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The Middle East to 1956 Kevin J. Benoy.

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1 The Middle East to 1956 Kevin J. Benoy

2 Two Forces The fate of the Middle East in the 20th Century has been dominated by conflicting movements that drive the politics of the Semitic people – both Arabs and Jews. Pan Arabism and Zionism – and both of them transformed by the great transformative force of the 20th Century – Nationalism.

3 Pan Arabism In its initial period of expansion, Islam was a unified political entity – the Ummah. It later fragmented, first into racial units (Arab, Turk, Persian and other) and later into even smaller sovereign units. A constant theme in at least Arab history has been the dream of re-uniting Arab lands, or even all of Islam.

4 Pan Arabism The dream of unity was further complicated until recent times by the European imperial presence in Africa and the Middle East. In a 1931 Islamic conference in Jerusalem, the participants announced: “The Arab lands are a complete and indivisible whole...all efforts are to be directed towards their complete independence in their entirety and unified.”

5 Pan Arabism The foundation of the Arab League in 1945 was a first step toward this goal – uniting Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen in a common organization. By 1980 it had 20 members, but internal divisions still prevented real political unification of its parts, despite several efforts to achieve integration.

6 Pan Arabism An important proponent of Pan Arabism was the Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, who, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, directed his energies toward unification of Arab lands under the direction of its strongest state – Egypt. Little was achieved of lasting effect, but the tension between nationalism and Arab internationalism is a constant factor in Arab history.

7 Zionism The other key influence in the region, and one diametrically opposed to pan-Arabism, is the notion of establishing a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. Since the diaspora in ancient times, when Jews were forcefully disbursed by the Romans, Jews have sought to re-establish a national homeland in Palestine/Israel.

8 Zionism In the late 19th Century, Jewish communal settlements – farming communities called kibbutzim – were established in Palestine. The first settlement was in 1879 at what is now Tel Aviv. By 1914 there were 40 kibbutzim and the Jewish population of Jerusalem and other Palestinian towns was swelled by immigration.

9 Imperial Control The British, who controlled the Palestinian mandate after WW1, made conflicting war-time promises to Arabs (post-war self-determination) and Jews (a homeland) during the war years. Now they had to balance them.

10 Imperial Control Britain responded to pressure from the Egyptian nationalist Wafd Party by granting independence there in 1922. Trouble in Iraq led to independence there in 1932. Palestine was much more difficult to deal with.

11 Imperial Control Arabs and Jews fought each other and both fought the British. Britain tried to placate the Arab majority by first insisting that a Jewish homeland did not mean a Jewish state. Allowing high levels of Jewish immigration was not enough for the Jews, but it alienated Arabs.

12 Imperial Control At the end of WW1, 93% of Palestinians were Arabs.
By 1939, fully 28% were Jewish. The British plan of 1937 to divide Palestine into 3 states – Arab, Jewish and mixed – remaining under British control – was met with universal condemnation.

13 Imperial Control In 1939, the British sought peace by banning Jewish immigration. WW2 brought a temporary respite as the disgruntled Jews allied themselves with the British against a common foe – Hitler.

14 Imperial Control Arab opinion regarding the war was mixed, though most felt it was none of their business. The Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, who spent the war years in Italy, saw an opportunity to rid Palestine of the British and to deal with the Jews, by supporting Hitler. He even encouraged the founding of a Muslim Waffen SS unit.

15 Imperial Control After the war, the Arab League was formed, having as a goal resistance to the creation of a Jewish state in the region. Arab violence, including the sabotage of oil pipelines, was intended to demonstrate their determination. Jews too resorted to violence as the Irgun Zwei Leumi and the Stern Gang used terrorist tactics to force the British to act.

16 Imperial Control Pressed by the American Zionist lobby, Truman encouraged the British to relax immigration requirements, but Atlee’s government refused. A Wave of Jewish terrorism now swept Palestine, with the blowing up of communication facilities and the King David Hotel – killing over 100.

17 Imperial Control Illegal Jewish immigration was stepped up.
The British were in an intolerable position. In 1947, they announced they were giving up and were passing the problem over to the UN.

18 Partition UNSCOP (United Nations Special Commission on Palestine) recommended a solution much like Britain’s 1937 proposal – though it was more generous to Jews, expanding their zone into the Negev Desert.

19 Partition With no agreement on the part of the Arab Palestinians, the British withdrew anyway. On May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion announced the formation of the Jewish state of Israel. The next day, it was invaded by surrounding Arab countries, with Arabs claiming they were responding to the Irgun and Lehi (Jewish extremist) killing of Palestinian Arabs in the village of Deir Yassin – where 107 of the 600 inhabitants were slaughtered.

20 Partition Egypt invaded from the South-West, Jordan from the East, and Syria and Iraq from the North. The Israeli’s resisted strongly, many having combat experience from WW2. Politically divided and inexperienced, the Arabs had little success. By February, 1949 the Jews drove the Egyptians out, but faced stalemate in the East, having lost much of Jerusalem.

21 Aftermath The ultimate outcome of the war was the complete loss of a Palestinian Arab state. Egypt retained the Gaza Strip and Jordan held the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A million Palestinian Arabs were refugees in neighbouring countries.

22 Aftermath Arab states did little to alleviate the distress of Palestinians within territories they controlled, while those Arabs who found themselves in Israel were now powerless 2nd class citizens in their own homeland.

23 Aftermath Arabs – Palestinians and neighbouring states – did not accept the war’s result as final. For its part, Israel declared itself a Jewish homeland, opening its borders to Jews from any nation.

24 The Suez Crisis This was a complex problem rooted not only in the Arab-Israeli dispute but also in Arab nationalism, European imperialism and Cold War politics.

25 The Suez Crisis Nasser, who came to power in 1954, soon after the overthrow of the unpopular and incompetent King Farouk, sought to unite Arabs in the cause of Pan-Arabism and Palestinian liberation.

26 The Suez Crisis To this end, he organized guerilla groups called fedayeen (self-sacrificers) to launch terrorist attacks against Israel. He also blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba, cutting off trade to the Israeli port of Eilat.

27 The Suez Crisis Nasser also sought to unite his country by fostering nationalist opposition to the continued British presence in the Suez Canal Zone. When the 1936 agreement expired in 1956, he insisted the British leave their base at Suez. He further angered the British by opposing the British-sponsored Baghdad Pact and by pressuring King Hussein of Jordan to dismiss his British Chief of Staff – Sir John Glubb (Glubb Pasha).

28 The Suez Crisis Nasser angered the French by encouraging Arab nationalism in Algeria.

29 The Suez Crisis In late 1955 Nasser shocked the West by signing an arms deal with Czechoslovakia, buying 2nd hand Soviet equipment – planes, tanks and small arms. In 1956, to force him to abandon his new Soviet ties, the US cancelled a $56 million loan for the construction of the Aswan Dam – which was to provide power for industrialization and control the flooding of the Nile River.

30 The Suez Crisis Nasser upped the stakes by announcing nationalization of the Suez Canal – to secure funding for dam construction. Compensation was offered to share holders. The British & French governments were convinced Nasser was bent on creating a pro-communist, anti-Western, pan-Arab state in the Middle East that would threaten the flow of oil to Europe.

31 The Suez Crisis British Prime Minister Anthony Eden regarded Nasser’s Philosophy of the Revolution as paralleling Mein Kampf – a blueprint for foreign conquest. United in opposition to Nasser, the British, French and Israelis held secret negotiations to formulate a plan to bring down Nasser. Eden denied collusion with the Israeli’s, but French Foreign Minister at the time, Pineau, confirmed that Eden lied.

32 The Suez Crisis On October 29, 1956 the Israelis attacked Egypt.
Israeli forces seized the Gaza Strip and struck deeply into the Sinai Peninsula.

33 The Suez Crisis The US proposed a cease fire in the UN Security Council – vetoed by the British and French. Claiming only to be interested in protecting the canal, the British and French sent Israelis and Egyptians an ultimatum demanding that they withdraw from the canal’s vicinity.

34 The Suez Crisis British and French bombers attacked Egyptian airfields on October 31 . On November 5, Anglo-French forces landed at Port Said.

35 The Suez Crisis Nasser called for UN help – and also blocked the canal by sinking ships in it. The Soviet Union went further, threatening nuclear attacks on the aggressor nations. Though the Americans made it known that they would not tolerate an attack on Paris or London – they made no such assurance about Israel.

36 The Suez For once, the US and the USSR were united in opposition to something. With the support of most UN states, they called for an end to hostilities and withdrawal of British, French and Israeli troops. After not handling events before the crisis well (it being an election year), the US was anxious not to have a situation allowing expanded Soviet influence in the Middle East.

37 The Suez Crisis Adopting a plan brokered by Canada’s Lester Pearson, the UN called for the placement of UN forces to police the Israeli/Egyptian frontier – reducing the fedayeen threat to Israel and protect the canal. With this face-saving measure in place, the aggressors withdrew – though not before the Israeli’s destroyed Egyptian military installations in the Gaza Strip and Sinai. Egypt promised not to resume its blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba.

38 Aftermath of the Crisis
Far from humiliating Nasser and causing his downfall, the British & French added to his prestige in the Arab world. The blocking of the canal led to reduction in oil shipments to Europe and made gasoline rationing necessary for a time.

39 Aftermath of the Crisis
The pro-British Premier of Iraq, Nuri-es-Said now faced huge opposition and was murdered in 1958. The French position in Algeria was further undermined, culminating in independence in 1962. British and French interest were undermined throughout the Arab world.

40 Aftermath of the Crisis
Nasser became an Arab celebrity, with supporters throughout the Arab World. Pan-Arabism grew. In 1958, Syria joined with Egypt to form the United Arab Republic, with Nasser as President. The experiment failed, however, as Syrians came to resent Egyptian domination.

41 Aftermath of the Conflict
The USSR gained enormously from its assistance to Egypt. For the first time, it had a client state in the Middle East – compensating it for its loss of influence in Iran at the end of WW2. As the USA moved closer to Israel, many Arab states turned to the Soviets for help.

42 finis

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