Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CLXIV. A Country in Turmoil (6 of 7)

Egypt’s history is as turbulent as the rest of the Middle East. To describe the events of the Second Exodus, and the related history, I had to move through different time periods. So let us therefore move back to 1956 and the Suez Canal Crisis. For, this is the point in time where my life changed forever.

The 1956 Suez Canal Crisis

Building El Sad El Ali or The Giant Dam was a costly project. Even though it was financed by the Soviet Union, this debt had to be repaid. Thus, Abdel Nasser began thinking about the revenue from the Suez Canal. Why should that income be divided with the other shareholders, namely France and Britain? From here to the idea of nationalizing the Suez Canal there was but a short distance to travel.

The stage was set for what would become known as The Suez Canal Crisis. In 1956, Gamal Abdel Nasser did indeed nationalize the Suez Canal. Technically speaking, Abdel Nasser was not doing anything illegal. Egypt, Britain, and France were shareholders in the Suez Canal Company; what Gamal was proposing was to buy out the other shareholders and repay them at a future date.

For many reasons which I will not get into here, this was disastrous for France and Britain. Add to that the facts that Israel was dealing with many skirmishes at the Egyptian-Israeli border, and was facing a build-up of arms acquired by Egypt from the Soviet Union, and you have all the elements needed to make a war inevitable. That said, there needed to be a pretext for France and Britain to attack Egypt. And Israel which was clearly menaced provided it.

It is said that the three parties were in cahoot in what was to follow. After Israel launched a major strike against Egypt, France and Britain expressed their grave concerns for peace and then landed their own troops as “peacekeepers” to separate the combatants.

A perfect plan to get rid of Gamal Abdel Nasser and regain the canal. But there was a fly in the ointment.

The cold war in the ’50s was at its height. The Soviet Union took a dim view of this intervention by two great powers in the affairs of one of its client-state.

Meanwhile, President Eisenhower was horrified by this tragic development. He pressured the combatants to immediately stop this dangerous war. To no avail.

Enter Canada and Lester Pearson. Canada had no interest whatsoever in this war. It could therefore act as the (real) peacemaker. But, at least, at the onset, Canada was helpless.

Once Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France (again as so-called peacekeepers) began bombing Egyptian positions. France and Britain were condemned at the United Nations. The rift between Washington and London has never been larger. Finally, Krutshev, from Moscow was expressing his deep concern about the events in the Middle-East; he threatened to take matters in his own hands. The situation was grave indeed.

Pearson proposed to the United Nations (UN) to convert France and England as real peacekeepers with a mandate from the UN. But the mere suggestion angered the members in the UN to no end. And Washington was furious. What Pearson did next earned him the Nobel Peace Prize and ended the crisis.

He proposed a real UN peacekeeping force with no French and British forces. On November 4th, 1956, the general assembly overwhelmingly supported the world’s first peacekeeping force. Fittingly, Canada’s military played a major part in this peacekeeping role.

Eventually, Israel, France and England withdrew and were replaced by the UN forces. And there it would stay until Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled it in 1967 on the eve of the six-day war with Israel.

[Lester Pearson is so much more than the father of peacekeeping. For 5 years, from 1963 to 1968, as the Prime Minister of Canada, he introduced more measures than any other Prime Ministers before or after; this despite the fact that he presided over two minority governments.

He got rid of the so-called red ensign – a poor imitation of the British flag – and gave Canada its first Flag. He didn’t stop there, he gave Canada its first National Anthem. In both cases, major consultations took place to provide The True North with a fitting Flag and a stirring National Anthem.

He introduced the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Assistance Plan, and Medicare. Both the Hospital Insurance Plan (which existed before the Pearson administration) and Medicare are today the envy of the rest of the world.

Finally, he reformed the immigration laws and put an end to the unspoken preference for European immigrants. It is thanks to his open-mindedness that I am here today in Canada.

Truly an extraordinary man!]


* * *

Normally, my recitation of the major historical events that occurred before and after The Second Exodus would end here. But Egypt is full of surprises. Another revolution has recently taken place.

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