Fifty years after his death, the legacy of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser is still the subject of heated discussions, especially whenever a controversy over certain issues such as normalization with Israel surfaced.
There are those who see him as a “symbol of dignity, Arab unity and anti-colonialism,” and there are those who accuse him of “tyranny and abuse his opponents” and hold him responsible for a heavy defeat.
In the following lines, we will learn about the most important milestones in the life of Abdel Nasser, who remains one of the most prominent political figures in the modern history of the Middle East.
His early years
Gamal Abdel Nasser was born in the city of Alexandria in 1918 into a simple family that traces its origins to Upper Egypt. His father was an employee of the Postal Authority. He moved with his family between several governorates of Egypt by virtue of his father’s work. He started his political activities at an early age, participating in student demonstrations against British colonialism, one of which was hit in the head, leaving a scar on his forehead.
His student activity prevented him from joining the Military College at first, so he studied at the College of Law for a few months, then tried again and was accepted into the Military College and graduated in 1938 after only 17 months had passed due to the rush to graduate officers’ batches at that time.
“Palestine is not a strange land”
Immediately after his graduation, Gamal Abdel Nasser joined the infantry and served in various locations between Upper Egypt, Al-Alamein and Sudan. During this period, he became acquainted with his colleagues with whom he later established the Free Officers Organization, and he was also appointed as a teacher at the War College.
Abdel Nasser participated in the Palestine War in 1948, volunteering first and then within the ranks of the Egyptian army, when the Arab countries launched a military attack to expel the Jewish militias from Palestine after the end of the British mandate, and the issuance of a United Nations decision to divide Palestine into two Jewish and Arab states.
In the book “Philosophy of the Revolution”, which was published in 1954, Abdel Nasser says about his volunteering among the fedayeen in Palestine before entering Egypt the 1948 war: “When the Palestine crisis began, I was convinced in my depths that fighting in Palestine is not a fight in a strange land, and it is not a drive behind A passion, but it is a duty required by self-defense. “
It is believed that this war, which ended with the Israeli army controlling most of the Negev region and the encirclement of the Egyptian forces stationed near the town of Fallujah, north of Gaza, were among the reasons for the Free Officers organization’s revolution in July 1952, which ended the rule of the Muhammad Ali family in Egypt, in light of what was raised about Violations marred arms deals for the army during that period.
The end of the rule of the Muhammad Ali family
In the summer of 1949, an executive committee of Free Officers was formed under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser, and on July 23, 1952, units of the army moved in loyalty to the organization and King Farouk was forced to abdicate the throne and leave the country. In 1953, a decision was issued by the Revolutionary Command Council to abolish the monarchy and declare the republic, and to assign the presidency of the republic to Muhammad Najib.
In 1953, Abdel Nasser led the Egyptian delegation to negotiate the final withdrawal of British forces from Egypt, and a year later an agreement was signed between Gamal Abdel Nasser, in his capacity as Prime Minister of Egypt and Anthony Natting, British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and this agreement stipulated that the British completely evacuate Egypt within Twenty months and the expiration of the alliance treaty that was signed in London in 1936.
And after a referendum held in June 1956, Nasser assumed the presidency, after Muhammad Najib was placed under house arrest due to the growing differences between him and the Revolutionary Command Council.
Supporters of Abdel Nasser believe that he has sided with the poor with his socialist policies, while his critics accuse him of launching “repression” campaigns against his opponents and hold him responsible for destroying political and party life in Egypt for decades by dissolving parties and adopting a one-party policy.
The nationalization of the canal inaugurates a new phase
The nationalization of the Suez Canal and the subsequent use by Britain, France and Israel of military force against Egypt in what was known as the “tripartite aggression”, inaugurated a new stage in the rule of Abdel Nasser. The former Egyptian, after the end of the “tripartite aggression”, under international pressure, to consolidate his image as an anti-dependency leader and supporter of liberation movements in the region and supporter of peoples’ independence.
Abdel Nasser played a pivotal role in establishing the Non-Aligned Movement, whose first conference was held in Belgrade in 1961, and its main goal was to move away from Cold War policies and the polarization prevailing at the time between the Western and Eastern camps. Nasser is considered one of the early founders of the movement, with Indian Prime Minister Nehru, Yugoslav President Tito and Indonesian President Sukarno.
Abdel Nasser supported the liberation movements in the African continent, out of his belief in Africa being “a pivotal circle for Egypt,” and he also contributed to the efforts at that time to form the Organization of African Unity, which was based in Addis Ababa, and from the liberated countries as its nucleus.
Gamal Abdel Nasser has always been seen as one of the proponents of the idea of Arab nationalism based on his belief that “the Arab circle is the most important and most closely connected circuit with Egypt”, so he was able to achieve unity between Egypt and Syria in 1958 (under the name of the United Arab Republic), even if it soon broke apart after Three years.
Abdel Nasser also supported the Iraqi army’s revolution against the monarchy in 1958, and he had a prominent role in supporting the Algerian revolution, as well as the Yemeni revolution in 1962.
The decision to send troops to Yemen remains the subject of fierce criticism so far, as many saw it as a waste of the country’s resources and overstretching the army on the foothills of the mountains of Yemen, considering that one of the reasons behind the Egyptian army’s defeat by Israel in June 1967.
In the first Arab summit conference in 1964, which was called by Gamal Abdel Nasser, the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization was declared, “a leadership mobilized for the forces of the Palestinian Arab people to fight the liberation battle, a shield for the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people, and a path to victory.”
The June 1967 war came as the biggest setback in the path of Abdel Nasser and his Arab nationalist project, as the Israeli forces were able to carve out the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Syrian Golan.
Abdel Nasser did not find it seemed after the announcement of his resignation from his post and to assume responsibility for the defeat, but he retreated the next day after demonstrations that refused to step down.
The last stop in Abdel Nasser’s life was the Arab Summit Conference in 1970 (which was held exceptionally in the wake of what is known as “Black September”). He died after his last day of a heart attack on September 28. /September.