50 Years Of Occupation: The Six-Day War Is Built On A Myth

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Israel's reasoning for attacking Egypt was not based upon threats targeting the Jewish state, but the public remains ignorant to this history 50 years later.

black-and-white photo of Prime Minister Levy Eshkol with Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin June 5, 2017, marks the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War. To Israel and the mainstream media, the conflict was about the existence of the Israeli state, but to the actual Israeli government, the war was about territory control.

During the period prior to the attack against Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser perpetrated by Israel on June 5, 1967, Nasser was portrayed as an evil and dangerous anti-Israel demagogue who wanted to bring Israel to its knees. Thus, with the help of the Western press, Mondoweiss reports, the idea that Israel's very existence was in jeopardy quickly became the official narrative.

According to Mehdi Hasan's The Intercept article, several Israeli officials at the time understood that the claim later made by then-Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol justifying the attack because Israel was about to be obliterated was fictitious.

“The thesis according to which the danger of genocide hung over us in June 1967, and according to which Israel was fighting for her very physical survival, was nothing but a bluff which was born and bred after the war,” General Matituahu Peled, who served as the Chief of Logistical Command during the war, said.

Mordechai Bentov, another member of the wartime government, also said that the “whole story about the threat of extermination was totally contrived, and then elaborated upon, a posteriori, to justify the annexation of new Arab territories.”

During a 1982 speech, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin also admitted Israel had been bluffing, granting that “in June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us.”

“We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him,” he stated.

Unfortunately, the narrative made popular thanks in part to the early and widespread demonization of Nasser remains unchallenged to this day, with major mainstream news organizations, such as the New York Times, stating that “Israel defied annihilation by its Arab neighbors” with the Six-Day War.

Still, scholar Norman Finkelstein says, no academic today, regardless of his or her political affiliations, believes that Israel was under existential threat. Instead, Finkelstein explains, Israel was trying to finish what it had started in the 1956 Suez Crisis, Mondoweiss reports.

At the time, Nasser took control of the Suez Canal by nationalizing it. Countries like Israel, France, and Great Britain weren't on board, so they launched an attack and jointly invaded the country to seize the canal. United States President Dwight Eisenhower wasn't supportive of this approach, opposing the attack and pressuring the three nations to step back, leaving the canal to Egypt.

The incident was such a failure that then-British Prime Minister Anthony Eden resigned in shame.

In June 1967, Israel wasn't worried about its status as both Israeli and American leaders were aware Israel's military could beat any of its enemies. Instead, Finkelstein argues, Israel wanted to complete the 1956 mission while adding a second goal to the effort: to annex East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Golan, and the West Bank, expelling 300,000 Palestinians from their homes and igniting a military occupation for those who remained.

Unfortunately, most news organizations fail to report on the entire background of the Six-Day War. As a result, most of the public still believes the narrative that paints Israel as the victim, making the debate concerning Palestinian independence difficult as most mainstream news outlets fail to question the very reasoning behind the conquest of the annexed territories.

Thankfully, as news outlets that are more dedicated to the truth report on the actual foundations of this historical event, more people will begin to understand that the official narrative is nothing but a lie.

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Flickr user Government Press Office

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