Last updated on: 5/16/2008 | Author:

What Is Nasserism and How Is It Related to Both Arab and Palestinian Nationalism?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)


This site was archived on Aug. 3, 2021. The two-state solution is no longer the most popular solution among the jurisdictions involved. A reconsideration of the topic is possible in the future.

Baruch Kimmerling, PhD, Professor of Sociology at Hebrew University, and Joel S. Migdal, PhD, Professor of International Studies at the University of Washington, wrote in their 2003 book The Palestinian People:

“Several years after Nasser’s 1952 revolution, pan-Arabism penetrated the West Bank, along with the rest of the Middle East. Perhaps no Arabs had more to gain than the Palestinians from the denigration of specific [nationalist] loyalties in favor of devotion to broader Arab unity, and they became among pan-Arabism’s most fervent exponents…

Pan-Arabism’s emphasis on national liberation, both social and political, transformed the Palestinian delemma from the particular to the general — it placed this dilemma in the broader historical context of the regeneration of the entire Arab people, their shedding of imperialism’s shackles.”


Avi Shlaim, PhD, Professor of International Relations at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, wrote in his 2001 book The Iron Wall:

“Ever since the Arab League had been founded in 1945, the two main items on its agenda were Arab unity and the Palestine question. The Suez War prompted, or at least enabled, Nasser to merge these two subjects into one. His aim was to forge a cohesive, active, and militant Pan-Arab movement, and he started to present the liberation of Palestine as the principal goal of this movement. In the past he used to talk about the need to find a solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees, whereas after 1956 he began to talk about the liberation of Palestine and took the lead in establishing the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964. He gave the Palestine problem a Pan-Arab dimension and called for mobilizing all the resources of the Arab world for the fight with Israel and countries that supported it. The containment of Israel became a Pan-Arab goal.”


Edward Said, PhD, the late Professor of Literature at Columbia University, in his 1992 book The Question of Palestine, wrote:

“Abdel Nasser was the only leader of his generation to take seriously the idea of Third World anti-imperialism, but even his interest in the left and in the Soviet Union came after he had been rebuffed by the West [1956 Conflict]. This fact, I think, always shaped his politics; it made him a great leader in one way and a very limited figure in another. Like his many followers in the ranks of the Arab political elite, he subordinated the development of a genuinely oppositional national culture at the popular level to the development of a top-heavy national security state whose main opponents included an abstraction called ‘Zionism,’ the Egyptian left, the United States (which Egypt longed to attract), and any Arab leader who did not accept Egyptian hegemony willingly. That is why Marxism never got a strong foothold in Egypt, although it is an interesting fact that during the Nasser years it was Egyptian and Arab culture generally that played a vanguard political role far in advance of the regimes. Nevertheless Nasser was a gigantic figure who despite his flaws awakened Arab national energies from their long quiescence. In the process he made Egypt the focus of the Arab world.”


Albert Hourani, the late Oxford Historian, wrote in his 1991 book A History of the Arab Peoples:

“The Egyptian army officers who took power in 1952, and of whom ‘Abd al-Nasir soon emerged as the unquestioned leader, had a limited program of action… In course of time, however, they acquired a characteristic ideology, which was generally identified with the personality of ‘Abd al-Nasir… The regime of ‘Abd al-Nasir began to think of the country [Egypt] as part of the Arab world, and its natural leader. Its leadership, they believed, should be used in the direction of social revolution: state-ownership or control of the means of production, and the redistribution of income, were essential in order to maximize national strength and to generate mass support for the regime…

In other Arab countries…’Nasirism’ met with a vast and continuing public acceptance. The personality of ‘Abd al-Nasir, the successes of his regime — the political victory of the Suez crisis of 1956, the building of the High Dam, the measures of social reform — and the promise of strong leadership in defense of the Palestinian cause: all these seemed to hold out the hope of a different world, of a united Arab nation rejuvinated by genuine social revolution and taking its rightful place in the world…

Already in the early 1960s there were signs that the claims and pretensions of Nasirism went beyond its power…The limitations of Egyptian and Arab power were shown more decisively in a greater crisis which occurred in 1967, bringing Egypt and other Arab states into direct and disastrous confrontation with Israel. It was inevitable that the dynamics of Nasirist policy should impel ‘Abd al-Nasir into the position of leading champion of the Arabs in what for most of them was the central problem: that of their relations with Israel…

At the end of the fateful week in June 1967 he announced his resignation, but this aroused widespread protests in Egypt and some other Arab countries…Both because of his own stature and because of the recognized position of Egypt, he was the indispensable broker between the Palestinians and those among whom they lived… In 1969, Egyptian intervention brought about an agreement between the Lebanese government and the PLO, which set the limits within which the PLO would be free to operate in southern Lebanon. In the next year, 1970, severe fighting broke out in Jordan between the army and Palestinian guerilla groups which seemed on the point of taking over power in the country…it was the mediation of ‘Abd al-Nasir which made peace between them.

Immediately after this, ‘Abd al-Nasir suddenly died. The extraordinary scenes at his funeral, with millions weeping in the streets, certainly meant something; at least for the moment, it was difficult to imagine Egypt or the Arab world without him. His death was the end of an era of hope for an Arab world united and made new.”