Fifty years ago today, the six day war in Israel began. Here’s part of what led up to that war.
Beginning in May, 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser began to prepare for a war to destroy the Jewish Israel. He wasn’t alone.
According to Nasser’s view, Israel wasn’t just vulnerable. It was doomed:
-May 15, 1967 (Israel’s Independence Day): Nasser ordered Egyptian soldiers into the Sinai desert, massing troops at the border with southern Israel (“The six-day war: background and overview”, jewishvirtuallibrary, no date—retrieved June 5, 2017).
-May 17, 1967: To Israel’s East, the Jordanian army was placed on full alert. To Israel’s North, Syria’s army dug in at the border (“General background: reunifying Jerusalem”, ammunitionhillnationalmemorial, no date—retrieved June 5, 2017).
-May 17, 1967: Nasser ordered UN troops to abandon the Sinai below Israel’s Southern border. These UN troops, created as an international emergency force, had been stationed in the Sinai in 1956 to keep peace between Egypt and Israel. Nasser expelled them (ibid).
May 18, 1967: The “Voice of the Arabs” radio station proclaimed, “As of today, there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more...The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence” [emphasis mine] (Isi Leibler, The Case For Israel, The Globe Press, Australia, 1972, p. 60).
-May 20, 1967: The father of today’s Bashar Al Assad, Hafez Assad, then Syria’s defense Minister, declared, “The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united....I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation” [emphasis mine] (ibid).
-May 22, 1967: Nasser sealed the straits of Tiran. This closed Israel’s only shipping link to Asia--and cut off Israel from its main suppliers of oil (jewishvirtuallibrary, ibid) [After the war, US president Lyndon Johnson acknowledged this action had been a casus belli (act of war) (ibid)].
-May 22, 1967: Syria’s President, Dr Nureddin al-Attasi, said, “We want a full-scale popular war of liberation…to destroy the Zionist enemy” [emphasis mine] (Miriam Ellman, “50th Anniversary of Six-Day War: The Eve of War”, legalinsurrection, June 4, 2017).
-May 27, 1957: Nasser declares, “"Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel [emphasis mine]” (ibid).
-May 28, 1967: Nasser said, “The existence of Israel itself is an aggression. We will not accept any coexistence with Israel” [emphasis mine] (Ellman, ibid).
-May 30, 1967: Jordan signs a ‘defense pact’ with Egypt (jewishvirtuallibrary, ibid).
-May 31, 1967: Abdur Rahman Aref, president of Iraq said, "The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear -- to wipe Israel off the map [emphasis mine] (Ellman, ibid).
-May 31, 1967: the following cartoon appeared in the media outlet, al Jarida in Beirut, Lebanon:
This cartoon (courtesy of elderofzyion and Ellman, ibid) sums up how the Arab nations surrounding Israel saw Israel at the end of May, 1967. Its message is clear. The Arab nations will destroy Israel. They will force the Jewish nation to ‘walk the plank’ or be shot dead. Either way, Israel will disappear. Similar cartoons appeared elsewhere in the Arab world.
-June 1, 1967, PLO official Ahmad Shukieri said, “Any of the old Palestine Jewish population who survive [the coming Arab attack against them] may stay, but it is my impression that none of them will survive.” (Chris Sibilla, ““The Six-Day Miracle”: The 1967 War and How It Changed Israel”, associationfordiplomaticstudiesandtraining, no date—retrieved June 5, 2017).
-June 4, 1967: Iraq joined Egypt, creating a military alliance that included Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Together, they mobilized against Israel some 250,000-500,000 troops (estimates vary), 2,800 tanks and, perhaps, 400-900 fighter planes (estimates vary widely). Israel had perhaps 200,000 troops (80% of whom were reservists), perhaps 200 fighter aircraft and 1,100 tanks (“The six day war 1967”, hist2530, April 25, 2008).
The nations of the world were, essentially, silent. That is, no one stepped up to defend Israel (“The six day war”, camera, 2007). Few—if any--offered to help Israel.
Israel stood alone. The Arab nations knew it.
The Jews of Israel were terrified (camera , ibid). The Israeli government was terrified. A nation for whom the Nazi Holocaust was a living memory faced another Holocaust. The government expected 50,000 dead (Ben-Dror Yemini, “Arab leaders did plan to eliminate Israel in Six-Day War”, ynetnews, May 29, 2017).
50,000 dead may not seem like a lot. But, in terms of percent-of-population, expecting 50,000 dead in Israel (in 1967) is the same as expecting 6,000,000+ dead in today’s USA. The number is astounding.
June 5, 1967: At 0745 (Israel time), the war started. By June 10, 1967, instead of facing annihilation, Israeli troops stood ready to enter Damascus, Cairo and Amman, Jordan (jewishvirtuallibrary, ibid).
That’s the moment the nations woke up. They broke their silence.
On June 10, the US--leader of the free world--stood up and spoke for everyone. U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk told the Israelis “in the strongest possible terms” they must accept a cease-fire.
Israel accepted that demand (which had been given as ‘advice’). The war was over (ibid).
As a result of this war—and for the first time in 2,000 years--Israel was reunited with its Biblical territories in Judea-Samaria. Jerusalem, the Jewish capital since ancient times, was re-unified under Jewish control--for the first time in almost 2,000 years. Gaza, the Golan Heights and much of the Sinai came under Jewish control.
For the first time in almost 2,000 years, Israel stood strong. Through an unwanted war, Israel had liberated large tracts of its Biblical homeland, including the holiest of holies, the revered Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
It was an incredible, unbelievable, impossible victory. It was a victory of Biblical proportions.
It still is.