The Six Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East by Guy LaronOne fateful week in June 1967 redrew the map of the Middle East. Many scholars have documented how the Six Days War unfolded, but little has been done to explain why the conflict happened at all. As we approach its fiftieth anniversary, Guy Laron refutes the widely accepted belief that the war was merely the result of regional friction, revealing the crucial roles played by American and Soviet policies in the face of an encroaching global economic crisis, and restoring Syria’s often overlooked centrality to events leading up to the hostilities.
The Six Days War effectively sowed the seeds for the downfall of Arab nationalism, the growth of Islamic extremism, and the animosity between Jews and Palestinians. In this important new work, Laron’s fresh interdisciplinary perspective and extensive archival research offers a significant reassessment of a conflict—and the trigger-happy generals behind it—that continues to shape the modern world
Origins of the Six-Day War
The Six-Day War that erupted in may have created a new Middle East, but the broader Arab-Israeli conflict to which the war belonged was anything but new. The combatants in — Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria, as well as Iraq and other Arab states — were for the most part the same as those who fought in the first Arab-Israeli war of , in which Israel fought off an invasion by Arab countries. Rhetoric in the days leading up to the Six-Day War also echoed that from For example, on May 15, , the day Arab states launched their attack on Israel, Arab League Secretary General Azzam Pasha announced that "[t]his will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades. The general animosities that led to the Six-Day War began even before Arab opposition to the Balfour Declaration and Jewish nationalism in British Mandate Palestine had fomented conflict as early as the s, when Palestinian Arab rioters, often instigated by Palestinian religious leader Haj Amin al Husseini, attacked Jewish communities in Tel Chai, Jaffa, Jerusalem and elsewhere. Particularly bloody were the attacks on August , when rioters massacred over Jews across British-controlled Palestine, mainly in the ancient city of Hebron.
At the time of the Six-Day War , the earlier foundation of Israel, the resulting Palestinian refugee issue , and Israel's participation in the invasion of Egypt during the Suez crisis of continued to be significant grievances for the Arab world. Arab nationalists, led by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser , continued to be hostile to Israel's existence and made grave threats against its Jewish population. By the mids, relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors had deteriorated to the extent that a number of border clashes had taken place. In April , Syria shot at an Israeli tractor ploughing in the demilitarized zone, which escalated to a prewar aerial clash. In May , following misinformation about Israeli intentions provided by the Soviet Union , Egypt expelled UN peacekeepers who had been stationed in the Sinai Peninsula since the Suez conflict ,  and announced a blockade of Israel's access to the Red Sea international waters via the Straits of Tiran , which Israel considered an act of war.
For the crime of self-preservation, Israel remains a nation unforgiven. The Jordanians ignored the warning and opened fire with planes and artillery. By this means, Stephens disgracefully deceives his readers into believing that Jordan fired the first shots of the war. The conclusion readers are evidently supposed to draw is that Egypt, in partnership with Jordan, was preparing to invade Israel. This is true, but the implication, given his provided context, is that its purpose was to protect Israel from Egyptian aggression—which is a distortion of history. After rounding up villages in the town square, Israeli forces proceeded to engage in wanton destruction that included the razing, according to UN investigators , of homes, a village clinic, and a school. Israel considered this announcement a casus belli—a justification for war—but was repeatedly warned by the US government that its grievance with Egypt over the use of the straits would need to be resolved through diplomacy, not military force.