In This Review

Pan-Arabism Before Nasser: Egyptian Power Politics and the Palestine Question
Pan-Arabism Before Nasser: Egyptian Power Politics and the Palestine Question
By Michael Doran
Oxford University Press, 1999, 230 pp.

Historians of the Arab-Israeli conflict have been fighting over 1948 with battlefield fervor. Such so-called new historians as Avi Shlaim and Benny Morris have been shattering cherished Israeli illusions; now Doran does something similar to the Egyptian side. This meaty, dense dissertation sorts out the riddle of what Cairo was up to in 1948 and debunks the received wisdom about pan-Arabism's origins as a bottom-up sociocultural movement forced on Egypt's elites. Why did King Faruq's regime dither so long as civil war raged within Britain's ill-fated Palestine Mandate, jump to the forefront of the Arab armies a mere four days before Ben-Gurion declared independence, and then cut and run to sign the first Arab armistice with Israel? Because, Doran argues, Cairo fought more to preserve its preeminent position in Arab politics than to destroy Israel. Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi al-Nuqrashi embraced the anti-imperialism that would lead to Suez and the anti-Zionism that would ignite the Six Day War for raison d'etat: Egyptian dominance meant driving out Britain, which meant frustrating its Hashimite proxies in Iraq and Jordan, which meant joining the wider Arab attack on infant Israel. Doran's lucid analysis and bristling detail make this an important contribution to the literature.