The 1967 Defeat
The 1967 defeat in front of Israel was a turning point for Nasserite Egypt. Thedefeat came as a shock for the Egyptian masses whose expectations the regime’srhetoric was inflaming before the war.
In fact the Palestinian cause was one of themain cornerstones upon which Nasser’s legitimacy rested. The regime even used it for suppressing internal democracy (in the name of “unifying the internal front”). Thedefeat, according to former student leader Dr. El-Salamony, had cut the “umbilicalchord” binding the Egyptian nation to Nasser.
Nasser’s legitimacy started to be put inquestion, and the defeat would cause a high level of radicalization in the Egyptian political arena.
The Rebirth of the Mass Movement
Following the declaration of Nasser’s intention of resigning, anti-western and pro-Nasser demonstrations engulfed Egypt, with attacks against western embassiesand interests. In my view, the demonstrations were still supportive of Nasser becausethe sheer scale of the defeat was not clear yet. Moreover, Nasser’s speech gave theimpression that the US was directly involved and that the Egyptian army faced boththe Israeli and the American armies.
The public mood changed later, with more facts being disclosed everyday. In his book on “political jokes” Hammouda describes howthe regime and the military establishment became subject of the Egyptian people’sirony, cynicism, and mocking. The spread of jokes ridiculing the establishment pointed out to the start of erosion in the regime’s legitimacy.
“The enemy whom we were expecting from the East and North came from the West- a factwhich clearly showed that facilities exceeding his own capacity and his calculated strength had beenmade available to him,” quote from Nasser’s resignation speech, Arab Report and Record. 1-15 June1967: 199.
Al-Nokta al-Siyassia: Kayf Yaskhar al-Messryoun men Hokkamehem?
(The political joke: how do the Egyptians mock their rulers?) (Cairo: Dar Sphinx 1990).3