Nasser’s Anti-Semitic War against Israel

March 28 2017

Examining the origins of the Six-Day War, Matthias Küntzel points to the anti-Semitic—and pro-Nazi—influences in Gamal Abdel Nasser’s formative years and the Egyptian president’s deeply held beliefs about the Jews. He also points to the role that contacts with Islamists played in shaping this secular leader’s politics:

Nasser was born in 1918. In 1935 or 1936 he became a member of the Young Egypt Society led by Ahmad Hussein—a radical nationalist movement that was pro-Nazi in several respects. . . . In 1937, Nasser entered the [Egyptian] Military Academy. In 1938, the core of the Free Officers movement that would take power in 1952 [under Nasser’s leadership] was formed. When, in 1942, “the Germans were close to Egypt,” recalled [one member of the group], we “thought it our duty to do something against the British. We formed a secret organization in the air force to disrupt and impede the British withdrawal from the Western Desert by sabotaging their lines of communication and supply.”

In 1943, Nasser and some of his military colleagues began holding weekly meetings with Mahmud Labib, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, [which], in the 1930s, . . . had received financial aid from Nazi Germany because of its anti-Semitic orientation. . . . In 1948, the Brotherhood was by far the largest political organization in Egypt, with at least one-million members. . . .

It was not by chance that Egypt [after 1952] became the El Dorado of former Nazi war criminals and [current] anti-Semites. One example is . . . [the] neo-Nazi publisher Helmuth Kramer, [who] received political asylum in Egypt in 1965 after a German court had found him guilty of “spreading Nazi ideas.” According to Kramer, Nasser personally dealt with his asylum request and gave permission for him to continue publishing his books.

Though Nasser denied being . . . “anti-Semitic on a personal level,” he emphasized the great relevance of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for an understanding of world affairs and claimed publicly that “300 Zionists . . . govern the fate of the European continent.” . . . Nasser also denied [the Holocaust] both directly (“No one . . . takes seriously the lie about six-million Jews who were murdered”) and indirectly, by claiming that “Ben-Gurion . . . has killed as many Arabs as Hitler killed Jews.” . . . Nasser’s obsession with the Jewish state was a constant theme of his time in power.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Arab anti-Semitism, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Muslim Brotherhood, Nazism, Six-Day War

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy