In the weeks leading up to the six-day war between Israel and five Arab nations in June, 1967, Israelis were terrified (Michael Omer-Man, “This week in history: Casus belli in the Red Sea”, jerusalempost, May 27, 2011). They had reason to feel this way. Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria were preparing to invade Israel.
Egypt moved armored divisions into the Sinai Peninsula, along with perhaps 80,000 troops. Syria moved troops to its border, and engaged Israel in almost every way imaginable, from artillery duels to cross-border sniping to jet-fighter dogfights. Jordanian troops also mobilized.
Then, to make sure the Jews of Israel understood what was happening, Israel’s Arab neighbours took to the airwaves.
Hebrew-language radio broadcasts from Cairo and Jordanian-controlled Ramallah kept announcing, ‘we will kill you, we will incinerate you, we will annihilate Israel’.
How would you like to wake to that in the morning?
On May 18, 1967, Egyptian president Nasser ordered United Nations peacekeeping forces out of the Sinai. Those troops were in the Sinai to prevent war—but Nasser expelled them, a move that convinced Israeli leaders that Egypt was serious about invasion (ibid). That same day, Cairo Radio broadcast a new message to Jews: “The peak hour has come. The battle has come in which we shall destroy Israel.”
What was Israel to think of this belligerency (and those radio broadcasts)—that Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria were joking?
Advocates for the fictional ‘Palestinian Cause’ have rewritten the history of the six-day war—and Jewish academicians have joined their let’s-demonize-Israel chorus. They deny the Arabs’ aggression (Gabriel Glickman, “This Time, the Loser Writes History: The Six-Day War”, Middle East Quarterly, meforum, summer 2017, volume 24, number 3). They transform the victim—Israel—into the aggressor (ibid). They claim all Nasser wanted to do was to “frighten Israel into prudence” (ibid).
Prudence? Israel was not irrationally threatening to destroy anyone. It was the other way around. If anyone needed ‘prudence’, it was Nasser, not Israel.
The revisionism continues. For example, Nasser wasn’t as threatening as we think (Glickman, ibid); the Arab nations facing Israel “had absolutely no intention of invading Israel” (James North, “Israel provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and it was not fighting for survival”, mondoweiss, June 2, 2017; Israel did not face annihilation (ibid).
These revisionists claim that Israel was responsible for starting this war, not Nasser (Gabriel Glickman, “Rewriting the six-day war”, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, besa, June 7, 2017). They claim Israel’s real intention during the months leading up to the war focused exclusively on creating a crisis that would allow Israel to grab ever more land from its Arab neighbours (ibid).
But these revisionists are wrong because they all make the same error: they ignore the clear historical record of the day (ibid). The nations surrounding Israel used every means available to declare their intent to attack. Everything they did reinforced that intent--from military movements to kicking out UN peace-keeping troops from positions designed to protect Israel to closing the Straits of Tiran to using Nazi-like cartoons and Nazi-like Jew-hate speeches to declare their goal was to kill Jews and wipe Israel off the map.
In this historical context, Israel had every right to fear an immediate attack. It had every right to defend itself. It had every right to address the fact that its borders were ringed by enemy troops who outnumbered and outgunned the Jewish state.
These revisionists who claim Israel was the war’s aggressor ignore the fact that in the days leading up to Egyptian president Gamal Abel Nasser’s closing the Straits of Tiran—which Israel, the US and Britain saw as an act of war--Israel began what has been termed a desperate attempt at de-escalation (Omer-Man, ibid). Israeli diplomats frantically dispatched cables to capitals around the world, declaring that as long as Egypt did not close the Straits of Tiran – Israel’s artery to the East, including access to oil from Iran – it would not initiate any hostilities (jpost, ibid). This diplomatic effort was not the action of a territory-greedy Israel eager for an excuse to start a war of aggression, as these revisionists claim. It was instead the action of a frightened Israel trying to avoid a clash that could annihilate the Jewish state.
These revisionists also ignore how Nasser responded to this diplomatic effort: he closed the Tiran Straits and declared, “The Israeli flag shall not go through the Gulf of Aqaba”.
Nasser was not interested in de-escalating anything. His closing of the Strait dramatically escalated the chance of war. In fact, it was a casus belli, an act of war.
After the war, then-US president Lyndon Johnson said, “If a single act of folly was more responsible for this explosion [war] than any other, I think it was the arbitrary and dangerous announced decision that the Straits of Tiran would be closed” (Lyndon Johnson, “Address at the State Department's Foreign Policy Conference for Educators”, The American Presidency Project, presidencyucsbedu, June 19, 1967).
Israel, in other words, was not the aggressor. Gamal Abdel Nasser was.
To argue that a second Holocaust (and the subsequent conquest of Israel) was not the reason multiple Arab armies surrounded Israel’s borders is to erase what actually happened 50 years ago. This revisionism white-washes raw Jew-hate. It re-writes history to demonize the intended victim.
That’s not history. It’s another form of Jew-hate.