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Nasser: The Last Arab: A Biography

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Since the death of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970 there has been no ideology to capture the imagination of the Arab world except Islamic fundamentalism. Any sense of completely secular Arab states ended with him and what we see today happening in the Middle East is a direct result of Western opposition to Nasser's strategies and ideals. Nasser is a fascinatin Since the death of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970 there has been no ideology to capture the imagination of the Arab world except Islamic fundamentalism. Any sense of completely secular Arab states ended with him and what we see today happening in the Middle East is a direct result of Western opposition to Nasser's strategies and ideals. Nasser is a fascinating figure fraught with dilemmas. With the CIA continually trying to undermine him, Nasser threw his lot in with the Soviet Union, even though he was fervently anti-Communist. Nasser wanted to build up a military on par with Israel's, but didn't want either the '56 or '67 wars. This was a man who was a dictator, but also a popular leader with an ideology which appealed to most of the Arab people and bound them together. While he was alive, there was a brief chance of actual Arab unity producing common, honest, and incorruptible governments throughout the region. More than ever, the Arab world is anti-Western and teetering on disaster, and this examination of Nasser's life is tantamount to understanding whether the interests of the West and the Arab world are reconcilable. Nasser is a definitive and engaging portrait of a man who stood at the center of this continuing clash in the Middle East.


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Since the death of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970 there has been no ideology to capture the imagination of the Arab world except Islamic fundamentalism. Any sense of completely secular Arab states ended with him and what we see today happening in the Middle East is a direct result of Western opposition to Nasser's strategies and ideals. Nasser is a fascinatin Since the death of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970 there has been no ideology to capture the imagination of the Arab world except Islamic fundamentalism. Any sense of completely secular Arab states ended with him and what we see today happening in the Middle East is a direct result of Western opposition to Nasser's strategies and ideals. Nasser is a fascinating figure fraught with dilemmas. With the CIA continually trying to undermine him, Nasser threw his lot in with the Soviet Union, even though he was fervently anti-Communist. Nasser wanted to build up a military on par with Israel's, but didn't want either the '56 or '67 wars. This was a man who was a dictator, but also a popular leader with an ideology which appealed to most of the Arab people and bound them together. While he was alive, there was a brief chance of actual Arab unity producing common, honest, and incorruptible governments throughout the region. More than ever, the Arab world is anti-Western and teetering on disaster, and this examination of Nasser's life is tantamount to understanding whether the interests of the West and the Arab world are reconcilable. Nasser is a definitive and engaging portrait of a man who stood at the center of this continuing clash in the Middle East.

30 review for Nasser: The Last Arab: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Zak

    Interesting bio of an Egyptian leader who had a dream of uniting the Arabian Peninsula and maybe even parts of Africa under a kind of federation. Although he had great oratorical skills and mass support among fellow Arabs, as well as the right ideals, he simply did not know how to go about achieving his vision. This is a true life story of missed opportunities. Time and again he was thwarted by a combination of internal and external forces, including western powers that were apprehensive about a Interesting bio of an Egyptian leader who had a dream of uniting the Arabian Peninsula and maybe even parts of Africa under a kind of federation. Although he had great oratorical skills and mass support among fellow Arabs, as well as the right ideals, he simply did not know how to go about achieving his vision. This is a true life story of missed opportunities. Time and again he was thwarted by a combination of internal and external forces, including western powers that were apprehensive about a united Arab power structure and its effects on the vital flow of oil. Before this, I didn't know that Egypt and Syria were once joined together as the United Arab Republic, with Iraq nearly entering the fold as well. And then everything started to fall apart. The book itself was a bit repetitive and could have done with some judicious editing but I appreciated the information gleaned from it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    مصطفى

    يؤسس الكاتب لسيرة عبدالناصر، بدءًا من طفولته، ووضعه الإجتماعي بين عائلته، وتناوبه على السفر والعيش بين محافظات القطر المصري وكيف أثر هذا في صناعة جمال عبدالناصر، تظهر لنا تلك السيرة الموضوعية تحولات هامة في شخصية عبدالناصر، وتجيب عن أسئلة تتعلق بالجدل الذي دوماً ما دار وأثير حوله، دموية عبدالناصر وحقيقتها، ديكتاتورية عبدالناصر وتبلورها ومحطاتها، ويلقي الكاتب بالنظر على البيئة السياسية الملكية التي أخرجت عبدالناصر، وتسليط الضوء على الحياة الحزبية والفساد السياسي المصري في الحقبة الملكية، وحادثة 1 يؤسس الكاتب لسيرة عبدالناصر، بدءًا من طفولته، ووضعه الإجتماعي بين عائلته، وتناوبه على السفر والعيش بين محافظات القطر المصري وكيف أثر هذا في صناعة جمال عبدالناصر، تظهر لنا تلك السيرة الموضوعية تحولات هامة في شخصية عبدالناصر، وتجيب عن أسئلة تتعلق بالجدل الذي دوماً ما دار وأثير حوله، دموية عبدالناصر وحقيقتها، ديكتاتورية عبدالناصر وتبلورها ومحطاتها، ويلقي الكاتب بالنظر على البيئة السياسية الملكية التي أخرجت عبدالناصر، وتسليط الضوء على الحياة الحزبية والفساد السياسي المصري في الحقبة الملكية، وحادثة 1942 وحرب 1948 وآثارهم في تشكيل الضباط الأحرار، وتبلور أفكار ناصر التحررية في شكلها الأخير، وصناعته منها لحركة حقيقية تهدف لتغيير مصائر البلاد، يحاول الكاتب أن يتناول بموضوعية الأحداث الشائكة، والتي يختلف الناس على عبدالناصر فيها متطرفين إما في التحيز أو المجابهة، فحادثة الصراع الشهير بين عبدالناصر ونجيب، قد أوفاها الكاتب حقها من تحليل الأبعاد والأسباب التي حكمت فكر كل شخص، والتحالفات التي عقدها كل منهما ومبرراته للسيطرة على حكم مصر، ويتبع الكاتب هذا النهج الموضوعي في كل قضايا الكتاب الأخرى، ما يميز أسلوب الكاتب أيضاً أنه لا يتوقف حد السرد، ولكنه يستخلص من خط سير الأحداث رؤية ووجهة نظر معينة يعبر عنها بين السطور ولا تكاد تخفى على القارئ ويصعب عليه استنتاجها، يتجاهل الكاتب في كتابه عبدالناصر داخلياً، ولا أعلم أتعمد هذا أم لأ، فهو يتحدث عن دولة ناصر الإقتصادية والإجتماعية والسياسية على مضض، ويمكن النظر للكتاب بوصفه سيرة لعبدالناصر إقليمياً وليس محلياً، وعلاقاته مع الأحلاف وإسرائيل وأمريكا والسوفييت والاستعمار ومواقفه من القضايا التي حكمت العرب والشرق الأوسط في عهده، ولكنه لا يتطرق للحديث كثيراً عن مصر تحت حكم عبدالناصر، إلا في صراعات عبدالناصر مع الإخوان المسلمين والشيوعيين وعبدالحكيم عامر، وهذا لما لها من تأثير في صياغة وحكم تحولات عبدالناصر الإقليمية وتعاملاته في إدارة الملفات والقضايا العربية، ويحلل الكاتب فكر عبدالناصر القومي وقضايا الجمهورية المتحدة وعلاقة ذلك الفكر بالثورات العربية من حوله وأنظمة الحكم التقدمية والرجعية، الكتاب كتب بلغة أدبية رائعة، وأحياناً تثير الحزن والألم، وهو يعد بمثابة وثيقة وتأريخاً لقضايا العرب في تلك الحقبة، وليس ناصر فقط، وأعتقد أن لهذا علاقة بتسميته عبدالناصر كآخر العرب، فلا أعتقد أن شخصاً امتلك ذلك الحضور في وطنه، وآثر في تلك الجموع، وكانت مواقفه لها تلك التأثيرات القوية والمصيرية، مثل ناصر، فكما يقول أحد الشعراء العراقيين، كان عظيم المجد والأخطاء، وللأسف، كان عبدالناصر عاطفياً تجاه بطانته وحاشيته، وأعتقد أن هذا دق مسماراً في نعشه كثيراً، ولكن، تعيش يا أبا خالد، تعيش

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tim Pendry

    As a 2004 biography of Gamel Abdel Nasser from a well known Arab journalist, this is worth reading for insights into events that have taken place much more recently in Egypt and the wider region. Aburish expresses ambivalence towards this curious character, a romantic idealist whose personal conduct as a dictator was (unless you were Muslim Brotherhood or Communist) better than most. Aburish's Arab heart seems to appreciate that Nasser represented an emotive restoration of dignity to a people who As a 2004 biography of Gamel Abdel Nasser from a well known Arab journalist, this is worth reading for insights into events that have taken place much more recently in Egypt and the wider region. Aburish expresses ambivalence towards this curious character, a romantic idealist whose personal conduct as a dictator was (unless you were Muslim Brotherhood or Communist) better than most. Aburish's Arab heart seems to appreciate that Nasser represented an emotive restoration of dignity to a people who had been denied respect over a long period of Turkish, French and British imperial control. On the other hand, although his last years showed some ability to function effectively within the rules of the game, his story is one, fundamentally, of failure and not just because of imperial opposition. Aburish writes of him as a man 'whose heart was in the right place but whose policies were too weak to cope with the problems he faced', an autodidact small town dreamer. He is right. But one should not be too harsh. It is unlikely that any man could have done much better. Sadat and Mubarak clearly failed to resolve any of the problems he faced, merely intensifying thuggish dictatorship. By the end of the book, we are, if we have a heart, faced with the same ambivalence to him as Aburish. If only, if only, we say ... and then find the 'if onlys' multiply to meaninglessness. On the one hand, the man was just another Arab dictator in a culture that has still (today) not really got past the stage of relying on pashas, tribal leaders and autocratic dynasts. On the other, he at least tried to reflect the will of the people and made real efforts to modernise his country (with some success) despite the traditionalist obscurantists - and was only tactically brutal. Much of the problem here is central to the Arab condition. Autocratic leadership is accompanied by a complete lack of an institutional learning process to create administrative capability. Such leadership is also used to surrounding itself with a court of friends that are judged on friendship and loyalty and not on competence or shared vision. The result is inherent instability. Nasser retained power because he had one unusual skill and one new tool - he could speak to the crowd as Churchill could in another era and, like Goebbels and FDR, he had radio to spread his message. The army too often becomes the only structure where some form of capability meets vision but, here too, Nasser was ill served by his own generosity and lack of interest in the quality of his colleagues. He was thus a very Arab leader, with all the strengths and weakness of the culture, and it is valuable to have an experienced Arab journalist interpret him for us. Indeed, there are times when Aburish goes a little native, not so much in his sentiments as in his style, with repetitions for emphasis and the fluctuations of heart and mind that are intrinsic to the culture. Indeed, the book is fascinating until the end of the Suez gamble, about half way through the story, when the decline in Nasser's mission sets in and seems to be reflected in Aburish's suddenly heavier style. To his credit. he avoids blaming everyone but the Arabs themselves for the catalogue of errors that we see in the book, also a history of the region from the Free Officers coup to the rise of the PLO. There is sorrow rather than anger as tribal interests, ideology, egos, the superior cohesion of the Israelis, Western ambitions and corrupt and decadent elites create the unending mayhem we know so well. But this is not to exonerate the West at all. The behaviour of the CIA is interesting not only for its despicability but for its lack of political accountability at home - still going on in the region today. CIA involvement in drawing up death lists for the Baathist coup (that was eventually to lead to the 'regime' of Saddam Hussein) against Kassem in 1963 makes a mockery of US moral claims to leadership. The West was involved in assassination as strategy and instrument of policy. Only fools really believe that there is much moral content to Western decision-making as we hurtle towards war in the Ukraine! The book is also a sustained critique of Western support for Political Islam which started much earlier than most believe and which has been an own goal of no less standing than has been the Saddam one. In assessing the successes (rhetorical) and failures (practical) of 'Nasserism' - Arab nationalism - its culturally-sensitive secularism was the baby that got thrown out with the bath water. The relationship between an essentially conservative Nasserism, the more radical Baathism and Communism with Political Islam is a story of incommensurate ideologies manipulated by outside powers. Perhaps only Nasser, based on the instinct of a modernising soldier recalling his small town background, saw the danger in Political Islam if it was allowed to take hold if ever Arab nationalism failed. Ghaddafi attempted another solution, of course, which was to incorporate Islam within a revolutionary national socialist model but the Baathist model of secularism jettisoned culture altogether. Instead of understanding that Arab Nationalism was a potentially progressive and collaborative force, the West, the British in particular, did everything they could to undermine it. Progressive for Arabs but also progressive in order to reach some form of equitable relationship with the West - this demand for equity, respect and dignity seems to have been dismissed out of hand. The Western tool in the war against communism (the primary driver of Western foreign policy) and Arab nationalism alike was Islamism which is not to be confused with Islam (Nasser was a sincere Muslim). The book is worth reading just to remind ourselves of the foolish decisions made by 'our side' against secularism that ultimately led to bloody civil war in Syria and counter-revolution in Egypt. As I write this, dimilar decision-makers seem to be teetering on the edge of yet another global war (the Ukraine) so questions have to be asked about their competence to rule over the long run of history. This is not to exonerate Nasser himself from egregious blunders and often being all mouth and no trousers but the resistance to what he stood for was undemocratic and ignorant. There were ample opportunities to work with rather than against those who spoke for real popular sentiment and feeling ('dignity' above all) and still draw appropriate red lines - even over Israel. Underhand subversion by adventurers, failing to appoint and listen to seriously effective diplomats, obsession with communism and working with obscurantists in preference to secularists were crimes. Nasser was a romantic failure, a creature of his culture, an inspiration perhaps still to many Arabs but ultimately a lesson in there being no substitute for political discipline and capacity.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Was Nasser the last Arab? Weird. But no, this is a hagiography. Nasser is the last Arab in the sense that nobody is worthy to be called an Arab. A statement that is damn close to what the Islamists say about not being worthy if you are not ready to die for the cause. What makes things easier for me, is that Aburish has such a simple mind. > The Hashemites had, and have, "Made in the West" stamped on their rule. Left with only poor Jordan, they continue to depend on out­ side powers to survive. So s Was Nasser the last Arab? Weird. But no, this is a hagiography. Nasser is the last Arab in the sense that nobody is worthy to be called an Arab. A statement that is damn close to what the Islamists say about not being worthy if you are not ready to die for the cause. What makes things easier for me, is that Aburish has such a simple mind. > The Hashemites had, and have, "Made in the West" stamped on their rule. Left with only poor Jordan, they continue to depend on out­ side powers to survive. So somehow the taxpayers from other countries owe the 10% of the Islamic tax to the Arab leaders. > Although he and his advisers lacked experience, a Saud-sponsored, full-fledged, stupid attempt was made to assassinate Nasser immediately after the UAR came into being in February 1958.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Irfan

    A drag of a read. Repetitive. Aburish cannot hide his adoration of Nasser, even justifying the unjustifiable deeeds of this dictator.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Robert Maisey

    Nasser: The Last Arab is an emotionally charged, fast paced biography on one of the most important world leaders of the 20th century. Nasser was one of the three tallest pillars of the non-aligned movement (alongside Tito and Nehru) during the Cold War and, perhaps more than anyone, embodied in himself the politics of Arab liberation. In rich, arresting tones, Said Aburish paints a picture of Nasser as a man divided between an idealist, a pragmatist and a tyrant. The author implicitly positions h Nasser: The Last Arab is an emotionally charged, fast paced biography on one of the most important world leaders of the 20th century. Nasser was one of the three tallest pillars of the non-aligned movement (alongside Tito and Nehru) during the Cold War and, perhaps more than anyone, embodied in himself the politics of Arab liberation. In rich, arresting tones, Said Aburish paints a picture of Nasser as a man divided between an idealist, a pragmatist and a tyrant. The author implicitly positions himself as the conscience of the Arab people, particularly the conscience of the anti-Islamist "Arab from the street and souk", and moves sharply between lavish praise of this towering leader, bordering on adulation, to sharp criticism of Nasser's personal failures and squandered opportunities. In many ways it feels like Aburish's appraisal of Nasser is also an appraisal of the entire Arab people. He points out the Arab inclination to place all their aspirations onto the persons of their leaders, and in telling the story of the most pronounced example of such a person since Mohamed and Saladin (the authors words) he implicitly critiques an entire people. This is an enjoyable book and more than just a simple biography, although I advise interested readers to seek out the writing of Nasser's journalist friend and propagandist par excellencé, Mohamed Heikal. Heikal's views are referenced liberally throughout, and his own memoirs give an excellent history of Nasser and his era from the perspective of the centre looking outwards, rather than that of an outsider looking in. It is a sad thing that we here in the West we don't study the life and deeds of Gamel Abdul Nasser more often, and that he is only a marginal figure if he is considered at all. The staggering importance of the man to the great majority of the world's population, not simply Arabs but all the newly liberated peoples of the 20th century, cannot be overstated. Those wishing to step over the political barricades of European exceptionalism could do much worse than starting here. So too those who wish to understand the political character of the Arab world outside of reactionary Islamism.

  7. 4 out of 5

    NizarBK

    It is a detailed biography of a man who had great dreams for the Arab people. The author recounts the different stages of Gamal Abdel Nasser's life and points out at the changes in his personality in each of these stages, the change from Nasser the young conservative to Nasser the ambitious revolutionary to Nasser the traditional and realistic Arab leader. After providing a thorough explanation of the events that had occured during his reign, the author correctly concludes that Nasser's failure It is a detailed biography of a man who had great dreams for the Arab people. The author recounts the different stages of Gamal Abdel Nasser's life and points out at the changes in his personality in each of these stages, the change from Nasser the young conservative to Nasser the ambitious revolutionary to Nasser the traditional and realistic Arab leader. After providing a thorough explanation of the events that had occured during his reign, the author correctly concludes that Nasser's failure to achieve most of his plans was simply because his ambitions were unattainable, more of dreams than ambitions. Despite his acknowledgement of the external and internal contributions to his multiple defeats in different arenas, the author exaggerates in holding him responsible for his different failires in egypt and in the Arab world.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Isakree

    I am not the biggest fan of biographies, but still I read them for whatever reason. I think non-fiction is always worse than fiction, but it's cool to get some knowledge from your reading. I picked this book up because Gamal Abdel Nasser is my revolutionary for the research essay we're doing in Global History. And I'm just going to go ahead and say that I think this book was kind of boring, but filled with nice information, so now I can go around and brag about me knowing lot's of stuff about Nas I am not the biggest fan of biographies, but still I read them for whatever reason. I think non-fiction is always worse than fiction, but it's cool to get some knowledge from your reading. I picked this book up because Gamal Abdel Nasser is my revolutionary for the research essay we're doing in Global History. And I'm just going to go ahead and say that I think this book was kind of boring, but filled with nice information, so now I can go around and brag about me knowing lot's of stuff about Nasser, AND I can go around bragging about how I'm going to have an amazing research paper cause I know so much about Nasser.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Riley

    This book makes clear that Gamal Nasser was a towering leader among Arabs, but that he, like other rulers in the Middle East, was greatly lacking when all was said and done. Author Said Aburish offered some worthy insights, especially about the role American foreign policy played in the rise of radical Islam. But the book was often repetitive and could have used some editing to winnow that down.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Agrama

    Even if you hate Nasser, read this book and it'll make a difference in your character! Even if you hate Nasser, read this book and it'll make a difference in your character!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Corey Rowe

    excellent.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rose Marry

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eric Loucks

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Adames

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bacem

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nimisha

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carly

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chips

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ina Cawl

  22. 4 out of 5

    Billy Holt

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hasan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ncomment

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sami Elghrably

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bieiris

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ramin Forood

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dianna L Diem

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