The Oppression of Women Symbolises an Aborted Arab Revolution
Once upon a time there was a radical Arab nationalism, best represented by Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser, who led an army coup against the British imposed King Farouk. In 1956 Nasser nationalised the Suez canal, which had been owned by the Suez Canal company, in which Britain and France had the controlling stake. The result was a tripartite war. At Sevres in France, Ben-Gurion agreed with the French and British delegations (led by Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd) that Israel would launch an unprovoked attack on Egypt (because of ‘terrorism’ by the Fedayeen – note how this excuse is as old as the hills) and then Britain and France would ‘intervene’ to separate the warring parties whilst at the same time taking control of the Canal! It was, as right-winger the Marquis of Salisbury remarked (not in this respect!) ‘too clever by half.’ This obvious ruse was spotted a mile off and the USA used it to remind Britain that in 1956 it was a second-rate power trying to pretend otherwise. After a run on the pound engineered by the USA, Britain and France agreed to a face-saving formula involving UN troops that meant they had to withdraw. Israel though didn’t want to withdraw but as President Eisenhower stated, it was unacceptable for those guilty of aggrandisement to set conditions on their withdrawal. Not something that is likely to fall from the lips of Obumma and his acolytes. And so Israel was forced to withdraw from the Sinai Desert (where Arik Sharon led his troops into a military fiasco) despite the demonstrations organised by the ‘Marxist’ Mapam against withdrawal.
This was a time when the Moslem Brotherhood was descredited as British catspaws. When Islamic Fundamentalists were a curiosity, backward people for a different time. It is a sign of how far the Arab Revolution was gone into reverse that in those days Nasser could condemn and criticise the veiling of women and obtain an enthusiastic reception. Today veiling of women is all too common across the Middle East. Let us of course be clear that Islam is not unique in this. Barbarians exist in all religions. The Jewish women of Mea Sharim also cover themselves from head to toe. Catholic women were also covered up. All this is a sign of a backwards and antediluvian society. Unfortunately western imperialism had succeeded to a great extent in confessionalising Middle East politics and giving a real strength to the Islamic reactionaries. Not for nothing did the USA arm and equip the Islamic fundamentalists of Afghanistan, as Hilary Clinton has admitted.