Six Day War of 1967 - 3rd Arab Israeli War




"Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight."

Gamel Abdel Nasser,
May 3oth 1967.


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    A number of commentators and blogs are highlighting the BBC's somewhat "revisionist" coverage of the 40th anniversary. See Jeff Jacoby's analysis below

    Six days to remember accurately - Jeff Jacoby "THE 40TH anniversary of Israel's astonishing victory in the Six Day War has unleashed a gusher of revisionist history.
    On the BBC Web site, for example, Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen's retrospective on the war begins by noting that "it took only six days for Israel to smash the armed forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria." It goes on to emphasize that "the Israeli Air Force destroyed the Egyptian air force on the ground on the morning of 5 June 1967 in a surprise attack."

    But the BBC makes no reference to anything the Arabs might have done to provoke Israel's attack, other than broadcasting "bloodcurdling threats" on the radio. The vast buildup of Arab armies along Israel's border, the expulsion of UN peacekeepers from the Sinai Peninsula by Egyptian ruler Gamal Abdel Nasser, the closing of the Straits of Tiran, an illegal blockade cutting Israel off from its main supply of oil — none of this is mentioned by the BBC.

    Instead, Bowen claims that Israel's "hugely self-confident" generals couldn't wait to go to war because they knew they couldn't lose. (In reality, Israel's military and political leaders were deeply anxious; so severe was the stress that Yitzhak Rabin, the chief of staff, suffered a nervous breakdown.) "The myth of the 1967 Middle East war," declares Bowen, turning history on its head "was that the Israeli David slew the Arab Goliath."

    Echoes of Joshua's spies - Israel Harel Haaretz 10th June 2007 "...Euphoria reigned after the Six-Day War, say the "forgive-us-for-winning" people. That is not true."[more]

    A war that never ends - Richard Chesnoff, Daily News: " we mark its 40th anniversary, it's become fashionable in some circles to rewrite the history of the Six-Day War. Radicals, so-called "humanitarians" and others who love to hate Israel now claim that what was essentially a war for survival was in fact just an excuse for Zionist imperialism. [more]

    Arab armies planned to destroy Israel - Q & A session with Michael Oren by Steve Linde of the Jerusalem Post "The biggest myth going is that somehow there was not a real and immediate Arab threat, that somehow Israel could have negotiated itself outside the crisis of 1967, and that it wasn't facing an existential threat, or facing any threat at all...What's remarkable is that all the people alleging this - not one of them is working from Arabic sources....What's behind the myth is a more pervasive, ongoing effort to show that Israel bears the bulk, if not the sole responsibility, for decades of conflict in the Arab world, and that the Arabs are the aggrieved party."

    "It's an attempt to show that Israel basically planned the Six Day War in advance, knowing that it was going to expand territorially. My position is that it was just the opposite. Israel was taken aback by the crisis, unprepared for it and panicked, believing it faced a true existential threat, and did not plan to expand territory.

    We haven't learned all we should about Israel - Chicago Sun-Times: "Forty years ago today, in one of the most stunning developments of the last half-century, Israel pulled off the ultimate in go-for-broke gambles. On the morning of June 5, 1967, it sent all but 12 of its 200 air force planes on a surprise attack on Egypt's air force, knowing if those planes were detected and destroyed, the Israeli homeland would be vulnerable in the extreme to the combined Arab air forces. They weren't and it wasn't, and the Six Day War was written into history."

    40 years since Arab-Israeli war - Salim Mansur June 2nd 2007 "An axiom of modern Arab politics is the greater the internal division among Arabs, the more strident is Arab rhetoric against Israel. In May, 1967, this stridency reached its peak when Nasser announced on May 22 the closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, which triggered the Six Day War.

    The six-day war, forty years on - The Arabs' defeat by Israel in the lightning war of 1967 was followed by a deeper failure, says Hazem Saghieh.

    Six Day War Established Israel's Place In Middle East - Abraham Rabinovich "...For American Jews it marked the beginnings of Israel as a major communal concern and made it a central part of the communal agenda. Prior to 1967, Israel largely had been the concern only of a small cadre of Zionist activists.

    "The Six-Day War made us all Zionists, if not literally then psychologically," Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in a recent article. "The American Jewish connection to Israel was sealed. Even today, when one hears a lot about disaffection, the pride and depth of the continuing connection owe many of their roots to 1967."

    The enduring power of those six days draws in part from the roller-coaster of emotions it inspired among Diaspora Jewry.

    In the war’s opening hours there was a widespread sense that the young experiment in Jewish sovereignty might be snuffed out before its 20th birthday. Jewish leaders across the country organized prayer vigils and rallies, where they sounded dire warnings of a second Holocaust. Synagogues drew crowds comparable to the High Holy Days, and thousands descended on Israel’s diplomatic missions offering to stand in for Israeli soldiers deployed to the front.

    War put Israel on communal map for a proud American Jewry "While Israel celebrates 40 years of a reunited Jerusalem and what many still see as a miraculous victory that reversed Nasser's threat to "push the Jews into the sea", the Palestinians are celebrating 40 years of "occupation" slogans."

    Professor Gerald Steinberg This rhetoric has provided them with a political victory that has significantly offset the defeat of the Arab armies on the battlefield. And by erasing everything that came before the 1967 war, including the years of warfare, terror following the violent Arab rejection of the 1947 UN partition resolution, Israel's enemies have managed to rewrite history.

    Melanie Phillips's Diary "...De-classified documents have shown that Egypt, Jordan and Syria were planning to cut Israel in half; Jordan was planning to take out whole populations from Israeli towns and shoot them. Plans for the destruction of Israel had been laid to the smallest detail.

    Israel, however, planned for no more than a 48-hour surgical strike, explicitly resolving not to enter Gaza or the West Bank. What Israel had not expected was that King Hussein of Jordan, who had hitherto been signalling covertly that he had no hostile intent, would launch a serious attack, but Egypt told him falsely, after Israel had destroyed its entire air force on the ground in the space of one hour, that Egypt was on course for victory. So Jordan started firing on Israel from the West Bank, and Israel was accordingly sucked in, as it was into Gaza after attacks were launched from there." -

    Then as Now David Warren, Ottowa Citizen"...How many people living in Israel today can personally remember not only the Six Day War, but the events leading up to it? I, and so many my age and older, can personally remember a sequence of events, that has been distorted and recast to fit ideological fantasies."

    Wisdom of Waiting - Michael Oren analysis in Ynews 20th May 2007 "...instead of merely marking the Six-Day War's 40th anniversary, we should examine the Israeli government's decision-making process in the pre-war period and learn the appropriate lessons" -

    Prelude to the Six Days - Charles Krauthammer Washington Post Friday May 18th 2007 "There has hardly been a Middle East peace plan in the past 40 years - including the current Saudi version - that does not demand a return to the status quo of June 4, 1967. Why is that date so sacred? Because it was the day before the outbreak of the Six-Day War in which Israel scored one of the most stunning victories of the 20th century. The Arabs have spent four decades trying to undo its consequences..."

    "Soviets engineered Six Day War"- David Horowitz - Jerusalem Post 16th May 2007

    Did Israel want the Six Day War? - Michael Oren "Great wars in history eventually become great wars about history. Only a few years after the last soldier leaves the battlefield, accepted truths about the nature of a military conflict and the motivations for it invariably come under assault by revisionists and counter-revisionists, whose vehemence can rival that of the original combatants. Few of these historiographical struggles are as bitter as the one now being waged over the Arab-Israeli wars, in which a force of self-proclaimed "new historians" has laid siege to previously unassailable descriptions of the creation and survival of the Jewish state. The unusual ferocity of the debate over Arab-Israeli history is directly related to the singularly high stakes involved. The adversaries are not merely vying for space on university bookshelves, but grappling with issues that have a profound impact on the lives of millions of people: Israel's security, the rights of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jerusalem. The new historians make no attempt to disguise their agenda.." Jerusalem Post 15th May 2007

    "In 1967, it was still okay for an army to achieve an absolute victory. Subsequent to that date, Israel has not been allowed to defeat its enemy. In future wars and conflicts Israel would unbelievably be pressured by world powers not to accomplish a full military victory, to neglect enemy aggressions, and to even provide the enemy with guns and ammunition.

    1967 was a time that Israelis were not told that they are “tired of fighting and tired of winning battles”. Jews at that time understood that when their enemy says that they are going to kill them, the enemy means what it says and Israel does not wait to be attacked.

    The 1967 Six Day War Remembered - Daryl Temkin The Conservative Voice May 15th 2007 During that time, no one believed that the enemy could be appeased or that, if victorious, the enemy would responsibly stop fighting at the original 1947 UN lines. It was understood throughout Israel that there was only one thing that the Arabs had hoped to achieve, and now after 40 years, that goal of the destruction of Israel has not been relinquished."

    America and the Six Day War - Rachel Neuwirth May 15th 2007"...John Loftus, in his book The Secret War Against the Jews devotes an entire chapter to the Liberty incident. Israel wanted to demonstrate good faith towards America: "Realizing the danger of a massed Arab attack, the Israelis informed the United States of their intention to launch a preemptive strike, which the CIA promptly betrayed to the Arabs. (page 259 of Loftus' book)" But the Egyptians distrusted America and discounted the information. ... According to Loftus, the USS Liberty, a super high-tech intelligence ship, would spy on Israeli forces fighting in the Sinai while providing secret real-time battlefield intelligence to the Egyptian military. This would significantly increase Israeli casualties and conceivably affect the outcome of the war. Israel was not supposed to discover this secret American betrayal, but they did and decided to only disable, but not to sink, the 'enemy' ship..."

    The war that created the outlines for peace - Eli Podeh, Ha'Aretz "The Arab side, not surprisingly, marked the day on which the war ended as a day of mourning, but soon started taking action to wipe out the war's memory from the collective consciousness of its public..."

    Michael Carroll reviews the role of the United Nations leading up to the Six Day War in 1967 - Middle East Review of International Affairs 2005 Issue 2

    How Six Day war almost led to Armageddon: New evidence of 1967 Soviet plan to invade Israel shows how close the world came to nuclear conflict
    - Isabella Ginor Saturday The Guardian June 10, 2000



    How Six Day War changed Jewish history - John O'Neill Detroit News 5th June 2007 - "Israel never had a better friend in the White House than Lyndon B. Johnson. But this made Israel all the more frustrated and somber in the spring of 1967, when LBJ urged restraint in the face of an obvious attack being prepared by the surrounding Arab states.

    When pressed by Israeli diplomat Abba Eban about what Israel was to do if the Arab states attacked first, Johnson's reply was blunt: You'll lick 'em. Though intelligence estimates in both the United States and Israel supported this assessment, LBJ was disingenuous to admonish Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol about the importance for the Jewish state not to initiate hostilities."


    In the event, the entire battalion crossed safely. But in a fierce battle that continued well after sunrise, 24 paratroopers died in the trenches of Ammunition Hill together with 80 Jordanians..." City Under Siege - Abraham Rabinovich Jerusalem Post 14th May 2007



    War without end - Ned Temko The Observer Magazine Sunday May 6th 2007

    The Six Day War - YNet feature from IsraelNews 16th May 2007 - a useful and succinct analysis, particularly of the war itself, with interesting archive photos.

    Israel’s Miracle Victory - by David Vejil - Philadelphia Trumpet newsmagazine, June 2007


    Archive commentary:

    How The Times (UK) reported the outbreak of hostilities

    How The Times (UK) reported the refugee crisis

    The Times (UK) reports on The isolation of victory

    How The British Press Reported '67 War - (published online 29th May 2007)

    "The Quickest War"- Time Magazine Friday 16th June 1967

    "A Nation Under Siege"- Time Magazine Friday 9th June 1967

    Egypt closes Gulf of Aqaba to Israel Ships: Defiant move by Nasser raises Middle East Tension - The Times, 23rd May 1967

    How the Arabs rallied to the support of Egypt - The Times, 6 June 1967

    Jerusalem Post: 30th Anniversary articles

    Daily Express Photonews Special - July 1967 - extract

    Was it a bitter victory? - Daily Telegraph June 1968 (extract)



    In January 1968 Levi Eshkol travelled to the US President's ranch to plead for account by "The heart of my mission, Mr. President," he said, "is how to create peace in the Middle East at a time when the Syrian and Egyptian armies are being rebuilt by the Soviets at a menacing pace - so fast that the Arab leaders are contemplating renewed war." [more] 'On the seventh day'- Yehuda Avner, The Jerusalem Post (Yehuda Avner was on the staff of five prime ministers, including Levi Eshkol).

    "In the early morning hours of Monday, June 5, 1967, the sun was already heating everything up around the Tel Nof airbase. Some of us were making our way to the mess hall of the base as Jordanian artillery shells shook the earth. Fragments reached our barracks, puncturing the outer walls with significant holes. Located in central Israel, the airbase was just a few miles away from a Jordanian base." [more] - Joseph Puder

    One single iconic image depicting the moment of reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 has remained in the world's collective psyche. Three battle-weary paratroopers gazing at their suroundings seemingly in stunned amazement. With the fortieth anniversary of the Six Day War, Conal Urquhart of The Observer located and interviewed both the photographer and the three soldiers.

    "One morning, as we sent our children off to school, we confided our fears to a neighbor: "What if there is bombing while they're in school?"

    "Not to worry," came the not reassuring reply, "They have excellent air raid shelters at school." - "The road from Euphoria" - Emanuel Feldman Jerusalem Post May 15th 2007

    Life On the Seam Peggy Cidor Jerusalem Post May 10th 2007 "We used to have a very regular Shabbat schedule," he recalls, while pointing to highway No. 1, which was the no-man's land between Jordan and Israel from 1948 to 1967. "The morning would start with an encounter with the Arab Legion snipers. They shot at us out of sheer boredom."

    "When the barrage lifted, the paratroop battalion opposite Ammunition Hill started forward. On nearby Rehov Shmuel Hanavi, a Jerusalem Brigade intelligence officer was transfixed by a keening sound. It was a moment before he recognized it with a chill as the sound of men charging into battle.

    The paratroopers had to cross 150 meters of no-man's-land, parts of it sown with mines. The intensive shelling had been intended in part to detonate them, but the results could not be known. The men were to run forward in single file. If someone stepped on a mine, those behind were to pass over him and continue forward.

    In the event, the entire battalion crossed safely. But in a fierce battle that continued well after sunrise, 24 paratroopers died in the trenches of Ammunition Hill together with 80 Jordanians..." City Under Siege - Abraham Rabinovich Jerusalem Post 14th May 2007