Collage of Gamal Abdel Nasser
Art by David C. Scott, an InterCity Oz, Inc. Employee
Copyright © 2000-2004 by InterCity Oz, Inc.
Group photograph with battallions' officers
Photo from Copyright © 2000-2005 Al-Hewar Center, Inc
1945-'Captain' Abdel-Nasser, centre
with the battalion's officers
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Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970), the greatest genius produced by Egypt in five hundred years, was the first Egyptian since the Pharaohs 2,500 years ago to govern Egypt. Nasser led the complete liberation of Egypt and the restitution of national dignity in a titanic struggle with both his 35 million mostly downtrodden people and numerous world powers that undercut his efforts at every opportunity.
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Nasser wrote a short personal book titled “Egypt’s Liberation: The Philosophy of the Revolution” about his ideas and dreams. It reveals a sweeping yet deeply analytical mind and acute observer of human behavior whose periods of disillusionment and exhilaration were intense. First published in 1955, his book was all but ignored by the world. “What interest there was centered on the feeling that the author reflected a sincere desire to improve the lot of the Egyptian people through political and socio-economic reforms,” noted Thomas Troy in the book’s foreword.
Three years before publication of the book, Britain, France, Israel, the Soviet bloc, and most Western powers, including the United States, had duly noted the 1952 Nasser-led bloodless Army coup d’etat that resulted in the exile of Egypt’s corrupt and incompetent King Farouk.
These powers were later caught by surprise by the furious path the exuberant Nasser forged for his beloved Egypt in the next 18 years.
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President Gamal Abdel Nasser
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“Philosophy of Revolution” contained the thought processes leading to these deeds. Nasser’s little book sold briskly after he told the West to “go choke on your fury” in a speech following nationalization of the Suez Canal.
Nasser wrote: “When I now try to recall the details of our experience in Palestine [in 1948], I find a curious thing: we were fighting in Palestine, but our dreams were centered in Egypt. Our bullets were aimed at the enemy in his trenches before us, by our hearts hovered over our distant country, which we had left to the care of wolves.” As one of Nasser’s fellow officers lay dying he told his comrades: “The biggest battlefield is in Egypt.”
Nasser and his comrades returned to Egypt following Israel’s rout of the Arab forces in Palestine and planned and carried out the ousting of King Farouk. Having done so, Nasser wrote: “Before July 23rd, I had imagined that the whole nation was ready and prepared, waiting for nothing but a vanguard to lead the charge against the battlements, whereupon it would fall in behind in serried ranks, ready for the sacred advance towards the great objective. And I had imagined that our role was to be this commando vanguard. I though that this role would never take more than a few hours…I heard this all in my imagination, but by sheer faith it seemed real and not the figment of my imagination.
“We needed order, but we found nothing behind us but chaos. We needed unity, but we found nothing behind us but dissension. We needed work, but we found behind us only indolence and sloth. It was from these facts, and no others, that the revolution coined its slogan.
“Every man we questioned had nothing to recommend except to kill someone else. Every idea we listened to was nothing but an attack on some other idea. If we had gone along with everything we heard, we would have killed off all the people and torn down every idea, and there would have been nothing left for us to do but sit down among the corpses and ruins, bewailing our evil fortune and cursing our wretched fate.
Nasser was especially disillusioned with the professors at universities who did not advance any ideas to him and instead, “each confined himself to advancing himself, pointing out his unique fitness for making miracles. Each of them kept glancing at me with the look of one who preferred me to all the treasures of earth and heaven.”
Nasser shared his acute awareness that his country had to pass through two revolutions simultaneously: a political revolution by which Egypt wrested from others the right to govern itself, and a social revolution, “involving the conflict of classes, which settles down when justice is secured for the citizens of the united nations.” Nasser, who was a voracious reader (in English) noted that other peoples in other nations passed through these revolutions centuries apart.
While in high school, he and his classmates shouted from their hearts, but “our shouts only raised dust which was blown by the wind, and produced only weak echoes which shook no mountains and shattered no rocks.”
Then he believed that his positive action should be “to demand that the leaders of Egypt unite to agree upon a single policy.”
But their agreement, when it came, dealt a severe blow to his expectations. The policy upon which they decided was the Treaty of 1936.” This treaty was a military agreement between Britain and Egypt that gave the British exclusive rights to equip and train the Egyptian military, thus enabling the British to protect their economic interests in Egypt and the Suez Canal as well as build as many air bases as they wished.
He wrote: “So many were the projects I made in those days and many were the sleepless nights spent in preparing this long-awaited positive action! Our life during that period was like a thrilling detective story. We had dark secrets and passwords. We lurked in the shadows; we had caches of pistols and hand-grenades, and firing bullets was our cherished hope. We made many attempts in this direction, and I can still remember our emotions and feelings as we dashed along that melodramatic path to its end.”
But he determined that his method must be changed. Assassination as a curative to the problems of Egypt was not the positive action to which he and his friends were dedicated. “The problem has roots that are deep, and is too profound to be approached in this negative way,”
“As I see it, we were like a sick man who had been shut up in a closed room for a long time. The temperature of the closed room rose high until he was almost choked. All of a sudden a storm blew and shattered the door and windows. The currents of cold air rushed in and the perspiring sick body shivered with chill. The sick man was, to be sure, in need of a breath of air, but it was a powerful gale that blew over him. The frail and exhausted body succumbed to fever.
“Waves of thoughts and ideas came over us while we were not yet developed enough to evaluate them. We were still living mentally in the captivity of the 13th century, in spite of a few manifestations of the nineteenth, and afterwards of the twentieth century. Our minds tried to catch up with the caravan of human progress, although we were five centuries or more behind. The pace was fearful and the journey exhausting.
“This was exactly what happened to our society. For us, it was a perilous experience, whereas the Europeans had evolved by an orderly process, gradually bridging the gap between the Renaissance which followed the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century. The stages of evolution there came naturally.
“There is no doubt that this situation is responsible for the lack of a strong and united public opinion in our country. The differences between individuals are great, and between generations they are still greater.
“We live in a society that has not yet taken form. It is still fluid and agitated and has not yet settled down or taken a stabilized shape. It is in the process of an evolution, striving to catch up with those other nations that have preceded us on the road.
Gamal Abdel Nasser was a giant of the twentieth century who curiously is not well-remembered today. He was ahead of his times. The world powers that constantly opposed his attempts to mainstream Egypt into the world while he was alive may long for his forward-looking pragmatic and logical approach compared to the backward-looking Islamist extremism rife in the region today. He accomplished much in spite of his short life.
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Eman Bonnici from findagrave.com
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