By Carol Rushton
The 1967 Six-Day War is one of the most pivotal events in the 20th century. Not only did the Israelis win a stunning victory against overwhelming Arab forces, but they did it in record time – a mere six days, unheard of in modern military history. Israel regained East Jerusalem including the Old City and the Temple Mount, reuniting the city for the first time under Jewish rule in over 2,000 years as well as their ancient biblical lands of Judea and Samaria.
Anti-Semites have been very critical of Israel’s 1967 victory, claiming it is illegitimate because Israeli forces attacked the surrounding Arab countries first and seized territory that rightfully belongs to Arabs.
But is this really what happened?
The Arab League was founded in 1945 ostensibly to promote “Arab unity” but its real purpose was to oppose any formation of a Jewish country in the Middle East, and then calling for Israel’s total annihilation after1948. By 1963, the organization had grown to beyond its original seven founding members of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen to include Algeria, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia.
This date is important because it was in 1963 that the Arab League decided to create a proxy terrorist organization they could use to attack Israel without having to formally go to war against the Jewish state. That organization was the Palestine Liberation Organization, more commonly known as the PLO. Their charter blatantly called for the complete eradication of the State of Israel, as it does to this day.
The PLO was a very effective arm of the Arab League. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians increased from 35 in 1965 to 41 in 1966, and 37 in 1967 before the Six-Day War.
The rhetoric against Israel from the surrounding Arab countries also grew increasingly more bellicose and strident in the 1960s, leading up to the 1967 war. Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser led the charge. Nasser flatly rejected any attempts by Israeli leaders to come to the table and try to reach a peace agreement. Nasser’s response to Foreign Minister Gold Meir’s 1960 entreaty to meet with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to try to hammer out a peace agreement was that Egypt would never recognize Israel.
Nasser’s speech at the United Arab Republic National Assembly on March 26, 1964 is typical of his hostility toward Israel.
“Israel and the imperialism around us which confront us, are two separate things. There have been attempts to separate them, in order to break up the problems and present them in an imaginary light as if the problem of Israel is the problem of the refugees, by the solution of which the problem of Palestine will also be solved and no residue of the problem will remain. The danger of Israel lies in the very existence of Israel as it is in the present and in what she represents.”
In 1965 and 1966, Nasser stepped up his anti-Israel statements. “We shall not enter Palestine with its soil covered in sand, we shall enter it with its soil saturated in blood.” A few months afterward, Nasser launched another verbal attack. “In other words, we aim at the destruction of the state of Israel. The immediate aim: perfection of Arab military might. The national aim: the eradication of Israel.”
During this time, Syria increased rocket attacks against Israeli towns and farming communities, known as kibbutzim, from its advantage on the Golan Heights. Although Israeli diplomats repeatedly brought this up in the U.N., their protests fell on deaf ears. A U.N. resolution stating “regret” at the Syrian attacks, amounting to little more than 40 lashes with a wet noodle, was still too much for the Soviet Union, who used their veto power as a Security Council member to kill it. Of course, when Israel tried to defend itself, she faced vicious condemnation by the U.N.
In April 1967, Israel had finally had enough and shot down six Syrian-Soviet MiGs. The Soviets retaliated by telling Syria and Egypt that Israel was beginning a military buildup in preparation for an attack on both countries, which was an outright lie. Syria already had a defense treaty with Egypt and asked for Egyptian aid while Egypt started amassing troops in the Sinai Peninsula near the Israeli border.
To be honest, the Arabs did not need much encouragement to prepare to attack Israel. It is impossible to believe that Egyptian or Syrian intelligence did not refute the Soviet Union’s claims. If Egypt and Syria believed the Soviets, it was because they wanted to believe a lie.
However, unbeknownst to both Syria and Egypt, the Israeli government had already been forewarned of a future united Arab attack. In 1965, King Hassan II of Morocco, at great personal risk to himself, secretly recorded a meeting of the Arab League at the Casablanca Hotel in his country and turned it over to the Israelis. Major General Shlomo Gazit, head of the Research Department of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, could not overstate King Hassan’s help. “These recordings, which were truly an extraordinary intelligence achievement, further showed us that . . . the Arab states were heading toward a conflict that we must prepare for.”
In the months preceding the Six-Day War, Nasser was able to consolidate his aim of a united Arab attack against Israel through several important achievements:
Convincing the U.N. to withdraw their peace-keeping force from the Egyptian-Israeli Sinai border, giving Egypt a clear, unobstructed path to invade Israel’s southern border
Signing a defense pact with Jordan
Imposing a blockade of all shipping to and from Israel by closing the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s only shipping lane to the Red Sea from its port city of Eilat
Nasser escalated the pressure on Israel through almost daily taunts. “The Jews threaten to make war. I reply: Welcome! We are ready for war.” He also stated, “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight.” Nasser could not seem to resist goading the Israelis at every opportunity. “We will not accept any . . . coexistence with Israel . . . Today the issue is not the establishment of peace between the Arab states and Israel . . . The war with Israel is in effect since 1948.”
After signing the defense pact with Jordan on May 30, 1967, Nasser crowed, “The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel . . . to face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious action and not declarations.”
Iraq also joined the Arab coalition, bringing the united Arab forces to a total of about 465,000 troops, over 2,800 tanks, and 800 aircraft surrounding Israel, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
With an Arab invasion imminent, the Israelis had no choice but to launch a pre-emptive attack. If Israel had waited for the Arab forces to attack, the Israeli military would have been overwhelmed. Anything less would have been suicide.
Even though the United States President Lyndon Johnson chickened out and refused to support Israel, taking a very public neutral position, the Israeli cabinet on June 4, 1967, led by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, voted unanimously to give the green light to the Israeli military. On June 7, almost every plane in the Israeli Air Force bombed Egyptian airfields while Egyptian pilots were still eating breakfast, effectively annihilating the Egypt’s entire air force at one brilliant stroke. This was only the beginning. The world’s nations were astonished, just as Nasser had predicted – they were astounded at the breathtaking speed and completeness of tiny Israel’s victory over staggering odds and overpowering enemy forces.
None of this should be a surprise to those who know the Holy Scriptures. Thousands of years ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it” (Isaiah 31:5). Ezekiel 37:21-22 is even more direct in prophesying that one day God would restore to the Jews their ancient biblical lands. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel . . .”
It was never Israel’s intention to gain the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria in 1967. The Israelis were simply defending themselves against hostile countries that had pledged to wipe them off the face of the earth. Israel has the right to defend herself, as does the United States of America, and she should not have to apologize to any country or international body to exercise that right when it is imperative for her to do so.