Very interesting. I've always wondered why Egyptians were referred to as Arabs seen as, to me at least, Arabs are people from the Arabian penninsula. Now I know!I'm resurrecting this thread because I was intrigued by Pedro de la Torre's bringing it up again, and there was what I believe an important point missing in this discussion.
The question of who is an Arab is one of recent vintage. 120 years ago most of the people who call themselves "Arab" today would have been insulted by the term. Egyptians, Moroccans and Lebanese identified the term with bedouins who lived in the desert and lived on dates and camel meat. The fact that one spoke Arabic did not make one an Arab. Part of the reason for this was historical. While tribes and ethnic groups always existed, the traditional political entity in the Middle East was built around religion, not Arabism.
At the end of the nineteenth century this started to change. The concept of being an "Arab" arose from two intertwined sources: dislike of the Ottoman Empire, whose ramshackle administration vacilated between being senile and oppressive in its dealings with virtually all ethnic groups in the empire, and the growth of a class largely educated in Western disciplines, mainly in Syria and Lebanon, and very largely Christian, since the Christians were the ones who benefited mainly by the new schools being opened by European and American missionaries in the Levant. To some extent, this was mirrored in Egypt by the Coptic Christians, who started joining the government administration under Muhammad Ali in the early 19th century and slowly emerged from the relative ghetto existence they had previously had. Being Christians, not too surprisingly groups like the Lebanese Maronites and the Egyptian Copts had an interest in creating a non-religious concept of an ethnic group where they could be recognized as full fledged citizens.
Arabism as a concept was fueled by the Arab revolt in World War I and probably fueled equally by the cavalier way that the European powers cast the Arabs aside after that war. Most of the anti-western political affiliations were tied to the concept of Arabism in the thirties and forties. The concept probably reached its apogee under Nasser in the fifties. It's worth remembering how Nasser tried to create a unified state out of Egypt and Syria.
While Arabism as an ethnic identity continues, it should be remembered that it is a relatively modern concept, and I think that it is mainly honored in the breach any more; the more traditional Middle Eastern concept of religion as the definition of ethnicity is regaining ground. My impression is based on the way that Arab Christian groups like the Christian Palestinians and the Copts seem to be getting more and more marginalized in their own countries. Echoes of political Arabism lingered on in Hafiz al Assad's Syria and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, but the concept seemed more anachronistic as time went on.
I think this may be potentially explosive but I'd be interested to see what the rest of the foreros think about this.