Michael Oren, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East



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Michael Oren, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2002)

The Context…1948 to 1966” (pp. 1-32)

  • Passage of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (November 1947) calling for partition of Palestinian Mandate and international control of Jerusalem.

  • Zionist acceptance of partition plan but rejection by Palestinian and other Arabs. [Recent historical research suggests that Arab rejection of partition was religiously motivated. See Benny Morris quotes below.]

  • Immediate attacks on Jews by Palestinian Arab militias but April 1948 counter-offensive by Haganah lifts blockades of Jewish villages.

  • Emergence of Palestinian refugee problem: “between 650,000 and 750,000 Palestinians” flee homes. “Most expected to return in the near future” after expulsion of “the Zionist ‘usurpers’.”

  • [Benny Morris, p. 67: Arab League proposal in 1946 to evacuate all Arab women and children from Palestine in preparation for war with Jews]

  • May 1948 declaration of Israeli statehood  invasion by Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria & Iraq and “brutal siege” of 100,000 Jews in Jerusalem.

  • Counter-offensive by newly created IDF  armistice agreements with four adjoining Arab states in early 1949.

  • Arab understanding of the 1949 General Armistice Agreements: retention of belligerent rights including right to resume hostilities; no recognition of Israel as a sovereign state.

  • Hostile Arab actions after 1949: no Israeli shipping to or from Eilat, no Israeli passage through Suez Canal, advance of Syrian troops beyond armistice line.

  • Nearly 500 Israeli civilians killed by ambushes and bombings, 1949-1956.

  • Guerrilla attacks on Israel by Arafat and Fatah from Lebanon and the West Bank starting in 1964.

  • Nasser comes to power in Egypt in 1952; Soviets tilt towards Arabs after 1954; massive arms shipments to Egypt and Syria from USSR threaten Israel.

  • Egyptian nationalization of Suez Canal  October 1956 military intervention by UK, France and Israel.

  • IDF capture of Sinai and opening of Eilat to shipping but Ben Gurion leaves Sinai by March 1957.

  • Struggles between conservative and radical Arab regimes during 50s and 60s; brutal war in Yemen involving Egypt and Saudi Arabia; anti-Zionism as instrument in struggles among Arab states.

  • 1964 Arab League agreement to help Syria divert flow of Jordan River to deprive Israel of water needed for cities and agriculture.

  • Escalating attacks from Syria during 1966 and retaliatory strikes by IDF.

  • [Massing of Egyptian tanks and troops on Israeli border + Egyptian blockade of Eilat + threat of Nasser to destroy Israel + Soviet arms shipments to Arab states  Israeli pre-emptive strike on Egyptian air force – Knesset website]

  • Decisive military victory of IDF during June 1967  huge Arab losses of manpower and arms; Israeli occupation of Sinai, Gaza, West Bank and Golan Heights; reunification of Jerusalem.

Aftershocks [of 1967 War]” (pp. 305-327)

  • 175,000-250,000 Palestinians flee from Golan to Syria and from West Bank to Jordan.

  • “Israel insisted that the 1967 refugee problem, like that of 1948 before it, would have to be solved within the framework of a comprehensive peace treaty. The Arab states uniformly rejected this demand, and insisted on unconditional repatriation….” (p. 306)

  • Widespread pogroms in 1967 against (remaining) Jews of Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco.

  • Over a million Palestinians now under Israeli military rule but Palestinian religious and community leaders remain in place; Temple Mount in Jerusalem still under Muslim control.

  • Discovery that West Bank and East Jerusalem synagogues and Jewish cemeteries had been destroyed after 1948 expulsion of Jews by Jordanians.

  • Political debate about newly occupied territories within Israeli political and military leadership.

  • June 19 secret decision of Israeli cabinet to exchange Sinai and Golan Heights in return for peace treaties with Egypt and Syria.

  • Pan-Arab summit meeting in Khartoum (August 1967): “no recognition of Israel, no peace and no negotiation.”

  • UN General Assembly in summer of 1967 rejects Arab claim that the war had been an act of Israeli aggression.

  • Unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 242 in November 1967. Acceptance by Israel and Jordan, with reservations, but rejection by Iraq, Syria and the PLO.

  • [“The most controversial clause in Resolution 242 is the call for the ‘Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.’ This is linked to the second unambiguous clause calling for ‘termination of all claims or states of belligerency’ and the recognition that ‘every State in the area’ has the ‘right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force…’ The Security Council did not say Israel must withdraw from "all the" territories occupied after the Six-Day war.” – Jewish Virtual Library]



Efraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed (2010)

Shattered Dreams” (Chapter 11)

  • Dire situation facing newborn Israel during spring of 1948: superior arms of invading Arab armies; siege and bombardment of Jerusalem; slaughter of Jews in Kfar Etzion by Arab Legion, etc.

  • UN-sponsored cease fire give IDF time to procure arms and then mount July 1948 counter-offensive against Arab armies.

  • IDF counter-offensive relieves threat to Tel Aviv, opens corridor from coastal plain to Jerusalem, leads to territorial gains in Galilee, etc.

  • Operation Danny (July 1948) aims to disarm Palestinian fighters in Lydda and Ramle on Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road.

  • Surrender in Lydda negotiated by IDF commander with Arab notables but some Palestinian fighters continue to resist. Bitter urban fighting results in death of 250 Arabs.

  • Ben Gurion agrees to expulsion of residents of Lydda and Ramle to secure road to Jerusalem. “This was … the only instance in the war when a substantial urban population was driven out by Jewish or Israeli forces” (Karsh, p. 216).

  • No expulsion of Arab residents from numerous villages that surrendered peacefully to Haganah or IDF.

  • Ben Gurion order to IDF on its entry into Nazareth: respect Christian holy sites, no removal of inhabitants.

  • Grand Mufti proclaims (Sept. 1948) that repatriation of Palestinian refugees achievable only by expulsion of Jews from all of Palestine.

  • Passage of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (Dec. 1948): refugee issue to be settled as part of a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Arab states; repatriation or resettlement of refugees envisioned; recognition of Jewish as well as Arab refugees.

  • Unanimous vote against Resolution 194 by Arab members of UN.

Benny Morris, “The 1948 War Was an Islamic Holy War,” Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2010)

  • “What I discovered in the documentation relating to the war, at least from the Arab side, was that the war had a religious character, that the central element in the war was an imperative to launch jihad. There were other imperatives of course, political and others—but the most important from the enemy's perspective was the element of the infidels who had the nerve to take control over sacred Muslim lands and the need to uproot them from there. The decisive majority in the Arab world saw the war first and foremost as a holy war, but until today historians have not examined the documentation that proves this. In my view, they have also ignored Arab rhetoric of the day, which universally included religious hatred against the Jews ….”

  • [Did the Jews expel the Palestinians who became refugees?] “Firstly, I prefer the word flight: In general the Arabs fled; afterward we destroyed their villages and did not permit them to return. There were only cases of expulsion in a few places…(T)he war caused the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem; and to the same degree, the war also caused the flight of the Jewish communities from their homes in Arab countries…The problem of the Jewish refugees was solved, and they were absorbed in Israel and other places while the Arabs never absorbed their refugees….”

  • Reading notes by Richard England, TIP IAC.


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