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June 05, 1987 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-06-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

How The Six Day War
Changed Everything

he Six Day War of June 1967 changed
the entire Mideast equation, and
far more.
With Israel's stunning victory over
her Arab neighbors, who had pledged to drive
the Jewish army into the sea, the underdog had become
the master, the tiny nation had more than doubled its size,
the powerless victim had become the ruler. Jews throughout
the world, who had shared a sense of dread over the
possibility of another Holocaust, now shared in a pride of
the Jew as one who determines his own fate.
In America, there was a resurgence of spirituality
among young people and a new interest in tradition. Jewish
identification and pride spread as far as the Soviet Union,
where the movement for emigration can be traced to Israel's
victory on the sands of the Sinai.
But the euphoria soon faded. The belief that strength
insured security gave way to the reality of a million Arags
living under Israeli rule on the West Bank and Gaza. The
triumph of Zionism gave birth to a rekindled Palestinian
nationalism. Self-confidence among Israelis led to hubris,

or chutzpah, a notion that Israel was invincible, that the
Bar Lev Line could not be crossed. It took the horrors of
the Yom Kippur War, six years later, to change that
attitude.

What the Six-Day War accomplished, above all, was
give power to the State of Israel and, with it, a heightened
moral responsibility; As victims for centuries, Jews were
pure in their powerlessness. Now, having mastered the
sword, they were to be treated and judged in a new way.
Israel was no longer a Zionist fantasy but a real country,
with real problems and mistakes and solutions.
Those tensions are as healthy as they are unending.
And they in turn raise new questions over whether. Israel
is to be judged by the moral standards of the rest of the
free world or by a higher, Biblical standard demanding the
Jewish state to be a light unto the nations. That debate
will surely go on for more than another 20 years, but one
certainty that was assured even as Israeli soldiers embraced
the stones of the Western Wall in June 1967: Israel must
always maintain the power to determine her own fate.

What Price Victory?

Twenty years after the Six Day War, Israel continues
to pay a high price for her battlefield gains.

HELEN DAVIS

Special to The Jewish News

erusalem — As May turned to
June in 1967, the Jewish world
watched with mounting horror
as the Middle East began its descent
into war.
Israel, raw and fresh, was just a
teenager. Its three million Jewish in-
habitants, still bearing the unhealed
scars of the Nazi Holocaust, were
struggling to make a fresh start in
their ancient new homeland.
The Arabs, riding a tidal wave of
rhetoric and hatred, resentful at hav-
ing to pay for European misdeeds,
were now determined to expunge the
vile aberration that had grown up in
their midst.
Intoxicated by his dream of pan-
Arabism and encouraged by the
Soviet Union, President Gamal Abdel
Nasser of Egypt set the Arab world
on a course that was leading inex-
orably to war with the tiny Jewish

j

state.
On May 16, he unilaterally ordered
the withdrawal of a six-nation, United
Nations Emergency Force — a buffer
between Egypt and Israel — in the
Sinai Desert.
On May 22, a commentator on
Cairo Radio declared: "The Arab peo-
ple is firmly resolved to wipe Israel
off the map."
On May 27, President Nasser re-
moved any lingering doubts: "The
basic objective," he declared, "will be
the destruction of Israel?'
On May 30, Egypt forged a mili-
tary alliance with Jordan (on Israel's
eastern border) and Syria (in the
north), while troops were also being
dispatched to the front from Algeria,
Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
On the same day, President Nasser
threw down the final gauntlet: he
deployed Egyptian warships at the

mouth of the Straits of Tiran, block-
ing passage to Israel's major south-
ern port of Eilat. It was a move which
Israel had already stated would be
considered an act of war, and the im-
plications were not lost on Egypt.
On June 1, the Cairo Radio com-
mentator announced that Israel was
facing imminent destruction: either it
will be strangled to death by the Arab
military and economic boycott?' he
said, "or it will perish by the fire of
the Arab forces surrounding it from
the south, from the north and from
the east:'
With the dawn of June 1967, more
than half-a-million Arab troops, sup-
ported by 2,500 tanks and almost a
thousand warplanes were confronting
Israel, just over 15 kilometers wide at
its narrowest, and most densely pop-
ulated, point.
Against this, Israel mobilized

25

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