How Napoleon Transformed the Middle East

Last spring, the 200th anniversary of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death brought much reflection on his legacy, but little was said about his lasting impact on the Middle East. Even in the Arab world itself, the debate about his significance—which is not so different from that within Europe—has faded somewhat. But without a doubt, the three years that the French emperor spent conquering Egypt and launching attacks into Ottoman Palestine changed the region forever. Stephane Cohen writes:

Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt was marked by key events like the battle of the Pyramids, but Napoleon’s forces also battled in Jaffa and Acre, and fought and defeated superior Ottoman forces in the Galilee, in battles near Mount Tabor (near Nazareth) and on the Jordan River. Napoleon’s campaign in the Galilee in the spring of 1799 led to clear French victories, and yet, Acre continued to resist the French siege and assaults. On May 17, 1799, after the defenders had received help from the British and the eighth attack on Acre’s walls by French forces proved inconclusive, Napoleon realized he couldn’t succeed. With his army suffering from disease, Napoleon decided to lift the siege on Acre and return to Egypt with a demoralized army.

Napoleon’s campaigns in Egypt and Syria are recognized as the beginning of the modern period in Middle Eastern history. . . . Napoleon’s occupation did not modernize Egyptian society, [but] created a political vacuum in Egypt. Following the French withdrawal, Mohammad Ali Pasha soon filled the vacuum and began laying the foundations for modern Egypt that later would play such an essential role in the history of the Middle East. Furthermore, it led Britain to secure dominions to protect its Indian possessions against any possible attacks by land. Catalyzed by Napoleon’s campaign, the “awakening” movement—known as the Nahda (or “renaissance”), an Arab cultural and intellectual movement—flourished in many parts of the Middle East throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, with Cairo, Istanbul, Beirut, and Tunis, as its focal points.

Read more at Dayan Center

More about: Arab World, Middle East, Napoleon Bonaparte

Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security