Monday, June 5, 2017

By Way of Deception: 5 June 1967

Today is the 50th anniversary of the start of the June/Six-Day War of 1967, which began with Israel attacking and destroying the Egyptian air force on the ground. Of course, in the eyes of world public opinion, Israel could not afford to be seen as the instigator of such a blatant act of aggression against Egypt, and so its propaganda apparatus pulled all stops out to portray it as a war of self-defence.

For the back-story of Israel's dilemma, here are some extracts from Israeli historian Tom Segev's must-read, 1967: Israel, the War & the Year that Transformed the Middle East (2007):

1) "[Religious affairs minister] Warhaftig asked [defence minister] Dayan how they could present an Israeli first strike as a response, and wondered whether they could stage something. We need an alibi', said [Housing] Minister Bentov. 'I haven't got any tricks other than taking action. If someone has some other trick, I'll buy it,' replied Dayan... [Labour minister] Allon thought that the prime minister could announce to the world's heads of state that the Egyptians had attacked, and minutes later Israel would respond. The prime minister would risk a lie, but only historians would know the truth. 'I don't think the Americans will dig around to check up on what exactly happened,' Allon said. Eshkol pointed out that their action would be judged by history. The resolution that evolved asserted that Israel was acting against 'the ring of aggression tightening around it'." (p 336)

2) "The night before the attack on Egypt, Dayan had ordered the censor to maintain 'a fog of war' until the evening. 'For the first 24 hours we have to be the victims,' he said. As long as the world thought Israel was defending itself and fighting for its life, there would be no pressure from the outside to stop the attack." (p 342)

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