Ari LiebermanThe writer is an attorney and former prosecutor who writes on Israel military matters
April 7 marked Yom Hashoah, a day marked by solemn remembrances for those who perished in the Holocaust.
But as we approach IDF Memorial Day and Israel Independence Day, it is important to remember that It was also the 46th anniversary of a more obscure incident that many analysts view as the precursor to one of the most astonishing victories of modern military history. On April 7, 1967 Israeli Mirages and Syria Mig-21s dueled over the skies of Syria and northern Israel and six Migs were downed with no Israeli losses.
Like the current situation in Gaza, where Islamist rocket fire on civilian areas inexorably draws Israeli counter fire, Syrian artillery fire on Israeli villages precipitated the aerial engagement. And like the Gazan Islamists of today, the Syrians cried foul after being bloodied by the Israelis.
Following the clash, heated Arab rhetoric and false Soviet intelligence reports of Israeli military deployments led to a series of aggressive actions by Egypt and her Arab allies that ultimately culminated in the Six-Day War. On May 15 and with much fanfare and publicity, President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt deployed two Egyptian divisions in Sinai. On May 16, he ordered U.N. peacekeeping forces, who had hitherto served as a buffer between Israeli and Egyptian forces, out of Sinai. On May 19, Egyptian troop strength swelled to six divisions, with a seventh added soon after. On May 22, Nasser ordered the closure of the Straits of Tiran at the entrance to the Gulf of Eilat, to Israeli shipping.
The closure was a gross violation of international maritime law and constituted a casus belli. On May 30th Jordan and Egypt established a joint military command and Jordan placed its armed forces under Egyptian control. Soon after, Egyptian paratroop battalions landed in Jordan and on June 3, they were joined by Iraqi contingents. On June 2, an Egyptian mortar attack set Israeli wheat fields on fire and Egyptian aerial incursions into Israeli territory were occurring with alarming frequency.
Israel was surrounded with countries bent on its annihilation. The Arab street, fed by blood-curdling, anti-Semitic government propaganda, was whipped into frenzy and an orgy of hate and depravity swept through the Arab world. It was clear that the Arabs had foreclosed any possibility of peaceful coexistence with Israel.
If there were any doubts about Arab intentions, Radio Cairo dispelled them on May 22 when it declared, “The Arab people is firmly resolved to wipe Israel off the map.” Israel for its part attempted to quell Arab aggression through diplomatic means but to no avail. The Soviets were actively stoking the flames of war while France, wishing to curry favor with the Arabs, turned its back. The British and Americans offered sympathy and little else.
Thus Israel, with its back to the wall and faced with overt threats of annihilation, acted decisively. On June 5, 1967 the outnumbered and out gunned Israeli Defense Forces launched a preemptive strike and within six days, destroyed the armies of those sworn to her destruction. Two and a half million Israelis faced off against one-hundred and ten million Arabs and won decidedly.
The facts were indisputable. Israel acted in self-defense and the aggressor Arab nations were forced to scurry with their tails between their legs. Even the traditionally hostile United Nations, which had condemned past Israeli defensive actions in knee-jerking fashion, refused to condemn her this time. In fact, Resolution 242, passed by the UN Security Council following the war, gave implicit recognition to Israeli territorial conquests and affirmed Israel’s right to safe and secure boundaries.
But time or rather its passage serves to dampen memories and opens the door to creative and rather obscene narratives that serve to obfuscate and perpetuate falsehoods. History is replete with such examples.
Truman’s decision to drop atom bombs on Japan was rightfully heralded at the time as a courageous decision that saved the lives of hundreds of thousands and served to end a war imposed on us by an aggressor nation. But today, the decision is questioned by nefarious elements who offer all sorts vile conspiracy theories as reasons for Truman’s actions.
The Holocaust, which claimed the lives of six-million, is today routinely challenged by Islamist heads of state with banal regularity. The so-called moderates, such as Palestinian Authority chieftain Mahmoud Abbas, have issued denials of the genocide claiming that that it was a “fantastic lie,” that gas chambers were never used to kill Jews and that no more that “890,000” Jews perished, and Abbas is still courted by the West.
In similar vein, Arab “scholars” and some of their useful idiot allies in the West, such as Tom Segev, have been on a crusade to present a fallacious view of the events preceding the Six-Day War. They do so by inventing facts, providing out of context statements and conflating statements that result in the presentation a skewed narrative. The stakes concerning which side was the aggressor and apportionment of blame are highly consequential. The aggressor loses the moral and legal high ground and thus loses whatever benefit it derived from the war, including territorial conquest.
Those who present the false Arab narrative are thankfully still a marginal lot, regulated to spewing their hate on fringe outlets such as Press TV and Counterpunch. But lies if repeated often enough have an insidious way of infiltrating mainstream discourse and the ill informed are most susceptible.
Michael Oren, considered the preeminent authority on the Six-Day War had harsh words for the revisionists and noted that the Arabs – Jordan, Egypt and Syria – “had planned the conquest of Israel and the expulsion or murder of much of it Jewish inhabitants in 1967. Many of the so-called ‘revisionist historians’ today are claiming that the Arabs never had aggressive intentions toward the Jewish state and that Israel precipitated the Six-Day War in order to expand territorially. The documentary evidence refutes this claim unequivocally.”
We must therefore never forget who the aggressor was in the Six-Day War, that the ramifications of an Israeli loss would have been calamitous on par with the Holocaust and that the Arabs have only themselves to blame for their sorry predicament.