The Suez Crisis of 1956: the War from Differing Viewpoints

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  • Topic: Israel, Egypt, Suez Canal
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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The Suez Crisis of 1956: The War From Differing Viewpoints

Carleton University
Research Paper #1:
Submitted to Prof. J. Sigler
In Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for 47.323
Student: Neil Patrick Tubb (#226591)

Introduction
Among the most important foundations in the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict was the seeds that were sown in the aftermath of the 1956 Sinai Campaign, or the Suez Crisis. Whatever the operation is referred to as, its consequences involving both relations internal to the Middle East and with the world are impossible to ignore. Looked at simply as an objective event in history, one could note several key outcomes of the war. It marked the beginning of the end of British and French colonial leadership in the region, and the start of an increasingly high American and Soviet involvement. The war also proved to the Arab nations of the area that the Israeli military machine was not one to be taken lightly, a lesson which would be forgotten and retaught in the 1967 "Six Day War". The positive impact that the United Nations would have on ending the conflict, through Canada's idea of creating a UN peacekeeping force to help enforce the ceasefire, was another important outcome.

This paper, however, will not have the goal of examining these specific events in relation to the war, nor will it try to determine which factors were most significant. My aim will be to gain a more complete understanding of the effect of the crisis by reviewing key events of the war from two different perspectives: the Israeli and the Arab points of view, plus the experiences of the European powers as well. Through a brief comparison of both the coverage of the War by the differing authors and the varying interpretations seen throughout my study, I will be best able to make an informed evaluation on how the event was, and is today, seen in the political and historical forum.

Comparison of Coverage
The war, which was begun on October 29, 1956 when the Israelis moved their units into the Sinai peninsula, has had its origins traced back to many historical events. Which is the most important of these is a point of contention for the authors I have studied. There does seem to be for all parties involved a consensus that the ascent to power of Gamal Abdel Nasser to President of Eqypt in 1956 , and his move to nationalize the Suez Canal as the main precipitating factor in setting off the conflict. Why Nasser did this, however, is where my various sources diverge.

Quite predictably, sources used from the Egyptian or Arab viewpoint usually pointed to the fact that Nasser was finally freeing a Third World country from the clinging grip of colonial Europe, where Britain and France continued to control much of the Egyptian economy. There is most likely no doubt that Nasser did nationalize the Suez Canal for partly political motives, and as the already crowned leader of "Pan-Arabism", it seemed that he was showing the world that he was ready to let his deeds match his words. Political decisions are rarely one dimensional, and my Arab sources also indicated other reasons for the move- more of which later.

It was with this backdrop that all the parties involved began to examine their options. Of their motivations and aims, I will refer to in the next section, and on the point of basic facts of the conflict my sources are quite complementary. It is a matter of history that Israel began the conflict by their phased invasion across into the Sinai on October 29, 1956, and agreed to a withdrawal on November 6. None of my readings from either side of this particularly high political fence try to dispute this. Even that the war was incredibly lopsided and anti-climatic- like it seems so many of these wars were- is not contended by my Arab authors. This surprised me somewhat- as I read from some of the top Egyptian political men of the time and their interpretation of events. One such former...
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