A Long Term Care?
PBS looks back to Israel's Six-Day War.
Special to the Jewish News
uesday, June 5, marks the
40th anniversary of the start
of Israel's fabled Six-Day War.
To commemorate the event, PBS airs
a remarkable — though at times dis-
ingenuous — two-hour documentary
about the brief, albeit bloody, conflict.
Appropriately called Six Days in
June, the film airs 9-11 p.m. Monday,
June 4, on PBS stations nationwide.
Utilizing newly declassified materi-
als (although it's not certain whether
those are Arab or Israeli documents),
the program is extremely well done. It
combines archival footage and inter-
views with participants
from both sides — politi-
cians, foot soldiers and
generals — to provide an
in-depth visual history of the events
leading up to the war and the war
itself. Much of the material was new to
Ironically, this was a war that should
have and could have been prevented.
Egyptian President Gamal Abdel
Nasser was ambitious. He envisioned
a Pan-Arab nation with himself as its
leader. Egged on by others, including
the Syrian president, who argued that
he could defeat Israel in six hours,
Nasser mobilized his troops, moved
them into the Sinai and blockaded the
Straits of Tiran, effectively cutting off
Israel's access to the sea.
From there, matters escalated out
of control. It was the middle of the
Cold War; and the Soviets sent mixed
signals to the Arabs, first encouraging
Nasser's moves and then forbidding
a first strike. But by then, Nasser had
whipped the Arabs into such frenzy
there was no turning back.
Israeli Prime Minister and Defense
Minister Levi Eshkol wanted to avoid
conflict and delayed the war as long
as he could. He sent Abba Eban to
Washington to urge President Lyndon
B. Johnson to intervene. But LBJ had
his own problems in Vietnam. Had he
sent a single American naval vessel to
break the blockade, the clash might
have been avoided. Eventually, Eshkol
succumbed to the pressure from his
generals, turned his Defense portfolio
over to Moshe Dayan and approved a
Within hours of the war's start in the
early morning of June 5, the Israelis
destroyed virtually every plane and
airport the Arabs had. Without air
support, the Arab cause was doomed.
Interestingly, Arab radio at first
announced victories for its forces. By
contrast, Israel maintained a radio
silence. It didn't want the extent of its
achievement to get out so that outsid-
ers would request a cease-fire.
One of Nasser's aides said the
Egyptian president told him that if he'd
known how ineffective his troops were,
he never would have instigated the fight.
As much as this reviewer enjoyed the
film, there is a quarrel with its principal
conclusion: that Israel's refusal to go
back to its original borders
after the cease-fire has led to
the current explosive atmo-
sphere in the Middle East. It
"mired the country in years of occupa-
tion and violence,' the documentary
intones. The Israelis occupy "one of the
Muslim world's holiest sites:' the Noble
Sanctuary, which "will stoke the fires of
conflict for generations to come."
What about the Arab occupation of
the Jewish quarter in 1948, in which
every synagogue was destroyed and
defiled and access to the kotel limited?
Further, the documentary alleges,
as the press materials note, that the
war "crushed the dream of Pan-Arab
nationalism, undermined the Arab
secular regimes and left the Arab world
so traumatized that many turned to
militant Islam." But the same kinds of
regimes (often run by the same fami-
lies) in power in 1967 still rule in Egypt,
Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
More to the point (with the excep-
tion of Jerusalem), Israel did offer the
land back, wanting only peace. The ini-
tiative worked with Egypt and Jordan.
The filmmakers (who are Israeli) are
entitled to their opinion. But they also
have an obligation to prove their point.
In fact, they do the opposite. They note
how the Arab League met shortly after
the war, vowing to destroy Israel. One
must ask, how would giving back land
have changed that — or history?
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Six Days in June airs 9-11 p.m.
Monday, June 4, on Detroit
Public Television-Channel 56 and
other PBS stations. Check your
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