In the spring of 1967, with Arab forces massed on its borders and threats of annihilation in the air, it looked as though the state of Israel might be finished less than twenty years after its founding.
And then for Israelis - forty years ago this week - the "miracle" and, for Arabs, the humiliation of the Six Day War happened. Arab forces vanquished. The West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza were all taken and occupied by Israel.
It looked like a perfect triumph. But forty years later there is terrorism and misery, and questions.
This hour On Point: Israeli historian Tom Segev looks back on 1967, and the Six Day War.
Quotes from the Show:
"It all started in 1965 when Palestinian terrorists started to penetrate Israel from Syria. This caused tension between Israel and Syria. That tension then spread to the Egyptian border. Egypt moved forces into the Sinai and threatened to close the southern port of Israel and that made many Israelis believe that Egypt is actually going to destroy it and we decided to strike preemptively. The war resulted in a spectacular victory for Israel, destroying the entire Egyptian air force and taking vast lands from Egypt, from Jordan, and from Syria" Tom Segev
"You can not really understand 1967 unless you understand why and how Israelis reacted. It's a lot about Israeli society, it's a lot about Israeli psychology. Israelis genuinely believed that Egypt is going to destroy them and the question is why did they believe that. They believed that because this crisis of May '67 struck at the worst point in Israel's history from a psychological point of view. The society was very, very weak. There was economic recession, unemployment. More and more Israelis were leaving the country than Jews coming to live there. ... When this crisis began, they foresaw another Holocaust." Tom Segev.
"On June 5th, 1967, Jordan attacked the Israeli part of Jerusalem, and as a result, Israel took East Jerusalem and the West Bank. This was militarily not necessary. We could have just hit back at the Jordanian army without occupying all these territories. And the interesting thing about it is that occupying these territories contradicted the national interest of Israel and the people at the time knew it." Tom Segev
"I think that unfortunately we are all in it together so to speak. The Israelis and the Palestinians now as people are entangled in this cycle of hatred almost that is unprecedented. I know that in 1948 lots of atrocities took place and I know to the Palestinians it was devastating but still, by 1967, to many Palestinians it was a remote thing. It related to the refugees, not us so to speak. Everyone thought it was about someone else." Issam Nassar
Tom Segev, author of "1967: Israel, the War and the Year that Transformed the Middle East"
Issam Nassar, Professor of History at Illinois State University, author of
"European Portrayals of Jerusalem: Religious Fascinations And Colonialist Imaginations"
This program aired on June 5, 2007.