FOR a century and a half the Arab world has been following a negative policy. It has known what it wanted to do away with, but it has not known what it wanted to build. The Western conquest of the Middle East was mental no less than physical. Overwhelmed and unsettled, Eastern minds lost almost all national values, yet could not absorb Western values. Misapplication of Western patterns of government brought a confused mixture of political systems and philosophies. Democracy was only a veil for dictatorship. Constitutions framed in the interest of the people of the Middle East became instruments for their exploitation and domination.
Egypt's story in these years centers upon the effort to free the country from a foreign yoke and to find a policy capable of eradicating the evils accumulated by feudalism and compounded by misuse of governmental power. It was a long and painful search. Egyptians hoped for leaders to champion their cause and defend their interests, but politicians and factions for the most part made themselves subservient to the forces that were ravaging the country--British rulers, corrupt monarchs, feudal overlords, a non-Egyptian ruling class and its Egyptian satellites.
The British had occupied Egypt with the tacit consent of Khedive Tewfik, great uncle of ex-King Farouk, following the patriotic revolt led by General Arabi. The Khedive, who had concentrated all power in his own hands and used it to benefit himself and his family, feigned acceptance of the reforms demanded by Arabi, while opening the doors to the British who sought a pretext to justify an occupation of Egypt. In 1882 naval units of the British Fleet bombarded Alexandria, Egypt's second capital and the biggest port of the Mediterranean, and landed troops. These troops met stubborn resistance. The entire garrison of General Arabi's men in the Alexandria forts defended their positions to the last man; but in the battles that ensued, Arabi's army was defeated with the Khedive's connivance, and the British occupation began.
There were indignant protests,
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