The Six-Day War, which took place in June 1967 between Israel and the Arab nations of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, was a brief but devastating struggle. After years of diplomatic tension and clashes with its neighbors, Israel’s Defense Forces began preventative airstrikes that severely damaged Egypt’s and its allies’ air defenses. Then, following a victorious ground offensive, Israel conquered the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt. A U.N. ceasefire brought the short war to a close, but it impacted the Middle East’s geography and caused geopolitical tension. This paper will analyze the 1967 war from the Jewish and Muslim perspectives and discuss the historical context of this conflict.
The Zionism perspective on The Six Day War is based on the idea of a downtrodden and persecuted people who found the strength to rise up, free themselves, and reestablish a sovereign nation in their historic homeland while residing as guests among hostile host nations was certain to be considered either profoundly inspirational or completely mad (Shavit 6). It is hardly surprising that the account seems absurd to the Muslims and Arabs who have inhabited the Land since their conquest of it in the seventh century. Not only did the Jews claim to be returning after two thousand years to a region nearby, but they also stood in for a group of people that the Muslim Arabs had grown to despise over the course of ages.
The Six-Day War finished with Israel’s occupation of the territories that belonged to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and the relocation of multiple Palestinian families. In addition, according to Laub, the Arab loss damaged Nasser’s pan-reputation and impacted the dominant Arab populist-nationalist political order pushing it to leave the Palestinians to fight for their own states (para. 2). At the same time, the West Bank was controlled by Israel and Palestinians lived under occupation that presupposed the morally intolerable limitation of their human rights, while the Zionism justified their activities by Israel’s right to return their Holy Land and free it from Arabs.
However, for Palestinians, the war demonstrated the violation of their human rights that were not protected by other states. While the Palestine Liberation Organization was created in 1964 on the basis of the League of Arab States, the Palestinian people were not represented there, and all decisions were made by Egypt (Harb para. 14). That is why Arab countries’ passive position led to the victory of Israel, and even if a Palestinian Authority was formed after the war for control over Gaza and the West Bank, these territories remained occupied and supervised by Israel.
In his book “My Promised Land,” the author Ari Shavit discloses the view of a Zionist individual on the Arab-Israel conflict. The significant and impactful book by Ari Shavit helps readers rediscover and celebrate Israel’s factuality and restores the magnificence of basic reality in the face of complexity. Israel’s history is introduced by Shavit with Zionism and its utopian endeavors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Shavit is correct when he says that “Zionism’s goal” was to save the Jews from being destroyed during their exile, and he has too much self-respect to entertain doubts about his thirst for life (291). According to Shavit, “the vision was impressive — ambitious but not mad. And the persistence was unique: For over a century, Zionism displayed extraordinary determination, imagination, and innovation” (10).
In the book “The Iron Cage,” the author Rashid Khalidi discloses Israel’s perspective on this war. Mainly Khalidi states that the Jewish state “feared that the Pan-Arab invasion would crush Israel” (287). The situation was further worsened by the failure of the international community to react to the actions of the Muslim states. In addition, according to the Jewish perspective, Israel’s military response should be regarded as the reaction to the hostility of the country’s neighbors (Gera 229). This is why the state’s leaders chose to launch preemptive strikes and managed to destroy the armies of the Arab states within days.
The final exchange of fire occurred along Syria’s northeastern border with Israel. Israeli tanks and infantry moved into the Golan Heights, an area of Syria that was highly fortified, on June 9 after a fierce aerial assault (Hadad 266). The following day, they were successful in taking the Golan. The Six-Day War was abruptly over on June 10, 1967, when a ceasefire mediated by the U.N. went into force. In just 132 hours of warfare, it was ultimately calculated that 20,000 Arabs and 800 Israelis had perished.
The Israeli population shifted from despondency to relief in less than a week of fighting. Religious Jews felt that God had granted them the victory as a miracle (Hadad 267). Israelis who identified as secular felt the energy of the time. The territory that had been miraculously entrusted to the Jewish people by God could not be abandoned. The challenge they encountered was that Palestinians felt it was their Land and that it was their responsibility to defend the sacred sites they revered.
1967 War Similar Accounts: War Was Inevitable and Valid
Some scholars pursue the idea that the Six-Day War could have been avoided if there had been interference in the politics of Israel. According to Karsh, “Had Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser not fallen for a false Soviet warning of Israeli troop concentrations along the Syrian border and deployed his forces in the Sinai Peninsula, the standard narrative runs, the slippery slope to war would have been averted altogether” (1). However, some other scholars oppose this view and argue that this war was inevitable and a natural consequence of the tensions that built up in this region. The 1967 war was anything but accidental, according to the British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who once remarked that wars are similar to car accidents in that they have both a general and specific reason (as cited in Karsh 1). Its precise timing was the consequence of a number of distinct causes coming together at a given time.
Several conflicts preceded this war and led to the escalation. Following disagreements over Israel’s establishment, a coalition of Arab countries attempted to invade the fledgling Jewish state in 1948 as part of the First Arab-Israeli War (Karsh 1). In reaction to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal, Israel, the United Kingdom, and France launched a contentious attack on Egypt in 1956, sparking the second major conflict known as the Suez Crisis (Kash 2). Thus, the main cause of the Six-Day War was a string of border disputes. Midway through the 1960s, attacks over the Israeli border were being staged by Palestinian guerillas with support from Syria, which prompted Israeli Defense Forces incursions in retaliation. The fighting intensified in April 1967 after Israel and Syria engaged in a fierce air and artillery battle in which six Syrian fighter jets were destroyed.
Differing Account: Elation vs. Despair
The failure of the Arab states in the 1967 war forced them to acknowledge and eventually accept the fact that they would never be able to liberate Palestine fully (Laub par. 27). According to Hadad, the Muslims continue to view Israel’s attack in this war as indignation (266). Previously, the Arab nations tended to blame their warfare losses on colonialism, while the 1967 case was blamed on the Jewish nation.
For the Jewish nation, the victory in the Six-Day War definitely presupposes elation as, from a religious perspective; it signified God’s support. According to one of the witnesses and participants of the war, “the meaning was that for 2,000 years the people of Israel were in exile – persecuted, tortured, subjected to anti-Semitism. Those 2,000 years were over” (Bateman para. 20). At the same time, for ordinary Palestinians, the war was definitely a despair. For them, it led to displacement, the deterioration of their living conditions, discrimination, and the violation of human rights. People were forced to leave their homes and live in refugee camps. Even after decades, a prevalent number of them have no opportunity to return back.
What do Differences Reveal
The differences in the way that Jewish and Arab Palestine view this war reveal a lot about the fundamental underlying tensions in the historical narrative of both groups. Historians can make sense of these divergences and commonalities by examining the perspectives of both sides and analyzing the effect that this war has had on the Jewish and Muslim populations. According to Hadad, the war affected the Muslim’s prevailing acceptance of socialism and nationalism, which prevailed in 1967 (266). In the Middle East, the Six-Day War had significant geopolitical repercussions. Israel, which had tripled in size as a result of the war, experienced a rush of national pride, but it also fanned the embers of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Arab leaders gathered in Khartoum, Sudan, in August 1967 and signed a declaration promising “no peace, no recognition, and no discussion” with Israel, still reeling from their defeat in the Six-Day War (Hadad 267). Later, during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the Arab nations began a fourth significant confrontation with Israel, led by Egypt and Syria. Over a million Palestinian Arabs were also absorbed by the state of Israel when it annexed the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Thus, this event had an effect on the Palestinian Arabs who resided in the area and were now a part of the Italian nation.
In summary, in June 1967, Israel and the Arab countries of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan fought the Six-Day War. The brief conflict was ended by a U.N. ceasefire, but it had a long-lasting effect on the topography of the Middle East and raised geopolitical tension. After a heavy aerial attack, Israeli tanks and soldiers entered the Golan Heights on June 9. The Arabs were successfully driven out of the area the following day. Israel’s statehood was brought about as a result of the battle. Additionally, it provoked tensions between Israel and the Arab world.
Gera, Gideon. “Israel and the June 1967 War: 25 Years Later.” Middle East Journal, vol. 46, no. 2, 1992, pp. 229–243.
Hadad, Yvonne. “Islamists and the ‘Problem of Israel’: The 1967 Awakening.” Middle East Journal, vol. 46, no. 2, 1992, pp. 266–285.
Harb, Imad K. “A Bird’s Eye View of the 1967 War: Palestine Remains the Central Issue.” Arab Center Washington DC, 2017.
Laub, Zachary. “How Six Days in 1967 Shaped the Modern Middle East.” Council for Foreign Relations.
Karsh, Efraim. “The Six Day War: An Inevitable Conflict.” Middle East Quarterly, vol. 24. no. 4, pp. 1-12.
Khalidi, Rashid. The Iron Cage. Random House, 2006.
Shavit, Ari. The Promised Land. Random House, 2013.