There is nothing much to write about Mohamed Hassanein Heikal now that he has passed; no praise or disparagement, response or otherwise; for he has written and published it all in his long life.
At one time, I would say; Heikal was more famous than his country’s late president Jamal Abdul Nasser, to whom he stayed loyal even after he had long passed.
He was accused of falsifying truths, hoaxing stories, and manipulating events to fit Abdul Nasser’s visions and times. And while he might have done so, his loyalty to the late Egyptian president was something unique. That amidst the predominance of hypocrisy among media people and journalists of Egypt who often changed colours, positions and allegiances as often as presidents of Egypt had come and gone, in indeed rare.
In this discourse, the man did not make his fame off his proximity to Abdul Nasser and his access to secrets behind closed doors; many have had his chance but did not achieve fame. Heikal was an expert in his field. He was a journalist with a character that entailed brilliant traits for success. And this is why he became so widely renowned and respected, to the point that an article of his was more important that the speeches of many a leader.
Heikal could have approximated himself to Al Saddat, or win the blessings of Mubarak, so that he would remain within the decision circle in Egypt. Only he —as much of an opportunist as any journalist would be, realised that he will remain in the spotlights no mater where he was or what his position was; with or again.
The secrets he carried out with him when he left “Al Saraya” was enough to keep him alive long after he had already passed. And he was right; because of his opposition to Camp David and Mubarak’s policies, he has reserved for himself a place of great popularity to people around worldwide. He is now the “mentor” forever.
“Al Jazeera” —the Qatari channel, was Heikal’s best supporter over his last decade. The news channel gave him long previews before millions of Arabs from generations that did not coincide his journalistic presence. Everything he said in the fifties, sixties, and seventies he ended up retelling —live, on television. He also retained the controversial identity he has had since he achieved fame.
The January 25th uprising revived Heikal’s legacy. No one ever thought the man who was in his nineties and had given up on Mubarak’s Egypt, would witness the fall of a regime in an uprising that was unprecedented to Egypt or the Arab World.
The revolution of Egyptian youth sought to break ties with everything that once was, was still unable to surpass an old man’s wisdom, having been present with Egyptians on the very first day as if he was twenty years old.
He argued the revolution along with its youths; he concurred, opposed, supported, guided, and advised through it all. And in the end, he chose to side with the Egyptian military.
Did he do the right thing?
Egyptians and Arabs were once again divided over Heikal and his position. According to supporters of President Mohammad Mursi, Heikal was a traitor of the revolution and all of its sacrifices. To those who rooted for the military and President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi, he was a symbol of Egyptian patriotism known to be biased towards the military.
Lately, in his final days, there was a change in Heikal’s tone; he seemed critical of the practices of Sisi’s regime, after honeymoons of agreement together.
Much will be said about him in the days to come; he will be criticised and slandered, he will be praised and glorified. And all of that is is tolerable when it comes to Heikal as a politician and a historian, but when it comes to Heikal the Journalist; he was indeed a “mentor”.