As the mast-head suggests, one of the favourite activities at Israel Forum is making excuses for Israeli crimes and absolving Israel of all responsibility for it's actions. Israel is forever an innocent bystander, or an unwilling victim of circumstances. This presents itself in two forms of routine apologia; that Israel acts only from the lack of better options or that Israel is forced into situations by the acts of others, who then bear all responsibility for the consequences of what they made Israel do. All quite lame really.
The June 1967 war (the Six Day War) is a case in point. This war is an all-time favourite with Israels apologists for 2 reasons; it 'proves' Arab determination to destroy Israel and, even better, goes on to form the rationale for their baseless claims of a 'defensive war' that renders Israels' occupation of the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza legal.
Here's a few examples from our Forum apologists par exellance,
"they forced Israel to mobilize it's citizen army to ward off the threat of actual Arab attacks………. So, Israel had no other option than to initiate it's preemptive strike which was the six days war……….. Israel had no other choice than to do what it did"
"They pretend that the Arabs weren't going to attack in 67, that the blockade of Israel's oil port for two weaks didn't mean anything…….ordan and Syria struck first after Israel struck Egypt...."
And that is from the more rational end of the fanatical spectrum at Israel Forum.
This is the quick version of the Israeli mythical Six Day War - After much bellicose rhetoric, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, removed the UN peace keeping force from the Sinai. Then finally, the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, Egypt were poised to strike with 250,000 men at tiny, vulnerable Israel. To save itself (no choice), Israel launched a perfectly legal war of self-defense in which it captured the Sinai, West Bank and the Golan Heights.
Well, that's the self-serving myth. And reality? Well, it's a little more complicated.
Bellocosity? Sure. Arab leaders have often been good at inflammatory rhetoric. The question is, is it for domestic consumption or does it indicate imminent action?
The Striats of Tiran Blockade? Well, it wasn't really a blockade. Egypt announced it was being closed to Israeli shipping, but studies of the period are unable to identify a single ship that was stopped from using the route. An example of rhetoric not being transformed into action. The background to this issue is that the status of this waterway was unclear. Egypt claimed it was an Egyptian territorial waterway, Israel that is was an international waterway. Under international law, it was an ambiguous case that required a legal determination.
The UN Peace Keeping Force? UNEF was put in place after Israels' invasion of Egypt in 1956. That is, it was there to protect Egypt from Israeli aggression. It was in place with Egyptian approval and Egypt had the right to request it to leave. Does this mean that Egypt was preparing to attack Israel? By itself no. Egypt was saying that it no longer feared Israel or required UN protection. A mistake? - definitely, as Egypt should have still been afraid, very afraid.
Imminent Attack? There is no evidence of any planned attack by the Egypt, Syria and Jordan against Israel in 1967. Later? Who knows, but that is pure speculation. What Israels apologists do claim is that the Arab forces wanted to destroy Israel and that a pre-emptive strike was the only way to save Israel from great losses and possible defeat. But later, Israeli Generals from the 1967 war gave a very different view. They said that Israel knew that the Arab armies were far inferior to Israels, Israel would easily win any war and that there was no real risk of an Arab invasion. Both US and Israeli intelligence predicted that Israel would defeat the Arab armies in a matter of days. They were right.
"The heart of the question, however, is aimed at our estimation of the Arabs’ capacity to destroy us. Had the Arabs attacked first, they would have also suffered complete defeat. The only difference is that the war then would have been prolonged; to command control of the air maybe 13 hours would have been needed instead of three" - Ezer Weizmann. Israeli Air force General.
"..the Epyptians concentrated 80,000 soldiers in the Sinai, and we mobilized hundreds of thousands against them” – former Israeli general Matti Peled (Ha’artez, March 13, 1972.)
One Israelis opinion of Nassers intent,"he felt the need to give more credibility to his bluff" - Gen. Yitzhak Rabin (Le Monde, February 28, 1968).
The next element in this story is the 'constant' attacks on Israel by Palestinian fighters. In the 6 months preceding June 1967, there were no Israeli fatalities on it's northern border with Syria - 0. Rather, a decade long pattern of Israeli aggression was continuing to play out. Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan explained how it worked,
" I know how at least 80% of all these incidents there started. In my opinion, more than 80%, but lets speak about the 80%. It would go like this: we would send in a tractor to plow…..in the de-miltarised area, and we would know ahead of time that the Syrians would start shooting. If they did not start shooting, we would inform the tractor to progress farther, until the Syrians in the end, would get nervous and would shoot. And then we would use guns, and later even the airforce, and that is how it went….We thought that we could change the lines of the ceasefire accords by military actions that were less than war. That is, to seize some territory and hold it until the enemy despairs and gives it to us"
This culminated in an April 1967 incident where Israels' airforce entered Syrian airspace and shot down 6 Syrian aircraft. It was this incident that finally lead to Egypt closing the Straits and removing the UN force from its' Sinai border. Could this be honestly, if mistakenly, interpreted as preparations for war? We'll let the Israeli general Rabin decide,
"I do not think that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions which he sent to the Sinai, on May 14, would not have been sufficient to start an offensive against Israel. He knew it, and we knew it."- Gen. Yitzhak Rabin.
So, the head of Israels armed forces thought it was a bluff. Israels armed forces were far superior to all the Arab forces combined, and the 'action' on Israels borders with Jordan and Syria was either minor, or was deliberately provoked by Israel.
Then on June 4, 1967 Israel launches a direct attack against Egypt, which has not fired a shot or set foot on Israeli territory and goes on to invade Jordan and Syria, capturing the West Bank and Golan Heights. This is the much acclaimed 'defensive war', which subsequently allows the Israel Forum fanatics to claim that the West Bank and Gaza are not illegally occupied by Israel.
Pure apologetics, parroted by those who have sacrificed their gift of critical thought on the alter of ultra-nationalism.