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JEWS and ARABS from WW2 to 1967 (5 of 10)

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The Muslim Brotherhood against Nasser

By 1945 the Muslim Brotherhood, born in Egypt, had branch organizations in Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. In Egypt the brotherhood numbered around 500,000, many of them in the professions. And with the struggle of Palestinian Muslims against Jews in mind, Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the brotherhood back in 1929, now 39-years-old, created an Islamic military section within the brotherhood.

With the end of World War II and the defeat of Hitler, Egypt's brotherhood hoped that Europe's Jews would be content to re-establish their lives in Europe. Brotherhood members were annoyed by Egypt's Jews helping to smuggle arms to Jews in Palestine. They asked their government to restrict the activities of Jews in Egypt. They complained about Jewish influence with Egyptian newspapers and magazines. They called for a boycott of Jewish products and anything promoting Zionism, and they claimed that no difference existed between Judaism and Zionism.

In 1948, when Britain granted independence to Transjordan and pulled out of Palestine, Egypt's brotherhood was delighted. They sent thousands to fight against establishment of the Jewish state. So too did Egypt's government. Following Israel becoming a state, al-Banna became more outspokenly critical of the government. Tensions increased between Egyptian authorities and the brotherhood. Cairo's chief of police was assassinated. The government blamed the brotherhood, and on 8 December 1948 al-Banna was banished southward to Upper Egypt.

Al-Banna expressed defiance. "When words are banned," he said, "hands make their move." On 28 December, Egypt's Prime Minister was assassinated, and blame al-Banna was blamed. In the months that followed, properties of the Muslim Brotherhood were confiscated and thousands of members were imprisoned. Al-Banna, now back in Cairo, was shot down on 12 February, and he was left to bleed to death on the floor of a hospital. The assassin was believed to have been a government agent, but nobody was ever charged with the crime.

In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood continued to flourish. They were members of the Armed forces, and in 1952 they joined in the overthrow of Egypt's monarch, Farouk. A honeymoon existed between the coup leaders and the Muslim Brotherhood. A decree in January 1953 that dissolved all political parties exempted the Brotherhood.

The President of Egypt was General Muhammad Naguib and the Deputy Prime Minister was Colonel Gamel Abdul Nasser. Nasser was a force behind Egypt's far reaching land reform in late 1952. For Egypt's many small farmers and agricultural laborers it was a revolution. The size of land holdings was greatly reduced. Rent control, cooperatives government assistance and a minimum wage were established.

The Brotherhood was looking upon Nasser and his supporters as insufficiently devout. Nasser' popularity moreover was stealing some of the thunder that had been theirs. Nasser responded to the hostilities of the Brotherhood by charging them with having set up an armed organization to seize power by force. On October 26, 1954, a gunman shot at Nasser as he delivered a speech in Alexandria. Nasser's government blamed the Brotherhood, and thousands of its members were rounded up. Of those put on trial, six were sentenced to death and seven others were sentenced to life imprisonment.

One of the many arrested and tortured was Yasser Arafat, age 25, who had grown up in Jerusalem. Arafat's father had worked in Cairo, where Arafat was born. Arafat's father and brother had been members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1948, at 19, Arafat had left his studies in Egypt to fight against Israel in a military brigade that had been organized by the Brotherhood, and Arafat had participated in the Brotherhood's campaign of sabotage and ambush against the British along the Suez Canal.

Nasser President Naguib had disagreements. Naguib was thought too close to the Brotherhood. Nasser's fellow army officers in November 1954 removed Nabuib from office and put him under house arrest, where he was to remain for eighteen years. Nasser took over presidential duties. In June 1956 a public referendum approved both a new constitution and Nasser as the new president.

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Copyright © 1998-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.