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.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

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

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy