Israeli victory in ’67 was manufactured in western Europe, not by ‘Jewish geniuses’ — Guy Laron at Wilson Center

US Politics
on 21 Comments

Over the last few weeks, we have tried to undo a lot of the mystification that still surrounds the 1967 War, which so transformed Israel’s presence in the Middle East and indeed the world.

We have shown how much genuine fear there was on the part of Jews worldwide, even leftwingers, over Israel’s possible destruction 20 years after the Holocaust. Yet as Norman Finkelstein documents, military leaders around the world, including in Washington, Damascus and Cairo, knew that the Arab nations were no contest for Israel, and that the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric was largely bluster. And bear in mind: Israel started the war, and ended up taking large chunks of its neighbors’ territories.

We have also stressed the dubious lessons from Israel’s six-day victory. Israel had to go it alone in the world. The Israel lobby must become a force in U.S. life in order to insure Israel’s survival.

An event at the Wilson Center last month extends this understanding. Guy Laron, the Israeli author of a new book on the 1967 war (“The Breaking of the Middle East”), explained that Israeli generals and the CIA knew very well that the Arab armies posed no existential threat: the war would end in a week. He also said that the victory was produced in Britain and France, through the supply of state-of-the-art arms, not “by Jewish geniuses” in Israel, as Israel liked to claim.

Let’s go to the video. At minute 42, Jeffrey Herf, a leading historian at the University of Maryland, and a friend of Israel, rose in the audience to give the conventional belief about the war: that Egypt and Syria intended to destroy Israel. Laron then demolished Herf’s argument.

https://www.c-span.org/video/?428382-2/sixday-war&start=2526

Jeffrey Herf:

There’s a simple explanation for the Six Day War, which is that Nasser and the leaders in Syria thought they could destroy the state of Israel. They made a bunch of misjudgments based on a lot of hatred… Fortunately Israel prevented them from accomplishing what they wanted to do. That is in accord with everything Nasser was saying publicly, what he did in the weeks preceding the war. The Israelis had every reason to believe that the United Arab Republic and Iraq and Jordan were intent on destroying the state of Israel, and they failed… Why is that interpretation of the origins of the war wrong?

Guy Laron:

Let’s set aside intentions. Let’s talk about capabilities. That’s something I researched in depth… footnoted in depth. The situation was like this, and the Israeli general staff knew it quite well, because Israeli intelligence, Israeli knowledge about Arab capabilities was excellent.

It goes beyond the fact that Israel had two top, high-level spies up to the mid-60s both in Damascus and Cairo. They also used a secret commando unit to plant bugs on major telephone lines, both in Sinai and in Syria. They had lots of ways of knowing what’s going on in the other side.

So what was going on on the other side?

Both the Syrian and the Egyptian army had plans for limited attacks– limited attacks, not a major offensive. They had no way of actually doing that. Why? They were not trained nor were they equipped by the Soviets to launch a major offensive. One example is, What if the Egyptians would have done to the Israelis what the Israelis did to the Egyptians? That is, bomb the airplanes on the ground, wipe the Israeli air force off. So the Soviets never gave the Egyptians planes with enough range to reach a major Israeli air field. They had only one squadron of heavy bombers and it wasn’t trained in a way that would have allowed them to evade Israeli radar system.

So beyond that, there’s the fact that there were lines of fortifications both on the Golan Heights and the Sinai, and millions of dollars were invested in them by the Soviet Union; and the whole doctrine of fighting, both of the Egyptians and the Syrians, was basically to hide behind these lines and wait for Israel to break its offensive teeth against these bunkers and trenches and then perhaps launch a counter-attack. So they didn’t have the capability. They didn’t have the weapons, they didn’t have the leadership, they didn’t have the training…. They didn’t have the army. Like, a third of the army, the best units, are in Yemen. Most of the people on the front line, they are farmers, they are hastily conscripted. They were thrown into the desert by a corrupt dictatorship. No water, no food, no maps, no uniforms, no weapons.

The Israelis know that. They listen to the radio transmitters, they hear them wail to their commanders, that they supply them with water, they’re in the desert, and they’re not getting any!

They also captured a few Egyptian prisoners of war before the war even started, and they interrogated them. They knew exactly what was going on. Things were a mess. The commander of the Egyptian army is a drunkard and he’s erratic, he’s moving the units all the time from place to place. Even the basic plan of defense that they prepared for many years– Abdel Hakim Amer, he ruined it. He ruined it.

So it was less a case that Israel was under an existential crisis and more of a case that the Israeli general staff quietly knew that they’re going to win the war big. They had an excellent plan, they were professionals, they planned for that for over a decade, they were absolutely ready. From the first move, which is wiping out the Arab air forces, to armored warfare. You have to give them credit, those were real professionals in the Israeli army.

It’s not just me talking. It’s the CIA. The CIA said at the time: the Egyptian forces, Syrian forces are in a defensive posture. They don’t have a chance in the world to win against Israel. If Israel is attacked, it will win in a week. If Israel attacks, it will win in a week. It doesn’t matter. That’s what the CIA said.

That’s what they wrote in a memo, that they delivered to Lyndon Johnson. So I don’t think the Arabs could have done it.

Later Laron was asked about Israel’s arms-suppliers in the war. He said that the war was won thanks to Britain and France, Israel’s partners in the Suez war 11 years before.

It’s a common misconception to assume that Israel won the war thanks to American weapons system. The Israeli victory in the Six Day War was manufactured in Western Europe.

Two thirds of the tanks… There were 1000 tanks in the Israeli army on the eve of the war — about 650 were Centurion tanks made in the U.K, and almost 100 percent of all the planes in the Israeli air force were French made…

Now this leads to an even more interesting story. Because what the Israeli air force told to the world and the Israeli public, is that they are Jewish geniuses. They came up with this idea of how to circumvent around Soviet radars and surface-to-air missile. Because they are just geniuses, they invented it all from scratch. And that is not true. That is not true.

What happened on this exciting, this amazing operation that they conducted on the first three hours. In which they surprised the Egyptian air force, and they did the same with the Syrians, and the Jordanian and the Iraqi.  That was an implementation of French technology and French doctrine on Soviet weapons. This was exactly how it was supposed to work, but not in the Middle East, in Europe… This was the French doctrine. This was how they wanted to start their war against the Warsaw pact.

He went on to say that the French Mirage flew low and compromised on its payload to do so. “The reason why Israel insisted on purchasing from France was because Israel was developing nuclear weapons.” The Mirage was intended to carry nuclear weapons, but in this case it was converted into a conventional attack.

But everything that happened in those three hours including the fact that the Israelis were able to suppress Soviet radar signal, that was French electronic equipment and it workd in the first hours of the war. They basically equipped Israel in a way that it helped win the war.

The French government was not pleased by the result. Charles de Gaulle announced an embargo. But Israel had been supplied till the very first hours of the war, by France.

Anything you need, tell us. There was like an air train coming from Paris to Tel Aviv. And the same thing was happening in the U.K. Publicly they were not supportive but behind the scenes they helped Israel get the hardware until the very last minute.

I hope these comments help to further undermine myths about Israel’s loneliness in the world against all enemies, and about the existential threat of the 1967 crisis. When Israel’s friends say that the occupation was forced on the country by aggressive neighbors, think again. Whatever its origins, the expansionist character of the war effort cannot be denied.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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21 Responses

  1. CitizenC
    June 27, 2017, 3:46 pm

    Not a new viewpoint, but an interesting development of the critical view.

    The corollary is that the US Jewish left’s overweening assurances that the US wanted to destroy Nasser and supported Israel as a “strategic asset” in 67 are equally false

    In 1956, Britain and France indeed wanted to destroy Nasser, for various geopolitical/chauvinist reasons; the record is explicit

    Contrary to Chomsky et al, the USG was not so obsessed. The supposed threat to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian sheikdoms posed by Nasser in supporting the republicans in the Yemen civil war vs was well-contained; the war had become Nasser’s Vietnam, a threat to his power.

    The USG recognized that Nasser was past his peak, that Arab socialism was struggling under myriad problems. During the crisis the USG published studies of likely Arab retaliation for support of Israel, which anticipated the economic consequences, thru the oil market, of the October 73 war. Warnings were received from Aramco.

    Johnson was not chafing for war when the crisis broke in May, tho some of his Jewish advisors were. Various diplomatic gambits were tried. The Israel Lobby was mobilized like the Israeli military. Yet Eban was discouraged after a May 25 visit. Mossad chief Meir Amit, on his famous June 1 visit, tried to scare McNamara with the Soviet threat, and told Helms of a decision to attack, which elicited no resistance. Assenting to Israel’s resolution by war was the easiest political solution to a complex international and domestic dilemma.

    Afterward, in contrast to the insistence of Eisenhower and Dulles on Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai in 1956, Johnson decided that any withdrawal should be part of a general peace settlement. The paper trail on this is very thin; the first mention is a suggestion from the Israeli ambassador on June 5, in White House documents. The USG diplomatic/intel/military apparatus was otherwise totally excluded from this very fundamental change.

    Johnson was a passionate Zionist and philo-Semite. His family supported clemency for Leo Frank in 1913, and his father and grandfather guarded their house with shotguns against possible reprisal by the Klan. He smuggled Jewish refugees into Texas, and smuggled weapons to Palestine.

    He was a pillar of the nascent Israel Lobby in Congress and his life and career were full of Jewish friends and acquaintances. Abe Fortas, a friend from New Deal days, resolved a legal threat to LBJ’s election in 1948 that would have ended his career. Johnson made him a SC justice, and Fortas was invited to cabinet meetings over Israel in May 67. Fortas placed Israel’s interests and US obligations to it first, which was the WH atmosphere

    At the time Johnson was probably having an affair with Mathilde Krim, convert to Judaism and Irgun romantic. Johnson told Soviet premier Kosygin at a mtg in June in NJ that he supported Israel “because it was the right thing to do.”

    Johnson sold Israel the F-4 Phantom in the last year of his presidency, against the advice of the Sec Def, Defense Intel Agency, and the State Dept, which understood that Israel would use them offensively. The “deep penetration bombing” of Egypt followed, and with it the USSR, in large numbers, providing Egypt with an air defense that grounded the vaunted Phantoms.

    Sadat of course kicked out the Russians, in order to go to war, which led to the 4-fold oil price increases of 1973, deep recession and inflation, the biggest shock to the world economy since 1945. Some “strategic asset”.

    The US establishment was duly alarmed, and Kissinger’s piecemeal disengagement efforts were deprecated in favor of a comprehensive solution, including 2-states, by Carter and his nat sec team. The Israel Lobby intervened against Carter’s attempt, permitting only a separate peace with Egypt, ending the last exercise of US sovereignty against the Israel Lobby.

    Not the story that Chomsky et al tell.

  2. RoHa
    June 27, 2017, 8:09 pm

    “Israel had to go it alone in the world. The Israel lobby must become a force in U.S. life in order to insure Israel’s survival.”

    Contradiction here, surely. Getting the support of the USA is the opposite of going it alone.

    • Keith
      June 28, 2017, 1:29 am

      ROHA- “Contradiction here, surely. Getting the support of the USA is the opposite of going it alone.”

      Yes, of course. Obvious to anyone except a diehard Zionist. That this imperial supported, Jewish “villa in the jungle” should be considered a manifestation of Jewish “self determination” is quite ludicrous.

  3. Boris
    June 27, 2017, 10:57 pm

    “… the fact that the Israelis were able to suppress Soviet radar signal, that was French electronic equipment and it workd in the first hours of the war.”

    I think it is a well-documented fact that Israeli air force flew out to see to go around Egyptian antiaircraft systems. There was not suppression of the Soviet supplied radars.

    But, yes, the Six Day war had been won without American weapons.

  4. JWalters
    June 28, 2017, 4:28 am

    Another hole punched in the wall of myths and lies. Good reporting!

  5. Emory Riddle
    June 28, 2017, 7:33 am

    An obvious land grab. Israel struck first, won in less than one week, began illegally moving Jewish settlers onto the captured land within weeks of the end of the war, and those settlers remain 50 years later.

    The level of lies and propaganda needed to sell this war as anything but the land grab it was is off the charts.

  6. Arafatbastard
    June 28, 2017, 8:19 am

    So, if the Egyptian planes couldn’t even reach Israeli bases, why did Israel go to the troule of destroying them?

    Egypt was definitely planning to invade. Israel, legally, pre-empted that.

    Jordan did attack, and was thrown off the land it had captured and occupied since 1948.

    • Misterioso
      June 28, 2017, 10:48 am

      @fatbastard

      “Egypt was definitely planning to invade.”

      Utter nonsense!! This myth has long since been debunked!!

      Prime Minister Menachem Begin, former Minister without portfolio in PM Levi Eshkol’s cabinet, while addressing Israel’s National Defence College on 8 August 1982: “In June, 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” (New York Times, 21 August 1982)

      Meir Amit, chief of Israel’s Mossad: “Egypt was not ready for a war and Nasser did not want a war.”

      Israeli Chief of Staff Rabin: “I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions which he sent into Sinai on 14 May would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.” (Le Monde, 25 February, 1968)

      Prime Minister Eshkol: “The Egyptian layout in the Sinai and the general military buildup there testified to a military defensive Egyptian set-up south of Israel.” (Yediot Aharonot, l8 October 1967)

      Robert McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defence: “Three separate intelligence groups had looked carefully into the matter [and] it was our best judgment that a UAR attack was not imminent.” (The Vantage Point, Lyndon Johnson, p. 293)

      An article published in the New York Times (4 June 1967) just hours before Israel attacked notes that Major General Indar Jit Rikhye, Commander of UNEF in the Middle East, “who toured the Egyptian front, confirms that Egyptian troops were not poised for an offensive.”

      On May 26, in reply to Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s assertion that according to Israeli intelligence, “an Egyptian and Syrian attack is imminent,” Secretary of State Dean Rusk dismissed the claim and assured Eban that Israel faced no threat of attack from Egypt. On the same day, during a meeting at the Pentagon, Eban was also told by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and his aides that “…Egyptian forces were not in an aggressive posture and that Israel was not opening itself to peril by not attacking immediately. The contrary was true, Eban was told.” (Donald Neff, Warriors for Jerusalem, pp. 140-41)

      BTW, as the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) Commander, Major General Idar Jit Rikhye, revealed, Nasser was not enforcing the blockade of the Tiran straits: “[The Egyptian] navy had searched a couple of ships after the establishment of the blockade and thereafter relaxed its implementation.” (Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality, p. 139)

      Furthermore: According to Patrick Seale, highly regarded historian and journalist, Israel had been meticulously preparing for another war against the Arabs since its 1956 invasion of Egypt: “In the decade since the Suez campaign Israel had built up forces that could move fast and hit hard: mobile armoured units able to cover long distances, mechanized infantry, heliborne and naval paratroopers for use behind enemy lines, and above all an air force of Mirage and Super-Mystere interceptors and Mystere fighter-bombers of unchallenged superiority. The main lesson Israel had learned from the [1956] Suez war was the importance of air dominance not only to neutralize Arab air forces but also for use as flying artillery against infantry and tanks.” (Patrick Seale, Asad…, p. 117)

      Ezer Weizman, former commander of Israel’s Air Force confirmed in his memoirs that Israel spent years meticulously planning the attack against Egypt: “For five years I had been talking of this operation, explaining it, hatching it, dreaming of it, manufacturing it link by link, training men to carry it out.” Recalling how he felt at 7:30 A.M. on 5 June 1967, Weizman wrote: “Now in a quarter of an hour, we would know if it was only a dream or whether it would come true….” (Donald Neff, Warriors for Jerusalem…, p. 202)

      • Nathan
        July 6, 2017, 7:27 am

        It could be true that Nasser had no intention of going to war. However, he embarked on an adventure that deserves to be called “playing with fire”. He concentrated his army in Sinai, and asked for the removal of the UN forces. He promised to block the passage of Israeli ships through the Straits of Tiran, He announced his war intentions, declaring that he would “throw the Jews into the sea”. The Jordanian army was placed under his command. Nasser certainly understood that Israel was preparing for war in reaction to his moves, but he made no effort to contact the Israelis in order to calm them or to explain the true motivation of his actions (whatever they might have been).

        I understand that you would find it impossible to express criticism of Nasser’s behavior, because that might be understood as justification for Israel’s war. Allow me to state what you cannot bring yourself to saying: The Arabs are adults, and they are responsible for their own actions. Seeing them as children who bear no responsibility for their actions is a type of racism.

        Yes, Israel prepared for war during the course of years. Every responsible state in conflict makes plans for the various scenarios. Nasser, on the other hand, was a very irresponsible leader. He launched a crisis without giving the matter much thought. He understood that there would probably be war, but he was not at all ready for war. Who does such things? So, he played with fire, and then he was burned.

        Finally, you should note that incitement calling for genocide is a war crime, and one is entitled to go to war in such circumstances. Perhaps, you would like to answer me with some silly statement that the call “to throw the Jews into the sea” is just a myth. In the case of this particular threat, I heard it with my own ears. The same threat was made in 1948. Actually, the whole world heard the threat. You surely understand that threatening even an illegitimate entity with genocide is still a crime.

      • echinococcus
        July 6, 2017, 9:27 am

        “Nathan”

        you should note that incitement calling for genocide is a war crime, and one is entitled to go to war in such circumstances.

        Well said!

        There you have it. Even more than “incitement”, a newfangled charge, the practice of genocide, which the Zionist entity has been openly conducting since its first day, after having threatened and announced it in so many words since the start of the 20th century, is even more than that. It is reason enough to destroy said Zionist entity. As explicitly stated in international law.

        The continuous yapping of this last propaganda-bot would have been the irritant he intends it to be, were it not for the ignorance and stupidity that supplies its own antidote in almost every post.

      • Talkback
        July 6, 2017, 10:34 am

        Nathan: “However, he embarked on an adventure that deserves to be called “playing with fire”.”

        And by “fire” you mean a state that is interested in conquering the Sinai for the second time afterr 1956 to control the Suez Channel, illegally settle and illegaly exploit its oil resources? ROFL.

        Nathan: “He concentrated his army in Sinai.”

        No he didn’t according to Israel. It was just a part of the army which wasn’t enough to attack.

        Nathan: “, and asked for the removal of the UN forces.”

        1.) UNEF was only there by invitation of Egypt. 2.) Israel never allowed UNEF on its side of the borders. 3.) Egypt was ready to allow UNEF back in to deescalate the situation, but 4.) Israel attacked.

        Nathan: “He promised to block the passage of Israeli ships through the Straits of Tiran, …”

        Which was not a problem since 1.) Egypt didn’t ratify the maritime treaty to alllow free passage. 2.) The blockade was not even implemented properly. 3.) While Egypt was on its way to the UN to discuss the legal matter 4.) Israel attacked.

        Nathan: “Nasser certainly understood that Israel was preparing for war in reaction to his moves, but he made no effort to contact the Israelis in order to calm them or to explain the true motivation of his actions (whatever they might have been).”

        It was actually Israel that did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to deescalate the situation.

        Nathan: “He launched a crisis without giving the matter much thought.”

        “Israel” launched the crisis in 1948. Some say that the Ziionists launched the crisis in 1919. But in 1967 Israel launched the crisis by shooting down planes over Damascus and threatening to conquer it.

        Nathan: “Finally, you should note that incitement calling for genocide is a war crime, and one is entitled to go to war in such circumstances.”

        Says who? Please enlighten us which war crimes or terrorist acts Zionist have committed so far and if they entitle going to war. Start with the Zionist terrorist campagne in the late 30s.

        Nathan: ” Perhaps, you would like to answer me with some silly statement that the call “to throw the Jews into the sea” is just a myth. In the case of this particular threat, I heard it with my own ears. The same threat was made in 1948. Actually, the whole world heard the threat.”

        ROFL. Propably as fabricated as the flottila message. 1.) So far nobody could prove that Nasser or any other Arab leader made a genocidal claim in 1967. Someone even failed at court. 2.) In 1948 Hassan Banna only expressed his fear by saying: “If the Jewish state becomes a fact, and this is realized by the Arab peoples, they will drive the Jews who live in their midst into the sea.” It wasn’t a threat and the his conditional statement refered to the creation of Israel.

        Nathan: “Actually, the whole world heard the threat.”

        Yep. Another stupid claim that can’t be proven.

        Nathan: “You surely understand that threatening even an illegitimate entity with genocide is still a crime.”

        How about calling people because of their faith or hieritage a “demographic threat” or “cancer” and fantasizing about their displacement during official debates in a state parliament after 1945?

      • Mooser
        July 6, 2017, 4:23 pm

        “Nathan, I cannot understand why this discussion is going the way it is. You are using all the arguments and facts which always convince other Zionists, why won’t it work here?

      • echinococcus
        July 6, 2017, 5:30 pm

        Au contraire, Mosaire.

        Nathan or “Nathan” is doing his damnedest to use the hardest hitting arguments against Zionism, as I already had the opportunity to observe a couple times, only a couple days into this new commenter’s short life.

        He looked like the usual boob at the start but in fact, he’s so good he could even disgust from Zionism some of the Zionists reading this site.

    • Talkback
      June 28, 2017, 2:10 pm

      Arafatbastard: “So, if the Egyptian planes couldn’t even reach Israeli bases, why did Israel go to the troule of destroying them?”

      To have less problems to invade Egypt for the second time. Duh.

    • Keith
      June 28, 2017, 5:28 pm

      ARAFAT- “So, if the Egyptian planes couldn’t even reach Israeli bases, why did Israel go to the troule of destroying them?”

      So that the Egyptians wouldn’t have an air force to support its ground troops. This single act, rehearsed to perfection over the course of years, essentially decided the outcome of the war in the first hour. Had Egypt been planning a surprise attack against Israel, their state of readiness would have been much higher possibly preventing the complete destruction of its air force. The complete Egyptian ineptitude indicates that far from an existential threat, the situation was an opportunity for a quick Israeli land grab.

    • RoHa
      June 28, 2017, 7:12 pm

      Although Egyptian planes could not reach Israeli bases, they would still have been able to attack the Israeli army as it pushed down through Sinai. Obviously the Israeli commanders wanted to prevent this.

      Nor is it correct to say that Jordan occupied the West Bank. Jordan administered the West Bank by agreement with the Palestinians, not by military dominance over them.

      • Misterioso
        June 30, 2017, 9:50 am

        @RoHa

        Well and truly stated!!!

  7. WebSkipper
    June 28, 2017, 9:56 am

    Another VERY important new book is Ilan Pappe’s “The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories.” I won’t review it here, except to note that it’s a blockbuster.

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