Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Sunday, 4 June 2017

A Personal Memory of Being a Spectator of the Six-Day War, by Brian Goldfarb

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War of 1967, I'm honoured to present a very interesting guest blog by retired British academic Brian Goldfarb.

It's entitled "A Personal Memory of Being a Spectator of the Six-Day War: From a Great and Safe Distance".

(The photos of aspects of the war, added by me, Daphne, are from this documentary.)

Writes Brian Goldfarb:

On Monday, 5 June, 1967, the day the Six Day War broke out, I drove south from the north-east of England towards London, where I had been born and grown up, to spend the summer vacation at my parents’ home, no longer, in a very real sense, my home, although I would stay there on and off, for the next two years until I got married.

Now there’s a line for the opening of an autobiography! Which this is not.

I had just finished the first year of my first “proper” job since graduating, teaching undergraduate Sociology at a Polytechnic in the same north-east of the first sentence. I decided to stop off at my alma mater in the East Midlands, to break the journey.

I was, of course, as a Jew, a Labour voter, and a good trade unionist (had I been an Israeli citizen and voter, I would have been a natural Mapai voter), well aware of the tension that had been building up in the Middle East over the previous few weeks, as Nasser ratcheted up the tension in the region, not least by ordering the UN buffer force out of the Sinai Peninsula and closing the Straits of Tiran (leading from the Indian Ocean to Eilat), and of the fear that war might erupt at any moment. The detail, however, belongs, and can be found, elsewhere.

By early afternoon, I was sitting in what would have been, in term time, the student coffee bar, but was, now, empty of all but a few Faculty and graduate students. Among the Faculty were two Eastern European Jewish emigrés – typical of Daniel Snowman’s Hitler’s Emigrés, as his excellent book is entitled – the Professor of Sociology and the Senior Research Fellow, both pretending (as it turned out) to be disinterested in what transpired in the Middle East.

Whereas, the year before, I would not have dared to sit at the same table as them and they would have deemed it impolitic for me to do so (but both would have been too polite to say so), now, as a graduate of the University and a teacher of Sociology to boot, and thus part of the University’s sociology teaching mafia, it was entirely acceptable for me to join them.

There was tension in the air: I felt it, because I too was tense. The conversation, however, avoided the obvious topic.

Until, at about 3.00 pm, someone entered the room with the first edition of the local evening paper. This reported that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) had, effectively, destroyed the Egyptian Air Force on the ground in a first strike carried out shortly after the Egyptians had returned after their dawn patrols.

The tension at our table dropped by many degrees, and the emigrés could go back to pretending that they cared less about what happened in the Middle East. After all, Israel had survived and the rest was detail*.

But I knew better.

By the time I reached my parents’ home early that evening and caught up with the news, it became clear that, indeed, the rest was commentary. Michael Elkins, the American-born BBC Middle East Correspondent, was reporting that (to paraphrase his words) "to those familiar with the first three days of the 1956 Sinai campaign, the names would be very familiar". We must bear in mind that he had to contend with Israeli military censorship, anxious not to give too much away. My response was along the lines of "My God, they (the IDF) are cutting through the Egyptians like a hot knife through butter". And indeed they were.

By the end of fighting that day (after the initial air strikes starting at 07.46), the IAF had destroyed most of the Egyptian air force (at least 150 aircraft destroyed on the ground) and the IDF had cut off the Gaza Strip from the rest of Egypt and were advancing into the Sinai Peninsula at pace.

I would only add, at this point, that many years later, I read a memoir by the great (British and "sane left") journalist James Cameron, who was a notable friend of Israel and was in Israel at the time. He noted that the first press conference of the war took place that evening (Monday 5th June). The military press attache entered the room, barely repressing a smile, and reported the figures of Egyptian aircraft destroyed (mostly on the ground) for very few Israeli losses. The entire press corps, hard-bitten foreign correspondents of many years standing, supposedly neutral to a man and woman, promptly burst into applause.

At this point, I have to note, my personal memory is no longer pin-sharp on the order of events (come-on people, it was 50 years ago! How good is your memory of 50 years ago, if you are at least 60 years old?). For example, I had thought that the attack on the Jordanian-held (occupied, if one is a stickler for an ultra strict reading of the maps drawn up in the 1920s and 30s and/or a right-winger, neither of which I am) West Bank didn’t begin until at least a day later. However, with the aid of a couple of websites (links below**), and without re-reading the books I have on this matter, I find that Israel retaliated (you read that right) against the Jordanians on the first day of the war.

 It appears (and I knew this much later) that the Israelis had used "back channels" to warn King Hussein against joining in the fighting, not wishing to fight a two-front war, even with internal lines of communication and supply (the IDF could move men, materials and other equipment around very easily without long, circuitous journeys). He preferred to believe Nasser’s claims of being close to victory over the "Zionist entity", and paid for his naivety.

It would seem that a little more than an hour after the Israelis had destroyed the Egyptian air force (although Nasser would take quite some time to admit that even to his allies), the Jordanians started shelling both Jerusalem and central Israel, as well as both Jordanian and Iraqi aircraft "trying" (at least one of the sources says: the implication is that the few aircraft left defending Israeli air-space drove them off) to bomb Tel Aviv and other targets. Further, by midday, while the Jordanians had captured the UN HQ in Jerusalem (presumably in East Jerusalem: they never got to West Jerusalem), the IAF bombed airfields in Jordan by 12.30, an airbase in Iraq by 13.00 and a number of airbases in Syria, allegedly destroying most of the Syrian air force.

By this time, half-way through the first day, Israeli High Command (and politicians, including the "old man", i.e., Ben Gurion) were convinced (rightly, as we now know) that fighting a war on three fronts, while risky, was a risk that had paid off.

So, by the end of the first day, the IDF was well into the Sinai (although it took unto until 13.00 the following day to complete the conquest of Gaza), had destroyed three air forces (the Jordanians flew no more sorties of any significance, although the Egyptians managed one or two, until the IAF destroyed the final base far to the south of Egypt) and had started to advance into the West Bank, which hadn’t been in the High Commands plans before the Jordanians decided to intervene.

Perhaps the most emotive event for us oldies took place at 03.00 the following morning, when Latrun was captured. Anyone who has seen the film Cast A Giant Shadow (starring Kirk Douglas) will be aware how sweet this victory would have been (the film was released, fortuitously, in 1966).

I recall being glued to the television for that week, although memories are hazy. The record tells me that it took little more than three days to capture the West Bank. For most Jews, especially those not of a military cast of mind, the most significant event, after the destruction of the enemies armies, was the capture of the Old City of Jerusalem, which happened by mid-morning of 7 June: my wife-to-be was working in Israel at the time and hitched a lift in an army vehicle (one could do that then) to Jerusalem on the first day the Western Wall was opened (and long before it was divided into men’s and women’s sections) and, as one would expect, still remembers the thrill of that day. It took a day longer to take the Sinai, and the most devastating event (both for the Egyptians and for the loss of life in the whole campaign) was the closing by the Israelis of the Mitla and Jiddi Passes in the Sinai by early evening of the 3rd day of the war, which led to a terrible slaughter of Egyptian troops desperately trying to escape westwards towards the Suez Canal.

That I do remember. And not, all these years later, fondly. If only there had been another way to persuade Nasser to go for a cease fire earlier...

No-one expected the Syrians to intervene, but they did. Mostly, they directed artillery barrages on Israeli population centres in the North (hardly surprising). Having held off until then, Moshe Dayan, the Minister of Defence, ordered, for Day 5 (9 June) an attack on the Golan Heights. I still remember, all these years later, watching a retired UK Brigadier Michael(?) Peters describe watching the Israeli tanks charge up the Heights, hardly tank country, as though they were facing a routine exercise on level ground.

It took a mere two days for the IDF to destroy the Syrian army and drive a huge wedge into Syria. The wedge is such that, if Assad were stupid enough to attack Israel, the IDF could be destroying his Presidential Palace in Damascus within an hour: the road is open to the IDF.

In the late 1980s, we were members of a group taken on to the Golan Heights. We stepped into the Syrian observation trenches overlooking the Huleh Valley. It lay below us, exposed to artillery fire at any time and, in principle, a determined military drive into Israel. Asked if we would give the Heights back, to a person we said no.

The minimum requirement would be a stable regime in Damascus able to guarantee a peace treaty. Oddly, after all these years, and especially since Syria started to fall apart five or six years ago, the Druze who dominate on the Golan Plateau are starting to accept Israeli identity cards and turn their attention to studying (for the young adults) within Israel, alongside their Israeli Druze counterparts.

Although written with help from a couple of timelines, this is a slice of memory. I hope it rings true.
 *This is an obscure reference to the Talmudic tale that Rabbi Hillel was asked by a non-Jew to explain Judaism while standing on one leg. He responded, saying "Do unto others that which you would have them unto you", then lowered the raised leg. "But what about everything else?" the non-Jew exclaimed. "The rest" Hillel said, "is commentary."
**The links I mentioned above are this and this

1 comment:

  1. In response to the recent Muslim terrorist attack in London:

    When will the Europeans wake up and start fighting back against Muslim terrorists who strive to conquer all of Europe?

    How is it possible that the Europeans, who conquered the entire world less than 200 years ago, have become so lazy and so cowardly that they cannot summon the willpower to defend themselves against a bunch of turban-headed terrorists?

    When will their fear of death become greater than their fear of being called racists by Liberal hypocrites?

    When will their fear of death become greater than their fear of being called being called Islamophobes by Leftist morons?

    Why Muslims Hate Jews:

    Forgotten Muslim Oppression against Jews:


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