of political science professor Adeed Dawisha, pan-Arabism at its inception was deeply influenced by European fascism, with the result that “Arab nationalists, infused with the illiberal ideas of cultural nationalism, had almost nothing to say about personal liberty and freedom.”[2]


Thus, in keeping with his pan-Arab beliefs, Maksoud has apologized or excused the excesses of assorted Arab tyrannies.


Iraq. After Saddam had subjugated Kuwait in the first Persian Gulf War, Maksoud argued that both sides had “legitimate” grievances and defended the authority of Saddam’s barbarous regime:


  • At Georgetown University: “Bellicose statements, whether on the part of calling Saddam Hussein ‘Hitler,’ or on the other hand that under no circumstances, like the Minister of Information of Iraq said we will not withdraw from Kuwait, this kind of polarization is leading to heightened tensions”[3]; “Furthermore, there must develop simultaneously with this a mechanism to address and adjudicate the mutual claims, the mutual concerns, the legitimate demands of both parties.”[4]
  • On CNN’s Crossfire, After being asked whether or not he would condemn Saddam’s statement calling for the overthrow of the Egyptian government: “Well, I think that any kind of overthrowing anybody’s government, that is why we are eager to restore legitimacy and if we want to restore legitimacy in Kuwait, we have to protect legitimacy in Iraq.”[5] 

Therefore, when Saddam’s menacing regime was toppled in 2003, Maksoud’s opposition to the war that ended it was so intense that he spearheaded an effort to prevent the lifting of United Nations sanctions on the basis that doing so would legitimize the U.S./U.K.-led occupation of Iraq.[6]  (Prior to the liberation of Iraq, Maksoud participated in a delegation meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan demanding an end to the sanctions program).[7]


Syria. On the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, Maksoud has touted the customary pan-Arab line – Israel’s past deterrent presence in southern Lebanon was totally illegal yet Syria’s stranglehold on Lebanon is relatively benign:


Resistance to Israel’s occupation has been recognized as valid, justified, and legitimate, despite many reservations one might have towards the ideological tenets of Hizbullah and other resistance groups.  Besides, Lebanon and Syria are Arab states, and the circumstances of Syria’s presence in Lebanon, however distasteful to some, are different from Israel’s alien occupation.[8]


Palestinian Authority. At times, Maksoud glorifies anti-Israeli terrorism; at other times, he equates it with Israeli counter-terrorism aimed at Palestinian terrorists. He also urged Arafat to reject Ehud Barak’s peace offer in 2000:


  • On MSNBC: “There is a fundamental and qualitative difference between resistance to occupation and between terrorism.  Terrorism is an act of despair.  Resistance is an act of hope and the ultimate outcome of a liberation of the independence of Palestine.”[9]
  • In an open letter addressed to “brother” Arafat: “Your steadfastness [i.e. rejection of the Clinton peace plan] in tomorrow's [2000 Camp David] summit would reinvigorate Palestinian national unity. It would fortify the Palestinians' will, the bridge between negotiations and resistance … The Palestinians would be able to deal with the victory scored by the Lebanese Resistance in South Lebanon as a Lebanese version of the Palestinian intifada.”[10]
  • From an online chat sponsored by USA Today: “The phenomena of Hamas is the same way in which the Israeli occupation has inflicted brutality and bitterness on the Palestinian population”[11]
  • From an online chat sponsored by the Washington Post: “These acts of [Palestinian] terrorism are the sporadic reactions of despair. The state sponsored terrorism by Israel are [sic] the deliberate plans of a government policy.”[12] 

In short, no Palestinian intransigence or resort to terror is too terrible to be excused, endorsed, or even praised.


And like many of his colleagues, Maksoud is prone to confusing the usual batch of conspiracy theories with facts.  Maksoud writes, “…the attack on Iraq was planned by the pro-Israeli cabal” and predatory “American Likudniks.”[13]  As for September 11: “the Likudniks within the Bush administration [treated it] as an interruption of their plans to strike at Iraq” to “ensure an enhanced strategic superiority of Israel in the region.”[14] 


Such wild hyperbole brings to mind an image of Maksoud confined to a dark room as he connects the dots: Paul Wolfowitz, The Project for a New American Century, Tel Aviv, etc…  The good professor seems to have left out the Iraq WMD warnings of UN inspectors Rolf Ekeus and Richard Butler – but in his mind, perhaps they too were pawns in the grand “Zionist” chess game for global hegemony.


Maksoud meets all of the perverse requirements of today’s Middle East “expert”: wedded to an anti-Western authoritarian ideology, prone to anti-Israeli diatribes, and blinded by moral and intellectual casuistry when it comes to understanding terrorism.


Zachary Constantino is a research assistant with the Middle East Forum.



[1] Clovis Maksoud, speaking before an audience at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, November 5, 1990.

[2] Adeed Dawisha, “Requiem for Arab Nationalism,” The Middle East Quarterly, Vol. X, No. 1, Winter 2003, at http://www.meforum.org/article/518.

[3] Clovis Maksoud, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, November 5, 1990.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Transcript of Crossfire, CNN, August 13, 1990.

[6] Bassam Za’za’, “Arabs must prevent lifting of UN sanctions on Iraq, says Maksoud,” Gulf News, at http://www.aljazeerah.info/News%20archives/2003%20News%20archives/May%202003%20News/20%20n/Arabs%20must%20prevent%20lifting%20of%20UN%20sanctions%20on%20Iraq.htm.

[7] “ADC delegation Meets with Kofi Annan,” December 20, 2000, at http://www.adc.org/index.php?id=1201.

[8] Clovis Maksoud, “Lebanon Needs a Niche in Middle East Peace,” The Christian Science Monitor, November 23, 1993.

[9] Transcript of the MSNBC program Making Sense With Alan Keyes, April 2, 2002.

[10] Open letter to Yasser Arafat from Clovis Maksoud, at http://www.cafearabica.com/politics/politics17/poliletter2.html.

[11] Online forum with Clovis Maksoud, at http://www.usatoday.com/community/chat/2002-03-27-maksoud.htm.

[12] Online forum with Clovis Maksoud, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/liveonline/02/politics/maksoud032902.htm.

[13] Clovis Maksoud, “Done Solo?,” Al-Ahram Weekly, at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/print/2004/698/op12.htm.

[14] Ibid.

Zachary Constantino is a student research associate with Campus Watch. He is presently pursuing a B.A. in political science with a minor in international politics at American University in Washington, DC.

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