The Raq Rega E-Mail Project Issue 2

The Claim That Israel was the Aggressor in the 1967 War

Being declared an aggressor with respect to a war is a conclusion that is to be drawn from all the facts and circumstances.  To be called an aggressor means a judgment has been reached that a country has acted wrongfully in engaging in the war.   Israel has been accused of being the aggressor with respect to the 1967 War.  Here are the facts to enable you to decide for yourself.

 1, 1967 and earlier. Syria creates border incidents, attacks Israeli farmers legally cultivating land in the demilitarized zones, attacks Israeli fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee and encourages and funds attacks on Israel launched from the West Bank (Jordanian occupied territory).  Israelis are murdered.  Property is destroyed.

2. May 15: Nasser of Egypt masses troops, tanks and aircraft in the Sinai adjacent to Israel’s borders.   No troops and weapons had been stationed there for 10 years.

3. May 16: Egypt orders the withdrawal of the United Nations forces stationed on the border, thus removing the international buffer between Egypt and Israel which had existed for 10 years. 5. Syria increases border clashes with Israel and mobilizes its troops.

4. May 22: Egypt announces a blockade of all goods bound to and from Israel through the Straits of Tiran, cutting off access to the port of Eilat, one of Israel’s two ports to the outside world.  May 23: President Lyndon Johnson declares that the blockade of Israeli shipping is illegal.  Israel approaches the Great Powers who had guaranteed the freedom of Israeli navigation. Britain and France renege on their commitment  

5. Syria increases border clashes with Israel and mobilizes its troops.

6. May 20: Hafez Assad, then Syria's defense minister, says, "Our forces are now entirely ready to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation."  

7. May 26: Egyptian president Nasser declares in a speech to his nation, "Our basic aim will be to destroy Israel."  

8. May 27: At a press conference PLO founder Ahmad Shukeiry says: "D-Day is approaching. The Arabs have waited 19 years for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation." 

9. May 28: Responding to U.S. requests, the Israeli cabinet votes to withhold military action. 

10. May 30: Cairo Radio broadcasts: "Israel has two choices, both of which are drenched with Israel's blood: Either it will be strangled by the Arab military and economic siege, or it will be killed by the bullets of the Arab armies surrounding it from the south, from the north and from the east."  President Nasser and King Hussein of Jordan sign a mutual defense pact mirroring the pact Egypt has with Syria and allows troops from various Arab nations to enter Jordan towards Israel. 

11.  June 4: Egypt and Iraq sign a defense pact.  Iraqi troops move towards the Israeli border

So here is the situation:

ü     At that point Israel was confronted on all sides by an Arab force of some 465,000 troops, over 2,880 tanks and 810 aircraft and Arab leaders telling their people that they are about to launch a war of annihilation against Israel.

ü     In response, Israel mobilized its citizen army.  As a consequence Israel faced slow economic strangulation because a long-term mobilization of a majority of the society would bring the Israeli economy to a virtual standstill.

ü     The best minds were doubtful whether Israel could survive a first strike by land and air.  Its army was simply far too outnumbered and out gunned and its land area was simply too small.

ü     And all the while Arab rhetoric threatening Israel's annihilation was rising, attacks from the West Bank continued and no outside power would agree to come to Israel’s defense.  Indeed some had already reneged on promises previously made.

In this situation, ask yourself:

v     As a citizen, what would you expect of your leaders? 

v     From a moral perspective, what would you expect of a country?

v     From a legal perspective, can it be said the law requires a country to sacrifice itself? 

v     From any perspective (i) when a gun is pointed at your heart, (ii) the person holding it threatens to kill you, and (iii) the threat is credible, can it be concluded that striking the first blow is anything other than a prudent, reasonable act of defense and not an act of aggression?

12. June 5 Israel launches a strike against Egypt and captures the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. Despite Israeli appeals to stay out of the conflict, Jordan attacks Israel and loses control of the West Bank and the eastern sector of Jerusalem. Israel also captures the Golan Heights from Syria.  June 10: The war ends .

For more information on the Six Day War, we recommend Six Days of War, June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Michael B. Oren.

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