Until the 1967 war, and with the exception of a minority of who were politically active, most non-Israeli Jews did not have – how can I put it? – a great empathy with Zionism’s child. Israel was there and, in the sub-consciousness, a refuge of last resort; but the Jewish nationalism it represented had not generated the overtly enthusiastic support of the Jews of the world. The Jews of Israel were in their chosen place and the Jews of the world were in their chosen places. There was not, so to speak, a great feeling of togetherness. At a point David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father and first prime minister, was so disillusioned by the indifference of world Jewry that he went public with his criticism – not enough Jews were coming to live in Israel.
So how and why did the 1967 war transform the relationship between the Jews of the world and Israel?
Part of the answer is in a single word – pride. From the Jewish perspective there was indeed much to be proud about. Little Israel with its small but highly professional defence force and its mainly citizen army had smashed the war machines of the frontline Arab states in six days. The Jewish David had slain the Arab Goliath. Israeli forces were in occupation of the whole of the Sinai and the Gaza Strip (Egyptian territory), the West Bank including Arab East Jerusalem (Jordanian territory) and the Golan Heights (Syrian territory). And it was not much of a secret that the Israelis could have gone on to capture Cairo, Amman and Damascus. There was nothing to stop them except the impossibility of maintaining the occupation of three Arab capitals.
But the intensity of the pride most Jews of the world experienced with Israel’s military victory was in large part a product of the intensity of the fear that came before it. In the three weeks before the war, the Jews of the world truly believed, because (like Israeli Jews) they were conditioned by Zionism to believe, that the Arabs were poised to attack and that Israel’s very existence was at stake and much in doubt.
The Jews of the world (and Israeli Jews) could not be blamed for believing that, but it was a big, fat propaganda lie. Though Egypt’s President Nasser had asked UNEF forces to withdraw, had closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and had reinforced his army in the Sinai, neither his Egypt nor any of the frontline Arab states had any intention of attacking Israel. And Israel’s leaders, and the Johnson administration, knew that.
In short, and as I detail and document in my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, the offensive Israel launched at 0750 hours (local time) on Monday 5 June was not a pre-emptive strike or an act of self-defence. It was a war of aggression.
The summary truth about that war is this.
Assisted by the regeneration Palestinian nationalism, which became the tail that wagged the Arab dog despite the brutal efforts of the intelligence services of the frontline Arab states to prevent it happening, Israel’s military and political hawks set a trap for Nasser; and he walked into it, with eyes half-open, in the hope that the international community, led by the Johnson administration, would restrain Israel and require it and Egypt to settle the problem of the moment by diplomacy. From Nasser’s perspective that was not an unreasonable expectation because of the commitment, given by President Eisenhower, that in the event of the closure of the Straits of Tiran by Egypt to Israeli shipping, the U.S. would work with the “society of nations” to cause Egypt to restore Israel’s right of passage, and by so doing, prevent war.
A large part of the reason why today rational debate about making peace is impossible with the vast majority of Jews everywhere is that they still believe Egypt and the frontline Arab states were intending to annihilate Israel in 1967, and were only prevented from doing so by Israel’s pre-emptive strike.
If the statement that the Arabs were not intending to attack Israel and that the existence of the Zionist state was not in danger was only that of a goy (a non-Jew, me), it could be dismissed by supporters of Israel right or wrong as anti-Semitic conjecture. In fact the truth the statement represents was admitted by some of the key Israeli players – after the war, of course.
On this 45th anniversary of the start of the Six Days War, here is a reminder of what they said.
In an interview published in Le Monde on 28 February 1968, Israeli Chief of Staff Rabin said this: “I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions which he sent into Sinai on 14 May would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.”
On 14 April 1971, a report in the Israeli newspaper Al-Hamishmar contained the following statement by Mordecai Bentov, a member of the wartime national government. “The entire story of the danger of extermination was invented in every detail and exaggerated a posteriori to justify the annexation of new Arab territory.”
On 4 April 1972, General Haim Bar-Lev, Rabin’s predecessor as chief of staff, was quoted in Ma’ariv as follows:
We were not threatened with genocide on the eve of the Six Days War, and we had never thought of such a possibility.
In the same Israeli newspaper on the same day, General Ezer Weizmann, Chief of Operations during the war and a nephew of Chaim Weizmann, was quoted as saying: “There was never any danger of annihilation. This hypothesis has never been considered in any serious meeting.”
In the spring of 1972, General Matetiyahu Peled, Chief of Logistical Command during the war and one of 12 members of Israel’s General Staff, addressed a political literary club in Tel Aviv. He said: “The thesis according to which the danger of genocide hung over us in June 1967, and according to which Israel was fighting for her very physical survival, was nothing but a bluff which was born and bred after the war.”
In a radio debate Peled also said: “Israel was never in real danger and there was no evidence that Egypt had any intention of attacking Israel.” He added that “Israeli intelligence knew that Egypt was not prepared for war.”
In the same programme General Chaim Herzog (former Director of Military Intelligence, future Israeli Ambassador to the UN and President of his state) said:
There was no danger of annihilation. Neither Israeli headquarters nor the Pentagon – as the memoirs of President Johnson proved – believed in this danger.
On 3 June 1972 Peled was even more explicit in an article of his own for Le Monde. He wrote:
All those stories about the huge danger we were facing because of our small territorial size, an argument expounded once the war was over, have never been considered in our calculations. While we proceeded towards the full mobilisation of our forces, no person in his right mind could believe that all this force was necessary to our ‘defence’ against the Egyptian threat. This force was to crush once and for all the Egyptians at the military level and their Soviet masters at the political level. To pretend that the Egyptian forces concentrated on our borders were capable of threatening Israel’s existence does not only insult the intelligence of any person capable of analysing this kind of situation, but is primarily an insult to the Israeli army.
The preference of some generals for truth-telling after the event provoked something of a debate in Israel, but it was short-lived. If some Israeli journalists had had their way, the generals would have kept their mouths shut. Weizmann was one of those approached with the suggestion that he and others who wanted to speak out should “not exercise their inalienable right to free speech lest they prejudice world opinion and the Jewish diaspora against Israel.”
It is not surprising that debate in Israel was shut down before it led to some serious soul-searching about the nature of the state and whether it should continue to live by the lie as well as the sword; but it is more than remarkable, I think, that the mainstream Western media continues to prefer the convenience of the Zionist myth to the reality of what happened in 1967 and why. When reporters and commentators have need today to make reference to the Six Days War, almost all of them still tell it like the Zionists said it was in 1967 rather than how it really was. Obviously there are still limits to how far the mainstream media is prepared to go in challenging the Zionist account of history, but it could also be that lazy journalism is a factor in the equation.
For those journalists, lazy or not, who might still have doubts about who started the Six Days War, here’s a quote from what Prime Minister Begin said in an unguarded, public moment in 1982.
In June 1967 we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us, We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.