- Michael B. Oren. Published by OUP Inc. 198 Madison Avenue New York, New York 10016. 446pp;hbk; ISBN:0195151747
- This review originally appeared in the British Church Newspaper 13/4/07
Israel has never been at peace with its Arab Neighbours since the birth of the State in 1948, because it has been unable to obtain full recognition from any of them for its existence; being limited at best to uneasy and imminently disposable accords with Jordan and Egypt.
The Six Day War of 1967 is one of several that have occurred between Israel and its Arab neighbours since the former came into being and is under consideration this year, it being 40 years this June since it happened.
When this war took place world opinion was very different from what it is today. By and large the Western World was sympathetic to little Israel in its heroic struggle against the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan & Iraq, whilst the ‘Palestinian’ issue was still only of regional concern and had not yet gathered the mythological history that has subsequently enveloped it. However this view was beginning to change by the end of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, as a preoccupation with Arab oil, revulsion toward the time of Empire and a pro-Socialist disenchantment with United States capitalism and its client states began to take hold. As a result Israel became cast as villain rather than victim.
Where public opinion reverses itself over time, anniversary occasions present the ideal opportunity for indulging in ‘historical revisionism’. Whilst many factually faithful historical studies have emerged to correct past mistakes, ‘historical revisionism’ has now come to imply rewriting history to match the preferred beliefs currently in vogue, and a spate of such dubious activity can now be expected from the pro-Arab lobby. Already Arab apologists attribute Israel’s supernatural success to its American support, conveniently overlooking the fact that both Egypt and Syria were armed to the teeth with the latest Soviet weaponry, whilst Jordan and Iraq were equipped with British armaments.
One of the books recently written to commemorate this event, which owes nothing that I can discover to ‘historical revisionism’ and can therefore be read with some confidence is, “Six Day’s of War” by Michael Oren.
In contrast to studies written immediately after 1967, which provided military
rather than political perspectives and tended to be partisan, Oren has produced
a more definitive study, drawing from hitherto classified material on every
side in the conflict that was previously unavailable, As he notes
“The War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, the Munich massacre and Black September, The Lebanon War, the controversy over Jewish settlements and the future of Jerusalem, the Camp David Accords, the Oslo Accords, the Intifada – all were the result of six intense days in the Middle East in 1967.”
Oren provides a wealth of detail at both national and personal level regarding the participants and their backers. In particular he unmasks the sinister role that Syria played in the whole affair, always plotting and intriguing behind the scenes to commit others, whilst carefully limiting its own involvement. Sounds familiar today! It was not by chance that Syria emerged as the nation with least losses in the Arab post war casualty audit!
The sheer military incompetence of the Arab forces makes for fascinating reading, and the incidents noted provide remarkable parallels with the behaviour of Israel’s enemies in the Old Testament. As the book reveals you did not need to belong to Yeshua to know that God was mightily at work on behalf of His people.
One notable name that features sporadically in the early 1960s as a guerrilla leader of al-Fatah, busy conducting border raids into Israel from Lebanon, is Yasser Arafat, later to become Chairman of the PLO in 1969. Another is the enigmatic Gamal Abdul Nasser, the principal Arab protagonist in the war, a bluff and impulsive individual, who had assumed the role as leader of the Arab world. Having much to live up to, and the Syrians as ‘friends’, were strains that ultimately undid him!
Most accounts of the Six Day War acknowledge that it was started by a pre-emptive Israeli attack upon the Egyptian forces massed in The Sinai Desert, but few previous reports carry any in depth detail of the harrowing weeks of tension for both sides, which included regular skirmishes, prior to the onset of war on June 5th.
Ultimately this war, as with all the others waged by the Arab nations against
Israel, was not about land per se. As far as the Arabs were concerned it
was a war about religious supremacy. Eretz Israel belonged to Islam and
could belong to no other faith. It was a Muslim possession and had been
wrested from their control by an infidel nation, whose people had once been
subject to Islamic rule. Such a slight upon Islam could not and would not
What for Israel was a question of sheer survival was for the Arabs one of credibility. That could only be restored by the destruction of Israel. However Adonai had other ideas!