Memoirs of the First Palestine War
These memoirs first appeared in Arabic in the Egyptian weekly Akher Sa'a in the spring of 1955. To the best of my knowledge this is the first English translation of them to be published. The memoirs were never finished, although in a letter from the Presidential Office in 1959 granting permission to publish this English translation, the hope was expressed that "a final chapter entitled 'The End of the Campaign'" would be finished and sent to me for translation. But unfinished as they are, these memoirs are of great interest: they are a rare source on the late President's military thinking from the professional point of view, touching on such questions as the role of reconnaissance and of logistical and air support. They throw intimate light on the strength, organization, morale and performance of the Egyptian army in 1948, as well as on the Palestinian environment in which the revolutionary ideas of the Egyptian officers matured on the eve of the downfall of the monarchy. But perhaps most important is the way in which these memoirs reflect the President's attitudes to peace and war in general, and to the specific question of the intersection of political and military responsibility. This last aspect is significant considering that the memoirs were written immediately after (and most probably in reaction to) the massive Israeli raid on Gaza on February 28, 1955. Thus the circumstances of their publication would make the memoirs a particularly significant (because indirect) source on the President's mood in the weeks before he took the momentous decision to ask Moscow for arms, at least partly to counter the recently demonstrated power of the Israelis at Gaza. Finally the memoirs are not without a poignant irony in view of all that has happened since then and of the current situation.
Translated and annotated by WALID KHALIDI
Walid Khalidi is Professor of Political Science at the American University of Beirut.