Tensions Run High at the 1956 Suez Crisis

Egypt was conquered by Bonaparte in 1798. This allowed France to export its goods to the Ottoman Empire and subsequently profit from its colony’s strategic location. France was concurrently at war with the United Kingdom, and the occupation of Egypt thwarted British mercantile relationship with India.

In 1802, Albanian commander Mohammed Ali ousted France all while forming diplomatic relations with its colonizer. In 1914, Egypt was occupied by the British.

The 1956 nationalisation of the Suez canal by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser caused international uproar. The next day, member states congregated in Switzerland to discuss the implications of Egypt’s decision rife with postcolonial agency.

Nasser posited that a nationalised canal would benefit the international community. Many were worried about a spike in the oil prices, but contended that this fear was exaggerated. The nature of economy is that value fluctuates continuously. He asserted that “nothing would change”.

Israel’s Ben-Gurion remained unconvinced by the Egyptian President’s rationale. He attacked Nasser for being a dictator. As a police state that oppresses its people and that denies freedom of speech through coercion, Ben-Gurion posited that Nasser is not trustworthy.

France qualified the move to nationalize the canal as “kind of horrifying”. It rebutted Yugoslavia’s proposition to turn towards a communist market, and maintained that it was preferable to keep the canal open.

Amid tensions, the U.S. supported Egypt’s desire for autonomy as long as peace would be maintained. Eisenhower advocated against military intervention and saw no problem with Egypt’s act of postcolonial self-determinism.

By Tine Le - The Washington Post