Cultural Aspects of Peacekeeping: Notes on the Substance of Symbols



In 1957, following the truce which ended the Suez War, the United Nations deployed its first peacekeeping force to monitor the separation of Egyptian and Israeli troops in Gaza and in the Sinai. On the first evening that the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was deployed in Gaza, UNEF troops sprayed with machinegun fire a minaret from which a muezzin was calling the faithful to prayer. The UNEF soldiers, not understanding Arabic or Islam, had mistaken this as a call for civil disobedience.1 Ten years later UNEF withdrew from Gaza and the Sinai at the behest of the Egyptian President Nasser. This withdrawal was a key factor leading to the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War and was widely cited as evidence of the failure of the United Nations’ foray into the field of peacekeeping. Further, it set off a continuing debate about what Nasser’s statements and actions really meant, underscoring the importance of cultural questions to the establishment and success of peacekeeping.2


Security Council Military Personnel International Affair Cultural Aspect International Security 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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