Sunday, June 10, 2007

40 Years After The Six Day War

Map of the movements of the Israeli Army

Forty years ago today the Six Day War ended. It deserves a quick look at for historical military geography sake and because its influence on modern geopolitics.

Before the War

The United Nations partition plan to establish a Jewish nation-state and Arab state in the remaining British Mandate was adopted on November 29, 1947. Most of the United Nations countries voted for the partition. Both the Soviet Union and the United States Israel could be a satellite of theirs in the rapidly developing Middle East. Countries voting against it included Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen.

The British Mandate was scheduled to expire on May 15. However fighting started right after the partition plan was adopted. On May 14th the State of Israel was established while King Abdullah I of Jordan made his plans known for all of the Mandate land to become part of Jordan. A massive Arab army invaded Israel from all sides seeking to destroy the new state. The fighting ended in 1949 with Israel independent while the Gaza Strip became Egyptian and the West Bank become Jordanian. Israel's northern and central cities were in easy reach of any Arab attack. This gave geographical reasoning for Israel's extreme defensive mindset.

The situation in the Mideast fluctuated back and forth for a while until it reached fever pitch in 1967. The Soviets realized Israel's moves towards the United States and began to fund the Arab countries and incite violence. Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran in violation of previous agreements. Arab forces were also gathered along Israel's borders in preparation for their own final solution to their Jewish "problem." United Nation peacekeeping troops were ordered out of the Sinai so Egypt would have clean shots at Israel.


I have described the Six Day War before as the most surprising one-sided victory in modern warfare. A sudden air attack by Israel managed to take out most of Egypt's air force. In the Sinai Peninsula, General Ariel Sharon launched such a surprising blitz that the Egyptian commanders called their troops back to the Suez Canal after a few short scrimmages.

By Day 3 of the fighting Israel captured East Jerusalem after Jordan launched attacks on West Jersualem and Tel Aviv. At the end of day three Israel had control of the West Bank and even launched a raid on the East Bank.

Day 4 was mostly mop up against the Egyptians and Jordanians while the Israel debated attack the Golan Heights of Syria. The heights had commanding over looks of Israel and Syria all the way to Damascus. However, fortification on the heights were manned by some of Syria's best troops and any attack would be costly. Fierce fighting occurred on days five and six on top of the Golani Plateau as Israel's used the superior Uzi against the AK-47 in trench battles.

At the end of the war Israel captured the Golan Heights, the West Ban, and all of the Sinai Peninsula.

After the War

The war showed that Israel could win an offensive war while Egypt and Syria would lose a defensive war. The map changed a bit after the Yom Kippur War in which Egypt and Syria went on the offensive while Israel became defensive. After that war Israel agreed to return the Sinai in exchange for peace and Egypt's recognition for Israel's right to exist.

The peace which followed afterwards led to a new stage in the "Arab-Israeli" conflict. The Palestinian Liberation Organization, founded three years before the Six Day War by the Arab League as a tool to destroy Israel, ignited an internal war against Israel while the Arab states slowly disengaged their conflicts against Israel. With the new stage the dreams of a "Greater Israel" began to fade. It seemed impossible for Israel to fully control the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; places where Jews could only live in highly fortified settlements. So Prime Minister Sharon withdrew from the Gaza Strip, began building a wall to stem the tide of suicide bombers and other infiltrators, and he even had plans to withdrawal from most of the West Bank. However, Sharon's medical condition and the poorly managed Hezbollah War of 2006 has left the current prime minister without any mandate. Things are frozen for now.

There are dark clouds on the horizon though. Hezbollah is in the south of Lebanon. Syria has recently been doing war games near the border. Finally, Iran is threatening genocide. Will radical Shiites seek to do what Pan-Arabists could not? Time will tell.


Ann said...

This reads like Israeli propaganda that even the Israelis no longer spout. I'm a political geographer and I most certainly disagree with most of your contentions. The Israeli military campaigns were not defensive but offensive and there was no "massive" Arab armies (you write "A massive Arab army invaded Israel from all sides seeking to destroy the new state" but fail to provide crucial context -- that the incipient Israeli state violently displaced and ethnically cleansed numerous Palestinian villages to incur the understandable antagonism of the rest of the region.

It is both extremely partial and disingenuous to say that the PLO was formed to "destroy Israel" -- it came to accept Israel and existed to end the violent Israeli military occupation which continues to this day and to bring relief and a state (and some human rights denied by Israel).

Iran has not at all been threatening genocide, the widely propagated -- and patently false -- "wipe of the map" mistranslation is an idiom in English, not in Persian, and thank Goodness for the Hezbollah resistance (formed in response to Israel's first, 1982 invasion), or else the Lebanese, in addition to having much of their country destroyed last year in a disgustingly disproportionate response and war that was prepared months in advance, would have lost Southern Lebanon as well to a state that refuses to define its borders -- belligerent, bellicose Israel.

"Poorly managed"?? I think not. More like ill-conceived and wrong. Try describing it as merely "poorly managed" to the 1300 dead Lebanese, and a quarter of the population displaced, most of them civilians, and to the couple hundred dead Israelis, most of them combatants (Hezbollah are either more scrupulous or better trained than the IDF, who say they don't target civilians, a claim not borne out in plain facts.)

Some links you might be interested in (and I can reference many more):
* General who helped redraw the borders of Israel says road map to peace is a lie
* It was Israel which attacked Egypt after Nasser closed the straits of Tiran
* 40 Years Ago

Catholicgauze said...

Hi Ann,

Thanks for the comment. Before I begin I think I should just clarify some things I said in the original post.

The "massive Arab army invaded Israel" bit is concerning the 1948-49 War of Independence. If you are denying the Arabs invaded the Jewish State in 1948 you are wrong; however, if you thought I was referring to the 1967 then there was just a bit of miscommunication going on.

The PLO was formed in 1964 with the purpose of destroying Israel. That is a statement of fact. Another fact is that it legally recognized Israel's right to exist. I will give credit there.

Now to the meat. While the Six Day War's first shots were done by the IDF, the Arab Forces led by Nasser wanted war. With 100,000 of its 160,000 man army in the Sinai, Nasser said at a press conference after making a military pact with Jordan on May 30, 1967 "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight."

"thank Goodness for the Hezbollah resistance"? That's a very odd statement. Why do you oppose the Christian/Sunni/Druze alliance for a peaceful and democratic Lebanon. To support those who are backed by a regime that days ago Israel will be destroyed. Sounds similar to the "We will bury you threat" from the 1960s.

Just to end this comment on a good note, it is really great to hear from a fellow geographer. Thanks again for the comment.

Ann said...

Thanks for your response, CG and I appreciate the friendly engagement despite our disagreement. I appreciate the links also, to which I will respond.

1. Iran article
There is an all too-convenient instrumentalist demonisation of Ahmadinejad going on in the present climate of the case for war being made by the US and Israeli neocons.

Granted, Pres. Ahmadinejad is a loose-cannon but you may know he is largely a figurehead who is comparatively powerless. His is a populist rhetoric that doesn't amount to much, especially when one considers very similar types of rhetoric from the US and Israeli establishments, from far more influential people, and with much less scrutiny or outcry.

You may recall, for example, the comments just from last year about putting the Palestinians "on a diet" (starving them), bombing Lebanon back 20 years, killing Chavez and others (thanks Pat Robertson, you're a real Christian), US plans to "sink' Hamas -- a democratically elected government, Netanyahu's despicable exhortation to shut off water to Palestinians (after depriving them of movement and electricity already) ... the examples abound.

An openly racist fascist, Russian Jewish migrant Avigdor Lieberman, was inexplicably elevated to the Prime Ministership in Israel. Among other things, he calls for transfer of the native Palestinians. Its OK for him to migrate, but the indigenous inhabitants have to go, in his books.

Gideon Levy has summarised similar, all too common loose cannon threats from the Israeli side in Little Ahmadinejads. Another "charming" example cited therein: "If not the roof beams, destroy the foundations ... Attack Lebanon and also Gaza with plows and with salt, destroy them so no inhabitant remains. Transform them into barren desert, piles of rubble ... kill them, spill their blood, frighten the living".

Lest we forget also that Iran incidentally is resident to a 40, 000 - strong population of Iranian Jews. They are proud Persians and living in Iran with little discrimination. President Ahmadinejad has clearly stated that his opposition is to Israel's policies, not towards Jews.

The difference is that some of these people are in a position to carry out these disturbing threats, Ahmadinejad really is not, even if we took these silly comments at face value.

On another level, destroying a system is very different from calling for a people to be destroyed. Wasn't apartheid "destroyed", at least formally? Wasn't Soviet communism destroyed?

The comments about Ahmadinejad are much ado about not much at all
if the offensive word "destroy" is understood as "dissolution". It hardly means the destruction (taken to mean death) of people. Even the second article you pointed to used the turn of phrase: "One the one hand most government officials want to finish the rebuilding of their country and wish to see the destruction of the Hizbollah mini-state." To reiterate, Destruction here means the dissolution of a system, not mass killing of people.

2. Lebanon article
I found this one riddled with unsupported suppositions passing off as fact.

eg "Hariri was rallying the Sunni/Christian base of Lebanon against Hezbollah and its puppet master Syria. The Syrians feared losing all their gains from the civil war and ordered Hariri's assassination. The "Cedar Revolution" pitted Christian and Sunnis against Shiite Hezbollah over the future of Lebanon. The United States and other countries applied pressure, forcing Syria to withdraw Syrian troops from Lebanon."

We can not say with any certainty at all that Syria "ordered" Hariri's assassination. It could have been Syria, but I don't believe so and I would not make the claim either way with such certitude, as if it were undeniable fact, without clear evidence. I do think the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon is a good thing, but the removal of Syrian influence does not mean that undue influence from other powers--including the US-- should simply replace it.

I would also wager that Iran's influence is likely overstated, particularly as it applies to Hezbollah who are their own entity, not a puppet of Iran. Yes, they are both Shia but their relationship is oversimplified. Patrick Abbott is not a Lebanon or Middle East specialist as far as I tell, and the specialists I read and the Shia I know indicate otherwise.

To answer your question, "Why do you oppose the Christian/ Sunni/ Druze alliance for a peaceful and democratic Lebanon?" your question framing/ wording is key. I am all for a peaceful and democratic Lebanon, and happen to have Christian Lebanese ancestry myself. But you leave an important group out who are as much a part of Lebanon as the others, and are getting numerically larger to boot: the Shia. Do they not factor in to Lebanon's peaceful and democratic future?

Thanks again for the dialogue and great blog you have here. Any rejoinders welcome.

Ann said...

Correction: Avigdor Lieberman is the Deputy PM (Israel)

TDAXP said...


Immediately before the 6 Day Way King Abdullah took the unprecedented step of making an Egyptian the commander-in-chief of his country's army. This is equivalent of Bush telling the Army, Navy, and Air Force: "Listen to British General Hawthorne. He knows what he's doing." Further, it had the obvious effect of making nearly all of Israel's border a frontier against Naser's forces.

You're correct on the 1948 population transfer, in the ruins of the Ottman Empire, of Arabs and Jews. The eviction of Jews from the Jewish Quarter of Jersusalem in 1948 is a good example of this.

Of course the PLO was formed to destroy Israel. Decades later, at the height of its political legitimacy, the PLO made highly visible signs of intention to change its original charter. However, this does not change the fact that the PLO was formed to destroy Israel, any more than the fact that the USMC and Royal Marines fight side-by-side changes the fact that the Marine Corps was formed to evict the British Empire from the 13 colonies.

The suspect translation you cite is not the whole nor most important part of President Ahmedinijad's genocidal rhetoric.

Do you believe Hezbollah has been a net benefit for Lebanon? How so?

Your comment regarding "poorly managed" is rhetorically rich but substantively poor.

As to your second comment...

Ahmadinejad is neither the Supreme Leader of Iran nor a figurehead... and trying to so analogize the politics of Iran is a form of orientalism. A better comparison, if you must make one, would be to late Georgian Britain, with a King (Supreme Leader) who ultimately calls the shot and civilian leader (Iran's President) with wide latitude.

I don't understand how your paragraph beginning "You may recall" add substance to this conversation.

You should address these and other errors in your Section 1 before serious discussion can take place on the rest of it.

On to section 2...

"It could have been Syria, but I don't believe so and I would not make the claim either way with such certitude, as if it were undeniable fact, without clear evidence. I"

Your opinion is quixotic.

You are found of citing minor politicians as authorities, so perhaps you take Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam' statements that Damascus was behind the murder?

If not, perhaps you might glance at the United Nations' report by Judge Detlev Mehlis?

"I do think the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon is a good thing, but the removal of Syrian influence does not mean that undue influence from other powers--including the US-- should simply replace it."

Your normative concern is noted.

Catholicgauze said...

TDAXP offers UN and others proof of the assassination campaign by Syria. With the murder of Walid Eido, it is only becoming more and more clear. I suggest the field reports by Michael Totten as useful reading.

Hezbollah, Amal, and the "Free Patriotic Movement" form one axis while the majority of Christians, Sunnis, and Druze form the oppisition pole. Since I favor liberal democracies over those who openly idolize oppressors of religious moderates and women. Hezbollah, since the civil war, has long been attached to Iran via funding, training, and even weapons (Hezbollah's Fajr rockets are Iranian made).

As for Hamas, the goal of the world is to support liberal democrats. Hamas may have won an election but they are certainly not democratic. Look at the current conflict against Fatah.

Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann said...

Apologies: re-posted with a name correction.


Thank you for both your responses which I've only just seen.

TDAXP, there have been many instances of foreign-born leaders taking up key military and foreign policy posts, one thinks of Henry Kissinger in the United States, for example. Perhaps you could further explicate the point you are making.

I had already accepted CG's point on the PLO, and merely sought to qualify it.

You refer to other instances of President Ahmadinejad's "genocidal rhetoric". I have seen several similar references but would not characterise them as genocidal. Perhaps you could point to the specific links.

Regarding Hezbollah, I do not see the value of applying some sort of crude cost-benefit analysis to measure "gains".

What I do accept, since you specifically asked what I myself thought, is that the Shia and Hezbollah are an integral part of the national Lebanese community. I understand that Hezbollah were effectively created in response to Israel's first invasion. I am persuaded that Hezbollah's highly disciplined resistance, valuable social programs and rapid reconstruction helped the south of the country. As other punters have noted, it is a response FEMA might have learnt from in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I can do these things while no more subscribing to any or all of Hezbollah's political beliefs than I would endorse the religion of a charity in recognising their actions and achievements.

Do you subscribe to the notion that Hezbollah's capture of Israeli soldiers somehow justified the wholesale destruction of much of the country's civilian infrastructure?

Your patrician judgement about "rhetorically rich but substantively poor" is entirely subjective.

I don't understand how analogies of any country's politics in the region is inherently orientalist. Perhaps you could elaborate.

You asked how my citation of similar expressions of annihilation "added substance" to the conversation. Forgive me if it wasn't self-evidential. My point, more explicitly, was that there are similar statements -- on several occasions and by different influential personages in the Israeli establishment -- that can be construed as "genocidal intent". It was there for comparative value.

Is Ahmadinejad's rhetoric more dangerous than the Israeli genocidal rhetoric, in your estimation, and if so, why?

The patronising declaration "You should address these and other errors in your Section 1 before serious discussion can take place on the rest of it" also constitutes a subjective judgment and I might also exhort you to address perceived deficiencies in your argument, though I certainly would not be precluding further discussion in one that was with CG and in which you weighed in.

Stylistically, you might care to take a few basic blog discussion etiquette lessons from your friend CG.

Another: "You are found [sic] of citing minor politicians as authorities"

I am not particularly fond of any such thing.

Substantively, you also omitted to mention that Abdul Halim Khaddam is crucially the former Syrian VP. The Syrian VP is currently Farouq al-Sharaa, to be entirely accurate. This is especially pertinent given that AHK is extremely antagonistic to the current Syrian leadership and is a virtual exile -- exactly how much store you put in his pronouncements is your opinion. His testimony, while it should be noted, doesn't on its own constitute incontrovertible evidence, inasmuch as that is possible.

I am familiar with the Mehlis Report finding. I reiterate, I do not dismiss the distinct possibility that Syrian government officials were involved in the Hariri murder. But the cui bono question complicates what might seem at first sight as a clear open and shut case. It is neither appropriate nor the right forum here to delve into the intricacies of Syrian, regional and international politics in the depth required. I posited an opinion, and identified it clearly as such.

CG, thank you for your reading suggestion. I also read other field accounts, Michael Totten's site is not in my regular reading repertoire. I do endeavour to read a wide range of sources across the political spectrum.

CG, as you well know, there are several undemocratic governments in the world. Liberal democracy is not universally supported across the world, and in fact is widely seen as a euphemism for much worse things. Democracy is best supported by accepting the democratically elected choice of the citizenry. It is not for anyone outsider to judge whether their choice is not acceptable and do everything to destroy them and the populace. Yes, TDAXP, that might well be "quixotic" but I'm only responding to declared rhetorical justifications. Practice what you preach is an adage that is nowhere more applicable than to the United States today, both in policies domestic and foreign.

I think what emerges between the lines here is that we are from quite different political positions. CG, I thank you for this discussion despite our differences once again.

Good day and best wishes.

Catholicgauze said...

Any time with the friendly discussion. My rule of thumb (stolen in part from the Golden Rule) "Believe what you want, just don't be a jerk about it."

I have to agree with TDAXP on the Nasser point. Kissinger was a foreign-born citizen while Nasser was not Jordanian in any sense. The union of army control was clearly an effort to prepare for imminent war against Israel. (Israel just decided to start it before the Arab's got the chance though).

I have honestly not heard any other real theory about the deaths of anti-Syrian politicians' death. Either Italian car makers produce suicide cars or something is up with Syria. Even Juan Cole, no friend of Israel, came around to accepting Syria's involment.

Hezbollah may have started as anti-Israeli in Lebanon force but has changed to flat out terrorism. If launching rockets specifically to hit civilians does not do it; what about Argentine synagogue and cultural center in 1994? Old Spanish-speaking Jews were hardly a legitimate target for any Lebanese.

Hezbollah is part of Lebanese society and that a very dangerous thing. It openly flaunts UN Resolution 1559 which required all militias to disarm. The fact that it has infastructure only proves its power. Mao, the Nazis, and Soviets also had charity drives.
"Remember, the Devil can also do good."