Gamal Abdel Nasser was modern Egypt’s most successful leader having led the 1952 Egyptian Revolution against a corrupt monarchy before becoming President in 1956. Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal led to a joint “Israeli”, French and British invasion that same year, which ended in embarrassment for the colonial powers as both the USSR and US called for a withdrawal of the invading forces. Nasser proceeded to increase living standards due to massive public infrastructure programmes including the building of the Aswan High Dam, while creating new educational and employment opportunities for all Egyptians, including women, for the first time in modern history.
Nasser was the leading exponent of pan-Arab Nationalism which called for the re-unification of the Arab world into a single republic. Egypt and Syria briefly formed a United Arab Republic between 1958 and 1961, while Nasser remained a champion of secular Arabism throughout his life, including in his final years when he became a mentor to the young Libyan revolutionary Muammar Gaddafi. Nasser also helped to found the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961 and along with Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito, became an important figure in a group which refused to directly ally itself with any of the major geopolitical blocs of the Cold War.
Today, while Egypt has been able to successfully overthrow an extremist Muslim Brotherhood regime which briefly ruled the country between 2012 and 2013, the Egypt of today is hardly like that of President Nasser. While Egypt under Nasser was the undisputed political leader of the Arab world, today, Cairo is deeply reliant on Saudi investments to stay solvent. Likewise, while Egypt under Nasser called for resistance to Zionism, other forms of imperialism and religious extremism, today’s Egypt has diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv and hardly says anything about Arab unity nor about Palestinian freedom.
However, President Nasser’s youngest son, Abdel Hakim Nasser, remains a leading figure in calls for increased Arab unity on the progressive basis championed by his father. The younger Nasser stood up to the Muslim Brotherhood regime in 2013, leading to its eventual collapse, while slamming US intervention in Syria and calling for a pan-Arab solution to the conflict.
Today, he has lambasted the Gulf Cooperation Council for their recent joint condemnation of the Lebanese Resistance party Hezbollah. The younger Nasser stated,
“How could a resistance (movement) like Hezbollah be called a terrorist entity, while it is one of the largest anti-Zionist resistance movements in the region and it has always been attacked by the Israeli enemy throughout its history because of the group’s acts of sacrifice and resistance”.
Just as his father did, Abdel Hakim Nasser realises that so long as the Arab world is at war with itself over petty sectarian considerations, “Israel”, the US and others will continue to exploit these tensions for their own gain while leaving the Arab world poorer and more riddled with conflict.
If there was a country called The United Arab Republic, incorporating the entire Arab world, it would be the third largest country in the world in terms of population and it would cover some of the world’s most desirable, resource rich and strategically placed geography. Such a country could not be easily pushed around by anyone, nor could it be so easily manipulated by Zionist machinations, as smaller Arab states are on a frequent basis.
This was Gamal Abdel Nasser’s dream: to restore the once politically united Arab world as a single sovereign unit, while accounting for local traditions – all under the umbrella of modern, secular, tolerant, multi-faith progressiveism. Later this month, when Egypt goes to the polls, the guaranteed outcome will be a victory for incumbent President el-Sisi, a man who is best described as deeply compromised.
While a man who is literally “a new Nasser” Abdel Hakim Nasser is not participating in elections, one can only imagine how different Egypt’s and the Arab world’s future could be if he were.