Egypt’s best known journalist presents an indictment of Sadat’s domestic and international policies, finding his role of superstar of the media purchased at the. Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, the renowned Egyptian journalist, writes on the first page of Autumn of Fury that he was “very fond of Sadat as a man.” The reader. Autumn of Fury: The Assassination of Sadat During the few moments that passed between the murder of Sadat and the seizure of his.
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Reviewed by Daniel Pipes Commentary November Translations of this item: Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, the renowned Egyptian journalist, writes on the first page of Autumn of Fury that he was “very fond of Sadat as a man.
Heikal pursues two thoroughly negative themes in this book: Heikal condemns every one of Sadat’s major policies, including the expulsion of the Russian advisers ineconomic liberalization inand peace with Israel in His basic difference with the President, however, concerns the aftermath of the war in October He vehemently disagrees with Sadat’s strategy of pursuing a limited war to lay the ground for permanent peace, arguing that this missed a great opportunity.
Had Sadat coordinated actions with Syria, Libya, and the oil states, assssination Arabs would have been in a position to confront Israel. Instead, Sadat “was not really interested in exploiting the initial victories of Egyptian arms, But criticism of Sadat’s international policy fjry less damning than charges relating to domestic affairs.
These, drawn from Heikal’s insider knowledge of Egyptian politics—he claims to have been “closer to [Sadat] than anyone else Sadat arrested the loyal opposition and mishandled the growing Islamic and Fuy movements.
He tolerated corruption among his family and cronies. He repeatedly took priceless Egyptian antiquities off display rhe the Egyptian Museum and gave them to foreign friends.
Once a year he personally supervised “a bonfire in which all papers he thought would be better forgotten were destroyed”—papers dealing with the disbursement of secret funds and transcriptions of telephone conversations.
These accusations, set out in great detail, constitute the bulk of the book. Here, substantiating the charge that Sadat was self-indulgent and assassinatiob, is an account of the President’s daily routine:.
He usually woke up late, between 9: He would read the papers in bed, paying particular attention to al1 the items concerning himself. Then came massage from his personal masseur, some physical exercises, and a bath. This would be followed by a light breakfast, consisting probably of fry piece of cheese and some calorie-free toast all his cereal requirements were made from calorie-free flour imported from Switzerland—even his sweet pastry kunafa.
Sadat had found that vodka was a helpful stimulant After a couple of hours of this he would be complaining of the burden of business “They are killing me with work” and would adjourn with a friend for perhaps some more vodka, followed by a light lunch of cold chicken or meat and salad. A mint tea would be followed by dinner, Most of what Heikal writes in Autumn of Fury is new and much of it is damning.
But is it true? The absence of documentation—only a handful of footnotes and almost no attributions—makes it impossible independently to verify Heikal’s assertions. The credibility of Autumn of Fury depends entirely on the veracity of the author. Is he candid about his objectives or does he have hidden motives? Do his facts match those in the public record and are his judgments trustworthy? sadxt
For Heikal’s charges to stick, he must be above suspicion and his reliability must be established. He fails both tests. The ostensible purpose fugy the book is to explain to Westerners the events leading up to Sadat’s assassination. But the real purpose is quite different; to revive the memory of Sadat’s predecessor, Gamal Abdul Nasser.
Heikal rose to prominence as Assassonation personal confidant, and for many years he served as the Egyptian government’s spokesman.
Autumn of Fury: The Assassination of Sadat :: Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Today, as the most visible and articulate keeper of the Nasserist legacy, his abiding desire is to reinstate Nasser’s reputation and policies. For this reason, each mention of Nasser in this book is uncritical—no, lyrical: But the key to redeeming Nasser’s name is to blacken that of his successor; every act by Sadat is portrayed in the worst possible light.
Heikal implies that the abandonment of Nasser’s policies of socialism, neutralism, and pan-Arabism explains Egypt’s present woes. The economic opening of Egypt in ended the effort to build a socialist economy and paved the way for maldistribution of income and massive corruption.
The rejection of neutralism made Egypt a ward of the U. The emphasis on Egyptian nationalism led to the loss of Arab support, both economic and political.
Because he is building a case, Heikal neglects to mention that Egypt is today less militaristic, more democratic, richer, and freer than under Nasser. Where others see greatness, Heikal finds fault. Courage and vision had no role in Sadat’s decision to go to Jerusalem in November Rather, this was a political maneuver to escape domestic economic problems, nothing more: Heikal also fails in the matter of accuracy. Those much closer to Sadat than he have categorically denounced this book as unreliable.
Husni Mubarak, vice president of Egypt through most of Sadat’s rule and now presidentsaid the book includes “events which I myself witnessed. They are inaccurate and untrue. I do not wish to mention the events. I do not like to talk about these topics. I just want to say that they contain untrue stories, far from the truth.
Even persons not privy to the inner councils of Sadat’s government can see for themselves the faults of Autumn of Fury, for it distorts matters of public record.
Some errors are tangential to the argument: Not even the Swiss can do that. Contrary to what Heikal reports, the Israelis have never demanded the expulsion of the Murabitun militia from Lebanon “on the grounds that they represent a threat to Israel’s security. We read on one page that King Hassan of Morocco met the Prime Minister of Israel in April ; but two pages later, in the course of describing a meeting in SeptemberHeikal says that “King Hassan had from time to time met Israelis, but never one quite so highly placed as [Foreign Minister Moshe] Dayan.
In the account of events leading up to the Jerusalem trip, Heikal omits the critical joint U. How can one believe his narrative on less-known matters? He says that Jimmy Carter was “of course delighted” by Sadat’s trip; anyone who watched television that day will remember the President’s dour reaction as he came out of church.
Heikal’s description of the Camp David accords is so distorted, the accords are almost unrecognizable: In return what had the Israelis conceded?
Finally, on matters of interpretation, Heikal displays an extreme political viewpoint. On the one hand, he dismisses as “an implausible story” documented accounts of Mu’ammar al-Qaddafi’s wanting to assassinate Sadat. On the other hand, he seriously considers the notion that the CIA arranged for Sadat’s assassination, deciding against this explanation only because “Sadat’s regime was still able to serve American interests in the Middle East. This sort of attitude gives one little confidence in the author.
Along similar lines, Heikal argues that “the forces which conspired against Sadat were just as much a part of the mainstream in Egyptian society as were the forces which overthrew the Shah from the mainstream in Iran.
In his effort to condemn everything associated with Sadat, Heikal ends up justifying any force that opposed him, even his killers. A polemic written with the single-minded purpose of destroying a man’s reputation cannot be relied upon as biography.
Parts of Autumn of Fury may be true, to be sure, but how can the reader tell which ones? Rather than guess mistakenly, he would do better to ignore Mohamed Heikal’s angry testimony and await a more solid account. Over thirty years later, this review prompted an article by Hala Amin sarat Al-Bawaba. The above text may be reposted, forwarded, or translated so long as it is presented as rhe integral whole with complete information about its author, date, place of publication, as well as the original URL.
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AUTUMN OF FURY: The Assassination of Sadat by Mohamed Heikal | Kirkus Reviews
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