Six Days By Jeremy Bowen

I finished this a few weeks ago, so I’d like to offer my brief thoughts on the book and the Six Day War in general.

On the book:

-It’s a decent read, overall, not too biased towards either side which is helpful for this general type of literature and the area it covers.

-I liked the narrative structure, which kept things interesting through what is a very simple plot line of Israeli success and Arab inferiority.

-It was also good that the author generally avoided his own personal opinion/commentary except for the specific parts at the start and ending.

-It’s a journalistic approach, that works some times and doesn’t in others. Some might not appreciate the familiar tone when discussing the actions and thoughts of some figures. I didn’t mind it too much.

-In the end, aside from those brief moments of personal commentary that bookend the text, this is just a general account with nothing else really in mind as a goal. Those looking for something with a weightier goal or method should look elsewhere.

On the war:

-Israel was never going to lose the war once it started. Their surprise assault was just too dominating and that ended the issue as a contest.

-Jordan’s involvement was once bit of incompetence after another.

-The Egyptian military had a comically poor performance and the Egyptian government was an utter mess of miscommunication and lack of planning.

-Something that was approaching a military coup was taking place in Israel in the days before the war as generals severely overstepped the traditional bounds of the civilian-military relationship in confronting their political leadership.

-The Arabs, within 24 hours of the first shots, were more concerned with blaming others for their defeat then the actual war itself.

-The worst fighting, in terms of law breaking and moral abandonment, took place in Gaza, where Israel soldiers seem to have been let off a leash. The fighting in Gaza was a moral sinkhole.

-The Egyptian retreat through the Sinai was a total mess, made worse by the fact that it didn’t have to be so. There were opportunities for better defensive fighting that were not taken.

-If the IDF handled the whole war in the manner that they handled the initial capture of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, the whole region would be a better place.

-The IDF was/is a very good armed force, but has/had an awful problem with fire control.

-For all the plaudits that the Israeli air forced received for their performance in 1967, someone messed up when they ordered napalm attacks on civilian refugee columns – whether it was intelligence, the pilots or command.

-Attacking Syria was not a smart thing to do, with hindsight. Israel didn’t know when to stop, a common historical problem with the country.

-The Syrian officer class was a political, not a military, institution. When it came to warfare, they were shown up as such. Syria’s final collapse is a bookend to the poor Arab performance.

-Someday, armies will learn that the second and third waves of an occupation should be as well trained as the first. Similarly, someday, in a geopolitical situation like the Middle-East, nations will be prepared in advance for an inevitable refugee crises.

-You get the leaders you deserve, and Egypt had a moron. Following the calamity, Nasser would have been kicked out if he hadn’t resigned. In so doing, he saved himself.

On the international aspect:

-The USSR’s approach to the UN Security Council was laughably incompetent.

-The Arab coalition didn’t really work. Lots of talk. Little else.

-The USSR was really a step behind everyone when it came to diplomatic moves during the war. They wanted to create a second Vietnam, and got an embarrassment.

-Israel is hiding something to do with the attack on the Liberty. No idea what it is, but something was covered up.

On the aftermath:

-Israel won the war and lost the peace. In that, America helped with the lack of strong involvement in Israeli actions.

-If Israel had kept Jerusalem and given back everything else like Ben Gurion advised…no, probably not. One can dream though.

-The bulldozing of Muslim slums in conquered Jerusalem was very stupid. Seriously stupid.

-Israel changed radically with all its new territory. Not in a good way. Committed to colonisation, Israel walked willingly into the situation it finds itself in today.

-The military victory in 1967 was so giant, so total, that Israel turned itself into a Goliath that could never admit defeat, thanks largely to the ignorance of its own population in regards its military strength before the war even started. Israel was never going to lose.

Final thoughts:

-An independent Palestine and the settling of the Jerusalem question comes down to two things: What are the two sides prepared to give up in terms of land and claims, and what are the two sides prepared to give up in terms of cultural hatred and religiously motivated vengeance?

-An independent Palestine is inevitable, a requirement. Israel has a big say in how it will come about though.

-Better hurry up, because the Palestinians are going to outnumber the Israeli’s in our lifetime.

-I am in no way convinced, at the present time, that an independent Palestine can be friendly, or even neutral, towards an Israeli state.

-More than any other conflict in the area in the last century, the six day war was the cause of the problem that we are at a loss to solve today.

And the best quote, from Ariel Sharon:

“I think the Egyptian soldiers are very good. They are simple and ignorant but they are strong and disciplined. They are good gunners, good diggers and good shooters – but their officers are shit” 

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