With its dominating victory over three powerful Arab states in the Six Day War, Israel changed the world. It moved the Arabs from pan-Arab nationalism to every country for itself and established that underdog Israel was no longer the underdog — she was going to be around for a long time.
Fifty years ago, with an attack by the Egyptian army imminent, the Israeli Air Force launched a preemptive strike, destroying Egypt’s airplanes. By far, Egypt had the largest and most modern of all the Arab air forces, consisting of about 420 combat aircraft, all of them Soviet-built and with a heavy quota of top-of-the line MiG-21s capable of attaining Mach 2 speed.
Of particular concern to the Israelis were 30 Tu-16 “Badger” medium bombers, capable of inflicting heavy damage on Israeli military and civilian centers. On June 5 at 7:45 am Israeli time, as civil defense sirens sounded all over Israel, the IAF launched Operation Focus (Moked). All but 12 of its nearly 200 operational jets left the skies of Israel in a mass attack against Egypt’s airfields. Most of the Israeli warplanes headed out over the Mediterranean Sea, flying low to avoid radar detection, before turning toward Egypt. Others flew over the Red Sea.
The Egyptian defensive infrastructure was extremely poor, and no airfields were yet equipped with hardened aircraft shelters capable of protecting its warplanes.
Comparing reports about the war from 50 years ago with some of the accounts circulating today reminds me of one of those Star Trek episodes where Kirk and the boys go back in history and change the past — it seems like two different wars.
Fifty years ago, media reports spoke of underdog Israel and her need to defend herself against the warlike acts of the big bullies led by Egypt. They wrote about how Egypt was committing many acts that could be interpreted as acts of war including: conspiring with other belligerent countries (in this case, Syria and Jordan) for a coordinated attack, closing Israel’s access to international waterways (the straits of Tiran), violating the terms of the 1956 armistice by re-militarizing the Sinai, expelling United Nations and United States peace-keeping troops form the Sinai, sending illegal spy-planes to reconnoiter sensitive Israeli areas and massing troops and tanks on Israel’s borders.
But Israel had the nerve to WIN! After the Six Day War, Israel was no longer seen as the underdog, and everything changed. The world doesn’t like any uppity Jews!
The United States tried to prevent the war through negotiations but could not persuade Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian leader, or the other Arab states to cease their belligerent statements and actions.
Right before the war, President Johnson warned: “Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go alone.” Then, when the war began, the State Department announced: “Our position is neutral in thought, word and deed.”
While the Arabs falsely accused the U.S. of airlifting supplies to Israel, President Johnson imposed an arms embargo on the region (France, Israel’s other main arms supplier at the time, embargoed arms to Israel). Meanwhile, the Soviets were delivering massive amounts of arms to the Arabs and the armies of Kuwait, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq were contributing troops and arms to the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian fronts.
Today’s revisionist history argues that maybe the Six Day War was bad for Israel, since it lead her to become the “evil occupier” nation she is today. Much of the media now relate the tale of the cynical Zionist nation that seized an opportunity to deal a blow to the Arab world, expand her territory, and rule over the Palestinian people. What is lost from this telling is that Judea, Samaria, and the Old City of Jerusalem (commonly known as the West Bank) were never part of an independent Palestinian state; neither was the Gaza Strip. In fact, that Palestinian state never existed, and before June 1967, Judea, Samaria, and the Old City of Jerusalem were occupied by Jordan, and Gaza was occupied by Egypt.
But there is one indisputable fact that today’s revisionist history keeps forgetting: If Israel didn’t fight and win the Six Day War, there would be no Israel today. And if Israel doesn’t protect herself today from the likes of Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and even Fatah, there will be no Israel in another 50 years.
Despite what most people are likely to believe because of incessant inaccurate media reporting, the Palestinian refugee camps were created and sustained by the Arab League which viewed them (correctly) as a potent weapon against the Jewish state. Nasser knew that by forcing Palestinians into “camps” rather than allowing them to be absorbed by the countries in which they settled, they would remain the Arab League’s best weapon against the Jewish state.
Another anti-Israel creation birthed by Nasser (with some help from the Russians) was creating the PLO as a terrorist organization in 1964. That’s not a typo. The PLO led by Yasser Arafat was created almost three years to the day before the start the Six Day War, at an Arab League meeting in Jerusalem, on June 2, 1964. The PLO’s first act of terror was in January 1965 with an attack on Israel’s National Water Carrier. So, when mainstream media now lectures us that Palestinian terror was a retaliation for the “occupation,” know that you are being lied to.
In the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War, Israel offered to give up everything except Jerusalem in exchange for peace. Rather than respond to Israel’s invitation, the Arab states met in Khartoum, Sudan, in August 1967 and unanimously decided in favor of the now famous three Khartoum NOs — No recognition, No negotiation, No peace. Better that Israel hold on to the territories taken in the war. Better that the refugees continue languishing in squalor and misery. Better that the Arab states re-arm for Round 4, than to recognize Israel’s right to exist or negotiate toward a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
While the world’s perception of Israel changed 50 years ago, with rare exception those three “nos” are still the official policy of the official Muslim world, but there is a thaw. Egypt and Jordan finally made peace with the Jewish state and the Saudis are working with Israel through back channels. But the Palestinians talk peace in public and teach war at home via their TV sets, newspapers, etc.
At least twice in the past 20 years, Israel offered the Palestinians a deal that gave them very nearly everything they wanted; both times they walked away, because the Palestinian people have not been taught about the opportunities of peace.
The Sunni Arab world has begun to see Israel as a potential ally against Iran, and there are signs that the Saudis maybe losing their patience with the Palestinians. For example, in his May 21, 2017, column in the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily, Saudi Mash’al Al-Sudairi bashed Palestinian leaders. “Some Palestinian leaders, while in power, excelled in two things: rhetoric and missing opportunities, Al-Sudairi said. That was reminiscent of the late Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban who once said that “the Arab’s never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” I would argue that while peace still seems elusive, it is less elusive than it has been in years.
The past 50 years have seen many changes in the way Israel is viewed, but very little of that matters in the end. In that time, the western world began to recognize and even finance Yasser Arafat and the PLO, eventually expanding to Hamas and Hezbollah. What they don’t recognize even now is that their support of those terrorist groups taught al Qaeda, ISIS and others that terrorism is a legitimate way of getting what they want.
And tiny little Israel? It survived more war, more terrorism, and even Barack Obama, a United States president who did all that he could to de-legitimize the Jewish state, perhaps because it is a Jewish state.
But the real secret to the success of Israel? It never really was the underdog — not in 1948 and not in 1967. Sure, the IDF is a powerful fighting force, and Israeli intelligence agencies are the best in the world, but the fact is that the land was given to the Jews by a much higher power who promised that as long as we obey His rules it will be the Jews’ forever. That gives Israel the advantage over any human fighting force.