History - Gamal Abdu l-Nasser

(Alexandria 1918- Cairo 1970)
Egyptian president 1954-1970. Nasser came from a modest background as a son of a postman.
He got his education from the Military Academy 1938- 39. He participated in the war against Israel in 1948 as a major.

In 1949 he joined the Free Officers, who plotted against the non-constitutional British all- pervasive presence, the landowning elite and the weak and morally corrupt king. The Free Officers were responsible for the coup that deposed King Faruk from the throne in 1952, and it was Nasser who was the real leader, yet he still remained in the background. After a long fight over power with President Naguib he ousted him in the second attempt, on November 14, allegedly for having known of the Muslim Brotherhood's attempt on Nasser's life in the month before.
Soon after taking power Nasser negotiated an agreement with the British, ending their 72- year presence in Egypt. After being officially elected president in 1956, he also promulgated a new constitution, that gave the presidency more power.

Nasser's political system was called Arab socialism. With this program he confiscated 243,000 hectares (2,430 kmĀ²) farm land from a small group of rich landowners. Later on in his presidency he nationalized banks and industries. In 1956 USA and Britain withdrew a promised support for the construction of a new Aswan Dam, and Nasser responded with nationalization of the Suez Canal Company, as he wanted to finance the construction of the dam with the income from tolls on the traffic on the canal.



The nationalization of the Suez Canal was met by an Israeli invasion of the Sinai peninsula and an Anglo-French invasion of the Canal Zone. But the invading forces were put under pressure from the UN, and had to withdraw. Egypt kept the full ownership of the Suez Canal, and managed also to get Soviet support for the construction of the dam, which was completed 14 years later. Following this, Nasser rose to stardom in the Arab world.

In 1958 Egypt and Syria formed the United Arab Republic, with Nasser as the head. This was at this time considered as the first step towards Arab unity. When it broke up in 1961, after a coup in Syria, Nasser kept the name United Arab Republic even if it was only Egypt left. This was meant as a symbol for his aspirations of Arab unity (the name was changed the year after his death).
Nasser's ideas were laid down in his book of 1959, The Philosophy of the Revolution.

He precipitated the third war with Israel, when he in 1967 both expelled United Nations peace keeping forces from the Gaza Strip and blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba for traffic on Israel's port Eilat. But when Israel attacked Egypt on June 5, it was so strongly the first day that Egypt was in reality beaten already. Still the fightings continued for five more days more. The only effective action of the Egyptians was to close the Suez Canal for all ships.

The humiliation of Egypt was so deep that Nasser offered to resign, but the people demonstrated in such numbers in his favour, that he continued, and also took the position as prime minister. From this time on Nasser's government became increasingly dependent on military and economic aid from the Soviet Union.
Nasser died on September 28. 1970 of heart attack, while still in office.


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