Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Revisionist Historians Eschew Inconvenient Truths of Israel's Existential Vulnerabilities

While revisionist historians are having a field day on the 40th Anniversary of the 6-Day War, it is useful to go back in time and remember what was really going on in the Middle East back in May-June 1967. Some of the experts debunk popular current mythology below.

Arabs Planned to Destroy Israel in '67 - Steve Linde
Those who call the Six-Day War a disaster or a Pyrrhic victory overlook the fact that Israel wasn't destroyed, historian Michael Oren said Monday. Oren said his research of documents in Arab countries had revealed clearly that the Arabs had planned to destroy Israel.
"The biggest myth going is that somehow there was not a real and immediate Arab threat, that somehow Israel could have negotiated itself outside the crisis of 1967, and that it wasn't facing an existential threat, or facing any threat at all," said Oren, who is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at Jerusalem's Shalem Center and author of Six Days of War: June 1967. He noted that this was the premise of Tom Segev's book, 1967: Israel, the War and the Year That Transformed the Middle East. "What's remarkable is that all the people alleging this - not one of them is working from Arabic sources.
What's behind the myth, Oren argued, is "a more pervasive, ongoing effort to show that Israel bears the bulk, if not the sole responsibility, for decades of conflict in the Arab world, and that the Arabs are the aggrieved party.
(Jerusalem Post)

Lessons of the Six-Day War - Ariel Cohen
Today the world will commemorate the 40th anniversary of Israel's victory in the Six-Day War. Forty years later, however, Israel's very existence is challenged again. Now more than ever, Israel is the proverbial canary in the Middle East coal mine, the litmus test of Arab and Muslim attitudes to the world beyond the Land of Islam. It is not the "Israeli occupation" but the rise of extremist Islamist forces that constitute a global threat and are central in Middle East destabilization.
Today the threat is not only Arab -- it is also Iranian. It is not secular nationalism and pan-Arabism, but Islamist. It is both extremist Shi'a, as expressed by Iran and Hezbollah, and militant Sunni, articulated by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Moslem Brotherhood, and increasingly, al Qaeda-affiliated organizations in Gaza and Lebanon.
Forty years ago, the threat was classically conventional. Today, Israel and the United States lack strategy and doctrine to defeat the whole spectrum of threats, from the suicide bombings and Qassam rockets of Hamas and Fatah, to the improvised explosive devices in Iraq and the short range Iranian-supplied Katyusha rockets of Hezbollah. The threat is also unconventional -- from Syrian chemical weapons-armed rockets, to the Iranian nuclear weapons program. It is not the "Israeli occupation" but the rise of extremist Islamist forces that constitute a global threat and are central in Middle East destabilization. Israeli, European and U.S. policymakers and generals still think in terms of nation-states and conventional armies. The global jihadi movement, its political leaders, paymasters, recruiters and propagandists recognize no national borders.
The writer is senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. (Washington Times)

No Pyrrhic Victory - Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal)
It is often said today that the Six-Day War humiliated the Arabs and propelled the region into future rounds of fighting. Yet only a few days before the outbreak of the war, Iraq's then-President Abdul Rahman Aref saw it as "our opportunity...to wipe Israel off the map," describing the war as the Arabs' chance "to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948."
It is said that the Palestinian movement was born from Israel's occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Yet the Palestine Liberation Organization was already in its third year of operations when the war began.
To read some recent accounts, a more sagacious Israel could have followed up its historic victory with peace overtures. In fact, the Israeli cabinet agreed on June 19, 1967, to offer the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace deals. In Khartoum that September, the Arab League declared "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it."
On June 5, 1967, Israel was a poor, desperately vulnerable country, which threw the dice on its own survival in the most audacious military strike of the 20th century
. It is infinitely richer and more powerful today, and sure in its alliance with the U.S. If these are the fruits of Israel's "Pyrrhic victory," it needs more such of them.

Remaking the World in Six Days -
Michael Oren
In six intense days of fighting that began on June 5, 1967, Israeli forces saved their country from an imminent existential threat, defeated three major Arab armies and almost quadrupled the territory under their country's control. Compare, for example, Israel's diplomatic and strategic situation on June 4, 1967: The country was surrounded by Arab states bent on its destruction, utterly isolated and outgunned. Egypt alone had five times as many soldiers as Israel, and 10 times the tanks. Beyond the Middle East, Israel faced an inimical Soviet bloc that generously armed the forces of Egypt, Syria and Iraq, as well as the animosity of China and India. Though generally friendly, the United States still refused to sell weapons to the Israelis, who remained militarily dependent on France. Worse yet, on the eve of the war, the French concluded that they had more to gain from Arab oil producers and abruptly switched sides, imposing a total arms embargo on Israel. Having begun the conflict with Arab guns pointed at all of its cities, Israel concluded the war with its own troops in artillery range of every neighboring Arab capital - an achievement that convinced Arab leaders of the impossibility of destroying the Jewish state by conventional means. Israel, as a result, was eventually able to reconcile with Jordan and to trade territory captured in the 1967 war for a peace agreement with Egypt. Most significantly, the U.S., which previously regarded Israel as a friendly country but one that impaired its relations with the Arab world, suddenly realized that the Jewish state was in fact a regional superpower, forging an alliance with Israel that has remained robust ever since. Michael Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, is the author of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. (Los Angeles Times)


Lao Qiao said...

In the days before the Six-Day War, I was a member of the Independent Committee on Vietnam at Columbia University. A surprising number of the members were looking forward to an Israeli defeat at that time. A few months later, the National Conference of the New Politics took place in Chicago and passed anti-Israel resolutions. That was when I began to learn that there was an unofficial but powerful Marxist-Islamic alliance.

David Brumer said...

Hi Lao,
When did you come to the States?
Were you born in Viet Nam?
Thanks for being a consistent contributor to my blog.

Lao Qiao said...

Hi David,

My name in English is George Jochnowitz. I was born in the USA. I lived and taught in China, where I was called Lao Qiao. My Chinese friends in America call me Lao Qiao. My book THE BLESSED HUMAN RACE, which has just appeared, tells about my China experiences. My email is george@jochnowitz.net