was seen as the leader of the
Arab world and during the same time Egyptian scholars were advocating Arab
pride, therefore, creating the urge in Egyptians to see Arab unity. The idea of
Arab unity was most successfully championed during Gamal Abdel Nasser’s
Nasser was the leader in the Arab world who “carried the torch” of pan-Arabism 2 in
other words, he was the leader who advocated and pushed for Arab unity for cultural
and political purposes. Throughout Nasser’s presidency, he always used
patriotic Arabic rhetoric while giving speeches such as referring to the Arabs
as “one nation”3
and stating that “Arab nationalism is a weapon for every Arab state. Arab
nationalism is a weapon employed against aggression. It is necessary for the
aggressor to know that, if he aggresses against any Arab country, he will
endanger his interests”4.
By using this rhetoric, the idea of Arab unity became more of an achievable
dream to Arabs and it allowed Nasser to exert influence over other countries in
position in the Arab world grew dramatically from 1952-1967, Nasser made
decisions and took actions that corresponded with the ideology of Pan-Arabism,
the unification of Arabs with the leadership of Egypt. Egypt was well respected
and supported by other Arab countries, but after the war of 1967 Egypt’s
positon leadership started declining mainly because of the defeat and
humiliation of Syria and Egypt against Israel. The loss to Israel was a
personal defeat to Abdel Nasser as he assured Arabs he would force Israel and
its allies to respect Arabs and forcefully free Palestine from Israeli
However, he was not capable of delivering his promises as seen in the war of
1967, even further, Israel expanded its occupation into the Sinai Peninsula in
Egypt and Golan heights in Syria which displayed Arab weakness. Additionally,
Nasser signed the Rogers Plan, a diplomatic settlement to the 1967 war, in 1969
which further proved he is unable to stand up to Israel and its allies and his
move was seen as a contradiction to the pan-Arabist ideology. The idea that
Egypt was unable to defend itself or neighboring Arab countries prescribed by
the pan-Arabist ideology lead to the diminish of the Pan-Arabism ideology in
the Arab world.
After Abdel Nasser’s death, Anwar Sadat,
Abdel Nasser’s vice president took power. When Sadat took power Egypt was
dispirited and divided6.
Therefore, Sadat took a different governing approach than Abdel Nasser; He put pan-Arabism
ideals aside and focused on raising Egypt’s tumbling economy and securing
Egypt’s land and people7.
Even though Sadat launched a successful military offense along Syria against
Israel to regain the lost territories of the war of 1967, he abandoned
pan-Arabism ideals and he visited Israel to offer permanent peace between the
two countries and security for all people in Israel8
which was a slap to the face to all Arabs and Nasser’s core set of beliefs.
Sadat’s foreign policies which showed indifference to Pan-Arabism ideals
effectively ended Egypt’s position to be the natural leader of the Arab world,
the ideas of a united Arab world and a free Palestine, and Gamal Abdel Nasser’s
Despite the fall and defeat of Gamal Abdel
Nasser and Arab nations in the war of 1967, and even after the Egyptian
President Anwar Sadat took a different governing approach which focused more on
Egypt and the Egyptian identity than the Pan-Arabism identity, Pan-Arabism
based on Gamal Abdel Nasser’s ideas did not completely disappear. Pan-Arabism
took a different form or more specifically, its ideals were shared by different
political ideologies and mainly the Baathism ideology. Baathism stood for Arab
intellectual, political and economic unification9.
Baathists believed the Arabic language, the shared religion, and the shared
history could bring Arabs together to create a new Arab renaissance, keeping in
mind the first Arab renaissance according to Baathists was the emergence of
Islam in the Arab world10.
The Baath party flourished both in Syria and Iraq under Hafez Assad and Sadam
Hussein respectively. However, due to personal interests and the political
oppression conducted by the Iraqi and Syrian regimes, pan-Arabism ideals were
not completely devoted for the unity and development of Arabs, but pan-Arabism
ideals were often used to suppress political opponents11.
2 Vatikiotis,,PJ Nasser and His
York: St. Martins Press, 232-233,1978
3 Jankowski, James Nasser’s Egypt,
Arab Nationalism, and the United Arab Republic Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers,
of Gamal Nasser to the Egyptian National Assembly – May 29, 1967.” MidEast
Web Historical Documents. Accessed December 27, 2017. http://www.mideastweb.org/nasser29may67.html.
6 Hinnebusch, Egyptian
politics under Sadat: The post-populist development of an authoritarian-
Anwar Sadat’s Address to the Israeli Knesset.” Sadat before the Knesset.
Accessed December 23, 2017. http://www.ibiblio.org/sullivan/docs/Knesset-speech.html.
9 Salem, Paul (1994). Bitter Legacy:
Ideology and Politics in the Arab World. Syracuse University
Baathist Regimes of Syria and Iraq. Report. Central Intelligence Agency. 2006