Controversies relating to the Six-Day War

Controversies relating to the Six-Day War

The Six-Day War was fought between June 5 and June 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt [known then as the United Arab Republic (UAR)], Jordan, and Syria. The war began with a large-scale surprise air strike by Israel on Egypt and ended with a major victory by Israel. A number of controversies have arisen out of the causes and conduct of the war, namely: whether Israel's action was a preemptive strike justified by the threat of an imminent attack by the Arab states or an unjustified and unprovoked attack; whether the Egyptians killed stragglers from their own forces as they returned from the defeat; whether the Israelis killed unarmed Egyptian prisoners; and the extent of foreign support given to the combatants in the war.


Preemptive strike v. unjustified attack

Initial claims

Both Egypt and Israel announced that they had been attacked by the other country. Gideon Rafael, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, received a message from the Israeli foreign office: "inform immediately the President of the Sec. Co. that Israel is now engaged in repelling Egyptian land and air forces." At 3:10 am, Rafael woke ambassador Hans Tabor, the Danish President of the Security Council for June, with the news that Egyptian forces had "moved against Israel" .[1] and that Israel was responding to a "cowardly and treacherous" attack from Egypt…"[2] At the Security Council meeting of June 5, both Israel and Egypt claimed to be repelling an invasion by the other,[1] and "Israeli officials – Eban and Evron – swore that Egypt had fired first".[3]

On June 5 Egypt charged Israel with aggression, supported by the USSR. Israel claimed that Egypt had struck first, telling the council that “in the early hours of this morning Egyptian armoured columns moved in an offensive thrust against Israel’s borders. At the same time Egyptian planes took off from airfields in Sinai and struck out towards Israel. Egyptian artillery in the Gaza strip shelled the Israel villages of Kissufim, Nahal-Oz and Ein Hashelosha..." In fact, this was not the case.[4] The US Office of Current Intelligence "...soon concluded that the Israelis – contrary to their claims – had fired first." [5]

There are different views as to whether the Israeli action was justified by an imminent threat from the Arab states and therefore a preemptive strike or was an unjustified unprovoked attack.

Preemptive strike

The Israeli view was that its initiation of the Six-Day War was a pre-emptive strike in the face of a planned invasion of Israel by the Arab countries.[6] A number of sources support this view.[note 1][note 2]

Unjustified attack

On the other hand, the Arab view was that it was an unprovoked attack.[note 3] The view that the Arab states were not a threat justifying a preemptive strike is also supported by a number of sources.[note 4]

Allegations of Egyptian atrocities against fellow Egyptians

Following the war little remained of Egypt’s seven divisions deployed in Sinai. Thousands of Egyptian soldiers became stragglers and tried desperately to make their way westward toward the Suez Canal zone. Israel did not have the capacity to take them all prisoner and where possible, facilitated their movement toward the Canal where they would attempt to swim across. "However, one group (of Egyptian stragglers), as they were in mid-stream, were mown down by their own forces on the far side of the Canal with machine-guns."[7] It has been suggested that Nasser did not want Egypt to learn of the true extent of his defeat and thus ordered the killing of survivors who tried to escape[8] Other Egyptian survivors were transferred to Egypt at Qantara and once on the Egyptian side of the Canal, were herded into compounds where they were surrounded by barbed wire.[8] Winston Churchill, the grandson of the famed former British Prime Minister, notes that Egyptian soldiers who succeeded in making their way back to Egypt, never made it home and instead were kept in cantonments, “to prevent the spread of despondency among the civil population.”[9]

Allegations that the IDF killed Egyptian prisoners

After the war, a national debate ensued in Israel regarding allegations that soldiers killed unarmed Egyptians. A few soldiers said that they had witnessed the execution of unarmed prisoners. Gabby Bron, a journalist for Yedioth Ahronoth, said he had witnessed the execution of five Egyptian prisoners.[10] Michael Bar-Zohar said that he had witnessed the murder of three Egyptian POWs by a cook,[11] and Meir Pa'il said that he knew of many instances in which soldiers had killed POWs or Arab civilians.[12] Uri Milstein, an Israeli military historian, was reported[13] as claiming that there were many incidents in the 1967 war in which Egyptian soldiers were killed by Israeli troops after they had raised their hands in surrender. "It was not an official policy, but there was an atmosphere that it was okay to do it," Milstein said. "Some commanders decided to do it; others refused. But everyone knew about it."[14] Allegations that Egyptian soldiers fleeing into the desert were shot were confirmed in reports written after the war. Israeli historian and journalist Tom Segev, in his book "1967", quotes one soldier who wrote, "our soldiers were sent to scout out groups of men fleeing and shoot them. That was the order, and it was done while they were really trying to escape".[15]

According to a New York Times report of September 21, 1995, the Egyptian government announced that it had discovered two shallow mass graves in the Sinai at El Arish containing the remains of 30 to 60 Egyptian prisoners allegedly shot by Israeli soldiers during the 1967 war. Israel responded by sending Eli Dayan, a Deputy Foreign Minister, to Egypt to discuss the matter. During his visit, Dayan offered compensation to the families of victims, but explained that Israel was unable to pursue those responsible owing to its 20-year statute of limitations. The Israeli Ambassador to Cairo, David Sultan, asked to be relieved of his post after the Egyptian daily Al Shaab said he was personally responsible for the killing of 100 Egyptian prisoners, although both the Israeli Embassy and Foreign Ministry denied the charge and said that it was not even clear that Sultan had served in the military.[16]

Capt. Milovan Zorc and Miobor Stosic, a military liaison official, who were members of the Yugoslav Reconnaissance Battalion that formed part of the 3,400-strong UNEF deployed as a buffer between Egypt and Israel and witnessed the war, have cast doubt on claims that Israel executed Egyptian prisoners of war in the area where they were stationed. They said that if an Israeli unit had killed some 250 POWs near the Egyptian town of el-Arish, they would likely have come to know about it.[17]

Declassified IDF documents show that on June 11, 1967, the operations branch of the general staff felt it necessary to issue new orders concerning the treatment of prisoners. The order read: "Since existing orders are contradictory, here are binding instructions. a) Soldiers and civilians who give themselves up are not to be hurt in any way. b) Soldiers and civilians who carry a weapon and do not surrender will be killed... Soldiers who are caught disobeying this order by killing prisoners will be punished severely. Make sure this order is brought to the attention of all IDF soldiers".[18]

According to Israeli sources, 4,338 Egyptian soldiers were taken captive by IDF. 11 Israeli soldiers were taken captive by Egyptian forces. POW exchanges were completed on January 23, 1968.[19]

Combat support

According to George Lenczowski, as early as May 23, President Johnson secretly authorized supplying Israel by air with a variety of arms systems, even when an embargo on weapons shipments was placed on the Middle East.[20]

Stephen Green wrote in his book that the United States sent reconnaissance aircraft to track nighttime movement of Egyptian ground forces in order to facilitate daytime Israeli air attacks that proved important for Israel's advances.[21] Richard Parker disputes this and suggests that it is a hoax, based on the questionable testimony of a single man.[22]

On the second day of the war, Arab state-run media reported that American and British troops were fighting on Israel's side. Radio Cairo and the government newspaper Al-Ahram made a number of claims, among them: that U.S. and British carrier-based aircraft flew sorties against the Egyptians; that U.S. aircraft based in Wheelus Air Base-Libya attacked Egypt; and that American spy satellites provided imagery to Israel. Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, the chief of “Al-Ahram” in the Nasserite period, repeated similar claims at Al Jazeera channel. Later, Muammar al-Gaddafi's Libyan government confirmed these claims also only to get a pretext for the coup that took place on 1 September 1969. The governments of the United States and Britain made little effort to either confirm or deny these claims. Similar reports were aired by Radio Damascus and Radio Amman. Egyptian media even said that King Hussein had personally seen radar observations showing British aircraft taking off from aircraft carriers.

Outside of the Arab world, claims of American and British military intervention were not taken seriously. Britain, the U.S. and Israel denied these allegations. On June 8, Egyptian credibility was further damaged when Israel released an audio recording to the press, which they said was a radio-telephone conversation intercepted two days earlier between Nasser and King Hussein of Jordan.[23]

Nasser: ...Shall we include also the United States? Do you know of this, shall we announce that the U.S. is cooperating with Israel?

Hussein: Hello. I do not hear, the connection is the worst – the line between you and the palace of the King from which the King is speaking is bad.
Nasser: Hello, will we say the U.S. and England or just the U.S.?
Hussein: The U.S. and England.
Nasser: Does Britain have aircraft carriers?
Hussein: (Answer unintelligible).
Nasser: Good. King Hussein will make an announcement and I will make an announcement. Thank you... Will his Majesty make an announcement on the participation of Americans and the British?
Hussein: (Answer unintelligible).

Nasser: By God, I say that I will make an announcement and you will make an announcement and we will see to it that the Syrians will make an announcement that American and British airplanes are taking part against us from aircraft carriers. We will issue an announcement, we will stress the matter and we will drive the point home.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, as the extent of the Arab military defeat became apparent, Arab leaders differed on whether to continue to assert that the American military had assisted the Israeli victory. On June 9, 1967, Nasser stated in his resignation speech (his resignation was not accepted):

What is now established is that American and British aircraft carriers were off the shores of the enemy helping his war effort. Also, British aircraft raided, in broad daylight, positions of the Syrian and Egyptian fronts, in addition to operations by a number of American aircraft reconnoitering some of our positions... Indeed, it can be said without exaggeration that the enemy was operating with an air force three times stronger than his normal force.

King Hussein, however, later denied the allegations of American military support. On June 30, he announced in New York that he was "perfectly satisfied" that "no American planes took part, or any British planes either".[24] In September, The New York Times reported that Nasser had privately assured Arab leaders, gathered in Sudan to discuss the Khartoum Resolution, that his earlier claims were false.[24]

Nonetheless, these allegations, that the Arabs were fighting the Americans and British rather than Israel alone, took hold in the Arab world. As reported by the British Representative in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a country at odds with Egypt as a result of the Yemen war:

President Abdel Nasser's allegation ... is firmly believed by almost the whole Arab population here who listen to the radio or read the press ... Our broadcast denials are little heard and just not believed. The denials we have issued to the broadcasting service and press have not been published. Even highly educated persons basically friendly to us seem convinced that the allegations are true. Senior foreign ministry officials who received my formal written and oral denials profess to believe them but nevertheless appear skeptical. I consider that this allegation has seriously damaged our reputation in the Arab world more than anything else and has caused a wave of suspicion or feeling against us which will persist in some underlying form for the foreseeable future ... Further denials or attempts at local publicity by us will not dispel this belief and may now only exacerbate local feeling since the Arabs are understandably sensitive to their defeat with a sense of humiliation and resent self-justification by us who in their eyes helped their enemy to bring this about.

Well after the end of the war, the Egyptian government and its newspapers continued to make claims of collusion between Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. These included a series of weekly articles in Al-Ahram, simultaneously broadcast on Radio Cairo by Mohamed Heikal. Heikal attempted to uncover the "secrets" of the war. He presented a blend of facts, documents, and interpretations. Heikal's conclusion was clear-cut: there was a secret U.S.-Israeli collusion against Syria and Egypt.

According to Israeli historian Elie Podeh: "All post-1967 [Egyptian] history textbooks repeated the claim that Israel launched the war with the support of Britain and the United States. The narrative also established a direct link between the 1967 war and former imperialist attempts to control the Arab world, thus portraying Israel as an imperialist stooge. The repetition of this fabricated story, with only minor variations, in all history school textbooks means that all Egyptian schoolchildren have been exposed to, and indoctrinated with, the collusion story." The following example comes from the textbook Al-Wisam fi at-Ta'rikh:

The United States' role: Israel was not (fighting) on its own in the (1967) war. Hundreds of volunteers, pilots, and military officers with American scientific spying equipment of the most advanced type photographed the Egyptian posts for it (Israel), jammed the Egyptian defense equipment, and transmitted to it the orders of the Egyptian command.[25]

In Six Days of War, historian Michael Oren argues that the Arab leadership spread false claims about American involvement in order to secure Soviet support for the Arab side.[26] After the war, as the extent of the Israeli victory became apparent to the Arab public, these claims helped deflect blame for the defeat away from Nasser and other Arab leaders. In reaction to these claims, Arab oil-producing countries announced either an oil embargo on the United States and Britain or suspended oil exports altogether.

Six Arab countries broke off diplomatic relations with the United States, and Lebanon withdrew its Ambassador.[27] More broadly, the Six Day War hastened the process of anti-American radicalization in the Middle East, a process expressed by the growth of both leftist and religious-fundamentalist movements and their increased resort to terrorism as a weapon in their anti-American struggle. In fact, it transcended the Arab countries and spread to Iran, Pakistan and the Third World, whose delegates at the UN began adopting increasingly critical posture toward America.[28]

A British guidance telegram to Middle East posts concluded: "The Arabs' reluctance to disbelieve all versions of the big lie springs in part from a need to believe that the Israelis could not have defeated them so thoroughly without outside assistance."[29]

Non-combat support

USS Independence was in service with the Sixth Fleet, in 1967

In a 1993 interview for the Johnson Presidential Library oral history archives, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara revealed that a carrier battle group, the U.S. 6th Fleet, on a training exercise near Gibraltar was re-positioned towards the eastern Mediterranean to be able to defend Israel. The administration "thought the situation was so tense in Israel that perhaps the Syrians, fearing Israel would attack them, or the Russians supporting the Syrians might wish to redress the balance of power and might attack Israel". The Soviets learned of this deployment, which they regarded as offensive in nature, and, in a hotline message from Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, threatened the United States with war.[30]

The Soviet Union supported its Arab allies.[31] In May 1967, the Soviets started a surge deployment of their naval forces into the East Mediterranean. Early in the crisis they began to shadow the US and British carriers with destroyers and intelligence collecting vessels. The Soviet naval squadron in the Mediterranean was sufficiently strong to act as a major restraint on the U.S. Navy.[32] In a 1983 interview with the Boston Globe, McNamara said that "We damn near had war". He said Kosygin was angry that "we had turned around a carrier in the Mediterranean".[33]

In his book Six Days, veteran BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen claims that on June 4, 1967, the Israeli ship Miryam left Felixstowe with cases of machine guns, 105 mm tank shells, and armored vehicles in "the latest of many consignments of arms that had been sent secretly to Israel from British and American reserves since the crisis started" and that "Israeli transport planes had been running a 'shuttle service' in and out of RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire". Bowen claims that Harold Wilson had written to Eshkol saying that he was glad to help as long as the utmost secrecy was maintained.[34][35]

The USS Liberty incident

See also


  1. ^ Preemptive strike:
    • "...Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Egyptian planes as they stood on the airfields. These events triggered the so-called June war of 1967, but the pre-emptive action of Israel was not condemned by the S.C. – or indeed by the G.A. There appeared to be a general feeling, certainly shared by the Western states, that taken in the context this was a lawful use of anticipatory self-defence, and that for Israel to have waited any longer could well have been fatal to her survival." Antonio Cassese. The Current Legal Regulation of the Use of Force: Current Legal Regulation Vol10, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1986, p. 443. ISBN 90-247-3247-6
    • "War was inevitable under these conditions. Israel, seeing war as inevitable, decided on a pre-emptive strike, launching its attack on 5 June 1967." Goldstein 1992, p. 127.
    • "In 1967 Israel was aware of an impending attack by Egypt, to be assisted by Jordan, Iraq and Syria, and won a brilliant and total victory in only six days (consequently the fighting is known as the 'Six-Day War'), largely because they launched a pre-emptive attack on the Arab air forces..." David Robertson. The Routledge Dictionary of Politics, Routledge, 2003, p. 22. ISBN 0-415-32377-0
    • "On 30 May 1967 Jordan joined the Syrian-Egyptian military pact. Despite US attempts to mediate, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike just days later which destroyed the unprepared Egyptian air force..." Martin S. Alexander. Knowing Your Friends: Intelligence Inside Alliances and Coalitions from 1914 to the Cold War, Routledge, 1998, p. 246. ISBN 0-7146-4879-5
    • "On 5 June 1967 Israel attacked Egyptian positions in a pre-emptive strike." Sören Zibrandt von Dosenrode-Lynge, Anders Stubkjær. The European Union and the Middle East, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002, p. 56. ISBN 0-8264-6088-7
    • "In the end Israel launched a preemptive aerial attack, in which most of the Egyptian air force was destroyed on the ground within the first three hours of the war, and in six days the war was over." Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, Columbia University Press, 1999, p. 276. ISBN 0-231-10483-9
    • "a massive pre-emptive strike on Egypt." "BBC on this day", BBC website. URL accessed May 14, 2006.
    • "Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on June 5" "Mideast 101: The Six Day War", CNN website. URL accessed May 14, 2006.
    • "Most historians now agree that although Israel struck first, this pre-emptive strike was defensive in nature." "The Mideast: A Century of Conflict Part 4: The 1967 Six Day War", NPR morning edition, October 3, 2002. URL accessed May 14, 2006.
    • "a massive preemptive strike by Israel that crippled the Arabs’ air capacity." Six-Day War, Retrieved 17 July 2010; Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. © 2006 World Almanac Education Group via The History Channel website, 2006, URL accessed February 17, 2007.
    • "In a pre-emptive strike, Israel smashed its enemies’ forces in just six days..." Country Briefings: Israel, The Economist website, July 28, 2005. URL accessed March 15, 2007.
    • "Yet pre-emptive strikes can often be justified even if they don't meet the letter of the law. At the start of the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel, fearing that Egypt was aiming to destroy the Jewish state, devastated Egypt's air force before its pilots had scrambled their jets." "Strike First, Explain Yourself Later," Michael Elliott, Time, July 1, 2002. URL accessed March 15, 2007.
    • "the situation was similar to the crisis that preceded the 1967 Six Day war, when Israel took preemptive military action." "Delay with Diplomacy", Marguerite Johnson, Time, May 18, 1981. URL accessed March 15, 2007.
    • "Following the Israeli conventional pre-emptive operations in June 1967,..." Aronson, Shlomo. "Israel's Nuclear Programme, the Six Day War and Its Ramifications", in Karsh, Efraim. Israel: The First Hundred Years, Routledge, 1999, p. 83. ISBN 0-7146-4962-7
    • "Israel, seeing war as inevitable, decided on a pre-emptive strike, launching its attack on 5 June 1967." Goldstein 1992, p. 127.
    • "Thus provoked, the Israelis attacked preemptively and, in what came to be known as the Six-Day War, routed Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian troops..." Cohen, Warren I. The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations Volume IV, Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 193. ISBN 0-521-48381-6
    • "As Egypt, Syria and Jordan mobilized their forces in spring 1967 for an evident impending attack, Israel launched a preemptive strike." CNN In-Depth Specials: Mid-East, Land of Conflict, Six-Day War, CNN, Website. Accessed January 7, 2007.
    • "Are there good examples of preemptive or preventive war – that is, ones that were proper to fight? Taking the most promising of the two categories – preemption – only one actual case seems clearly right: the Israeli attack on Egypt and Syria in June 1967." Betts, Richard K. "Striking First: A History of Thankfully Lost Opportunities", Ethics and International Affairs, Volume 17, No. 1 (Spring 2003).
    • "While he and I agree that World War I and the Six Day War are preemptive, we code six cases differently." Reiter, Dan. "Exploding the Powder Keg Myth: Preemptive Wars Almost Never Happen", International Security, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 5–34.
    • "Ironically, when the timing, character and success of Israel's pre-emptive strike surprised the Soviets and obviated their planned intervention, it also put a damper on the festive occasion..." Ginor, Isabella. "The Cold War's Longest Cover-up: How and Why the USSR Instigated the 1967 War", Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal, Volume 7, No. 3 (September 2003).
    • "It was also the primacy of Security interests over moral rectitude that prompted Israel, in the opening blow of the 1967 Six-Day War, to preemptively attack Egypt's warplanes on their bases." Brown, Seyom. International Relations in a Changing Global System, Westview Press, 1996, p. 138, footnote 6. ISBN 0-8133-2353-3
    • "Israel attacked preemptively, destroying the Egyptian and Syrian air forces on the ground, and went to win a decisive victory in six days." Dershowitz, Alan M. Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006. p. 81.
    • "Israel staged a sudden preemptive air assault and destroyed Egypt’s air force on the ground" Encyclopaedia Britannica Six Day War, accessed 30 May 2010.
    • “Cognizant since its inception of Egypt’s leading role in the Arab world, its growing military power and untiring defense of the Palestinian case in world forums, Israel launched a treacherous assault on June 5, 1967...” Egypt State Information Service.
    • "The Israeli first strike is...a clear case of legitimate anticipation." Walzer, Michael. (2006 ). Just and unjust wars: a moral argument with historical illustrations. Basic Books. ISBN 0465037070.
    • "The United States has often walked a fine line between preemption and prevention. In fact there have only been a handful of clear-cut cases of military preemption by any states in the last 200 years. (Israeli preemption in the Six Day War of 1967 is perhaps the most cited example)” U.S. National Security Strategy: a New Era U.S. Department of State (2002).
    • The Six Day War is, "A classic example of preemptive war." Henry Shue, David Rodin Preemption: military action and moral justification
    • "Classic examples of preemptive wars include the July Crisis of 1914 and the Six Day War of 1967 in which Israel preemptively attacked Egypt…" Mueller Karl P. (2007). Striking first: preemptive and preventive attack in U.S. national security. (PDF). Rand Corporation. ISBN 978-0-8330-3881-4.
    • “The Six Day War between Israel and alliance of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq was an example of preemption.” And, “It exemplifies preemption.” Kegley, Charles W.; Raymond, Gregory A. (2009). The Global Future: A Brief Introduction to World Politics. Wadsworth Publishing. 3 edition. ISBN 0495569275.
    • "Preemptive attack is morally justified when three conditions are fulfilled: The existence of an intention to injure, the undertaking of military preparations that increase the level of danger, and the need to act immediately because of a higher degree of risk. Since these conditions were met in Israel’s Six Day War, Israel’s preemptive attack on Egypt on June 5, 1967 was a legitimate act of self-defense.” Amstutz, Mark R. (2008). International ethics: concepts, theories, and cases in global politics. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0742556042.
  2. ^ Sources supporting the view that the war on the Jordanian front was not initiated by Israel:
    • "In May–June 1967 Eshkol's government did everything in its power to confine the confrontation to the Egyptian front. Eshkol and his colleagues took into account the possibility of some fighting on the Syrian front. But they wanted to avoid having a clash with Jordan and the inevitable complications of having to deal with the predominantly Palestinian population of the West Bank.
    • "The fighting on the eastern front was initiated by Jordan, not by Israel. King Hussein got carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism. On 30 May he flew to Cairo and signed a defense pact with Nasser. On 5 June, Jordan started shelling the Israeli side in Jerusalem. This could have been interpreted either as a salvo to uphold Jordanian honor or as a declaration of war. Eshkol decided to give King Hussein the benefit of the doubt. Through General Odd Bull, the Norwegian commander of UNTSO, he sent the following message the morning of 5 June: 'We shall not initiate any action whatsoever against Jordan. However, should Jordan open hostilities, we shall react with all our might, and the king will have to bear the full responsibility of the consequences.' King Hussein told General Bull that it was too late; the die was cast." Shlaim, 2000, pp. 243–244.
  3. ^ The Arab view:
    • “Cognizant since its inception of Egypt’s leading role in the Arab world, its growing military power and untiring defense of the Palestinian case in world forums, Israel launched a treacherous assault on June 5, 1967...” Egypt State Information Service.
    • "Israel has committed a treacherous premeditated aggression against the United Arab Republic...While we in the United Arab Republic...have declared our intention not to initiate any offensive action and have fully co-operated in the attempts that were made to relieve the tension in the area", M. A. El Kony, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Republic (Egypt), UN Security Council meeting 1347 (5 June 1967)
  4. ^ Unjustified attack:
    • “Various Israeli officials said later... that 'Israel had not in fact anticipated an imminent attack by Egypt when it struck June 5'”. The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective, p. 164; John B Quigley
    • “... declassified documents from the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, indicate that top officials in the Johnson administration – including Johnson's most pro-Israeli Cabinet members – did not believe war between Israel and its neighbors was necessary or inevitable, at least until the final hour. In these documents, Israel emerges as a vastly superior military power, its opponents far weaker than the menacing threat Israel portrayed, and war itself something that Nasser, for all his saber-rattling, tried to avoid until the moment his air force went up in smoke...” Tolan, Sandy. (5 June 2007). Rethinking Israel’s ‘David and Goliath’ Past,
    • “... all US intelligence... had characterized Nasser's troops in the Sinai as "defensive in nature". (ibid)
    • “(Nasser) seemed to think that he could 'ride out the storm' and that, ultimately, ‘discretion would prevail in Tel Aviv'. ("Nasser", Sir Anthony Nutting, Constable, London, 1972. p. 408)
    • “President Johnson told Eban that even after instructing his ‘experts to assume all the facts that the Israelis had given them to be true’, it was still their ‘unanimous view that there is no Egyptian intention to make an imminent attack’ – a conclusion according to Eban, also reached by Israeli intelligence”. (“Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict”; Norman Finkelstein, p. 134)
    • “Mossad chief Meir Amit (stated) ‘Egypt was not ready for a war’ and Nasser did not want a war’” (ibid p. 134)
    • “The Israeli-compiled Middle East Record stated that ‘most observers agree’ that Nasser did not intend to launch an attack ‘and that his pledges to U Thant and to the Great Powers not to start shooting should, therefore, be accepted at their face value’.” (ibid p. 134)
    • “... it is generally agreed [that] Nasser was sincere when he later said that he had no intention of launching an attack against Israel; on the contrary as he said in his 23 July speech, he believed that ‘any attack on Israel would expose us to great dangers.” (Cockburn and Cockburn, “Dangerous Liaison”, 1991, p. 137)
    • “The claim that Israel was in danger of imminent destruction was propaganda aimed at the Israeli public no less than Israel’s Western sympathisers, part of what Seale has described as “one of the most extensive and remarkable exercises in psychological warfare ever attempted. Foreign intelligence agencies were in agreement that Israel would make short work of Arab armies...” ”June 5, 1967: A Retrospective View”; Centre of Policy “Analysis on Palestine; Jeremy Salt
    • “Far from trying to avert conflict, the conclusion is inescapable that Israel’s military command did everything it could to bring it on.” (ibid.)
    • “... all the evidence (is that) Israel was trying to bring the Arab states to war by May 1967... when Nasser closed the Strait of Tiran, the Israelis knew he had walked into their trap – had taken the bait – and could ‘barely restrain themselves’. They wanted to attack at once. Their concern was not to defuse the crisis but to destroy Arab military capacity and bring down Nasser before the moment passed.” (ibid.)
    • U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban that the U.S. intelligence assessment was that "the Egyptian deployments were defensive in character and anticipatory of a possible Israeli attack". Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, May 26, 1967, 10:30 a.m.; The Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael B. Oren has acknowledged that "By all reports Israel received from the Americans, and according to its own intelligence, Nasser had no interest in bloodshed..." Israel's assessment was that "Nasser would have to be deranged to take on an Israel backed by France and the U.S. Sixth Fleet. War, according to the Israelis, could only come about if Nasser felt he had complete military superiority over the IDF, if Israel were caught up in a domestic crisis, and, most crucially, was isolated internationally—a most unlikely confluence." Oren 2002, pp. 59–60).
    • “The myth of Israel as victim is also reflected in the conventional wisdom about the 1967 war, which claims that Egypt and Syria are principally responsible for starting it... It is clear from the release of new documents about the war, however, that the Arabs did not intend to initiate a war against Israel in the late spring of 1967, much less try to destroy the Jewish state.” (John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt; The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, Penguin Books, pp. 84–85).
    • “Avi Shlaim, a distinguished Israeli ‘new historian’ writes, ‘There is general agreement among commentators that [Egyptian President] Nasser neither wanted nor planned to go to war with Israel’. (ibid p. 85)
    • “Serious diplomatic efforts were also under way to solve the crisis peacefully. Yet Israel chose to attack anyway, because its leaders ultimately preferred war to a peaceful resolution of the crisis. In particular, Israel’s military commanders wanted to inflict significant military defeats on their two main adversaries – Egypt and Syria – in order to strengthen Israeli deterrence over the long term... In short, Israel was not preempting an impending attack when it struck the first blow on June 5, 1967. Instead, it was launching a preventive war – a war aimed at affecting the balance of power over time.” (ibid p. 85)
    • “Various Israeli officials said later... that 'Israel had not in fact anticipated an imminent attack by Egypt when it struck June 5'”. The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective, p. 164; John B Quigley
    • Israel's former Commander of the Air Force, General Ezer Weitzman, regarded as a hawk, stated that there was "no threat of destruction" but that the attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria was nevertheless justified so that Israel could "exist according the scale, spirit, and quality she now embodies." Menachem Begin, the first Likud Prime Minister of Israel, also said: "In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him." Quoted in Chomsky, Noam (1999) The Fateful Triangle, South End Press, p. 100. ISBN 0896086011. Quote from Ha'aretz, March 29, 1972; for a more extensive quote, see Cooley, Green March, Black September, p. 162.
    • "I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it." (Le general Rabin ne pense pas que Nasser voulait la guerre, Le Monde, February 29, 1968, quoting Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's Chief of Staff in 1967. Quigley, John. The Oslo Accords: More Than Israel Deserves, American University International Law Review 12, no. 2 (1997): 285-298)
    • "Moshe Dayan, the celebrated commander who, as Defense Minister in 1967, gave the order to conquer the Golan...[said] many of the firefights with the Syrians were deliberately provoked by Israel, and the kibbutz residents who pressed the Government to take the Golan Heights did so less for security than for the farmland... They didn't even try to hide their greed for the land...We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that's how it was...The Syrians, on the fourth day of the war, were not a threat to us.'" The New York Times, May 11, 1997.
    • Lenczowski 1990, p. 105-115, Citing Moshe Dayan, Story of My Life, and Nadav Safran, From War to War: The Arab-Israeli Confrontation, 1948-1967, p. 375

      Israel clearly did not want the US government to know too much about its dispositions for attacking Syria, initially planned for June 8, but postponed for 24 hours. It should be pointed out that the attack on the Liberty occurred on June 8, whereas on June 9 at 3 AM, Syria announced its acceptance of the cease-fire. Despite this, at 7 AM, that is, four hours later, Israel’s minister of defense, Moshe Dayan, “gave the order to go into action against Syria.”


  1. ^ a b Bailey 1990, p. 225.
  2. ^ Oren, p. 198.
  3. ^ Oren 2002, p. 196.
  4. ^ The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective; John B Quigley, p. 163
  5. ^ Robarge, 2007.
  6. ^ BBC Panorama
  7. ^ Churchill & Churchill 1967, pp. 179, 198.
  8. ^ a b Churchill & Churchill 1967, p. 179.
  9. ^ Churchill & Churchill 1967 p. 198
  10. ^ Bron, Gabby 'Egyptian POWs Ordered to Dig Graves, Then Shot By Israeli Army', Yedioth Ahronoth, 17 August 1995.
  11. ^ Bar-Zohar, Michael 'The Reactions of Journalists to the Army's Murders of POWs', Maariv, 17 August 1995.
  12. ^ Prior 1999, pp. 209–210; Bar-On, Morris and Golani 2002; Fisher, Ronal 'Mass Murder in the 1956 War', Ma'ariv, 8 August 1995.
  13. ^ Laub, Karin 'Historians: Israeli troops killed many Egyptian POWs', Associated Press, 16 August 1995. Retrieved from the Wayback Machine. 14 October 2005.
  14. ^ "Israel Reportedly Killed POWs", 17 August 1995
  15. ^ Segev, T., 2007, p. 374
  16. ^ Ibrahim, Youssef 'Egypt Says Israelis Killed P.O.W.'s in '67 War', New York Times, 21 September 1995.
  17. ^ UN soldiers doubt 1967 killing of POWs by AP. Jerusalem Post, March 29, 2007. Accessed 17 July 2010.
  18. ^ Bowen 2003, p. 276 (quoting IDF 100/438/1969 order issued 11 June 1967 at 2310, sent to all three territorial commands, to G1 branch and some other departments of the General Staff).
  19. ^ Background on Israeli POWs and MIAs. Retrieved 14 October 2004.
  20. ^ Mansour 1994, p. 89
  21. ^ Green 1984
  22. ^ Parker 1997
  23. ^ "Israelis say tape", 9 June 1967.
  24. ^ a b Smith, 15 Sep. 1967
  25. ^ al-Qusi 1999, p. 284.
  26. ^ Oren 2002, pp. 216–218.
  27. ^ Smith 14 June 1967, p. 16
  28. ^ Lenczowski 1990, p. 113
  29. ^ Podeh 2004
  30. ^ Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, 1994
  31. ^ "Mediterranean Eskadra", 2000
  32. ^ Hattendorf 2000
  33. ^ McNamara: Us Near War in '67, 1983.
  34. ^ Bowen 2003, p. 89.
  35. ^ Phythian 2001, pp. 193–194.


Further reading

  • Barzilai, Gad (1996). Wars, Internal Conflicts, and Political Order: A Jewish Democracy in the Middle East. New York University Press. ISBN 0-7914-2943
  • Cristol, A Jay (2002). Liberty Incident: The 1967 Israeli Attack on the U.S. Navy Spy Ship. Brassey's. ISBN 1-57488-536-7
  • Gat, Moshe (2003). Britain and the Conflict in the Middle East, 1964–1967: The Coming of the Six-Day War. Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0-275-97514-2
  • Hammel, Eric (October 2002). "Sinai air strike: June 5, 1967". Military Heritage 4 (2): 68–73. 
  • Hopwood, Derek (1991). Egypt: Politics and Society. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-09432-1
  • Hussein of Jordan (1969). My "War" with Israel. London: Peter Owen. ISBN 0-7206-0310-2
  • Katz, Samuel M. (1991) Israel's Air Force; The Power Series. Motorbooks International Publishers & Wholesalers, Osceola, WI.
  • Makiya, Kanan (1998). Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21439-0
  • Morris, Benny (1997). Israel's Border Wars, 1949–1956. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-829262-7
  • Rezun, Miron (1990). Iran and Afghanistan. In A. Kapur (Ed.). Diplomatic Ideas and Practices of Asian States (pp. 9–25). Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-09289-7
  • Smith, Grant (2006). Deadly Dogma. Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. ISBN 0-9764437-4-0

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