Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Cynical Use of the Palestinian Cause

During his long rule over Egypt, from the early 1950s until his death in 1970, Gamal Abdel Nasser was one of the most influential figures in the Arab world. The leading proponent of “pan-Arabism,” he spoke often of the need to destroy the Jewish state, and engaged in three wars against it, the second of which—the Six-Day War of 1967—ended in catastrophic defeat. While he remains very popular among Palestinians, Michael Sharnoff writes, his engagement with their concerns appears to have been wholly opportunistic:

Nasser’s endorsement of the Palestinian cause was not particularly motivated by concern for Palestinian national rights, for pan-Arabism viewed the Palestinians not as a distinct nation deserving a state of its own, but as an integral part of the prospective unified Arab state. [In 1956], Nasser told a Western journalist, “The Palestinians are useful to the Arab states as they are. . . . Can you imagine yet another nation on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean!”

Whatever his true sentiments about the Palestinians, Nasser was keenly aware that winning the pan-Arab mantle required escalating his anti-Israel rhetoric and policies as this ideology rejected the existence of a Jewish state on what it considered a part of the “pan-Arab patrimony.”

In yet other instances, Nasser’s propaganda contained straightforward anti-Jewish bigotry. In 1965, for example, the Egyptian information department circulated an anti-Semitic tract in Africa titled, “Israel, The Enemy of Africa,” which vilified Judaism and denigrated Jews as “cheats, thieves, and murderers.” . . . For its part, the journal of the Egyptian military described freemasons as a secret Jewish society seeking to eliminate Christianity by “luring young Christians into the arms of Jewesses and into moral ruin.”

No less importantly, in 1964, Nasser created, with Soviet assistance, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and appointed the Lebanese-born Ahmad Shukeiri, a former Syrian and Saudi ambassador to the UN, as its chairman. On the face of it, this was a bold move to promote the Palestinian national cause; in fact, it was a shrewd ploy to give the Egyptian president full control of this cause, as Yasir Arafat’s rival Fatah organization, established a few years earlier, quickly pointed out.

By 1969, a year before Nasser’s death, Arafat would take over the PLO. As for Nasser, Sharnoff notes that he engaged in a number of negotiations where he appeared willing to abandon the Palestinians in exchange for territory.

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Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Palestinians, PLO, Yasir Arafat

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter