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The six-day war Coursework Essay

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1) Source ‘A’ contains evidence that the author blames Israel, at least in part, for the start of the six-day war. He says, “Israel CLAIMS Arabs were threatening … to attack her” as if to say that he doesn’t believe the Israelis. He also Displays the view that Israel had a lot to gain from a war. He claims that war brought “millions of dollars into Israel”, “cured unemployment” and helped restore the general economy in Israel, hinting that she went to war for economic reasons.

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He also blames the Arabs. He acknowledges that Egypt closed the Gulf of Aqaba, which “[Egypt] knew Israel would regard as an act of war” He says that the Israelis had no choice; “[Israel] could not afford to let the Arabs strike first, she was too … vulnerable” In conclusion, it is fair to say that the author believes both countries are partly to blame for the war, because he gives a variety of reasons why each country could be blamed for starting it. He does not just concentrate on one country’s part in the war.

2) The cartoon is ambiguous. One message is that the Arab forces are big and strong, and that they surround Israel. The cartoonist probably got this idea from the previous ‘victories’ over Israel, for example the closure of the Gulf of Aqaba on the 22nd May. The figures regarding the armies of the countries in the Middle East speak for themselves. The Arabs had more than double everything that Israel had. In some cases, however, it was triple the number, with Arab planes totalling 957, and Israeli planes a mere three hundred. The old man, perspiring with fear, is how the Arabs viewed Israel at that time, partly because of the lack of weapons, and partly because Israel had seemingly let Egypt close the Gulf of Aqaba without fighting. Another message is the depiction of Israel surrounded by Arab armies, all trying to force her into the sea.

This is an idea that the cartoonist got from the geographical position of Israel, (surrounded by Arabs and next to the Mediterranean sea) and the fact that Arab armies were advancing to the borders of Israel. The cartoonist has also drawn an alternative to being pushed, in the form of a diving board. This represents retreat as an option for Israel. The cartoonist thought that Israel would leave the Middle East rather than fight the Arabs, who had military superiority. The cartoonist, and other Arabs thought retreat likely when no reaction was seen from Israel when Un troops were moved from Sinai on the 16th May 1967 under instruction of Egypt.

In conclusion, the main message put across in the source is Arab superiority and strength in the Middle East.

3) To a certain extent these cartoons do support the view that the countries in the Middle East didn’t cause the war.

The cartoon, source ‘C’, lays blame for the 1967 war on the USA and USSR because they poured money and weapons into the Middle East, making a war possible. The USSR had supplied weapons and intelligence to Egypt. They suggest that Israel was planning an air attack on Egypt and other Arab countries, forcing Nasser to plan an attack on Israel. The USA was supplying weapons and money/loans to Israel. The cartoon shows this by having both the USA and USSR stirring weapons into a cauldron labelled the Middle East. The conflict between these superpowers in the ‘6 day war’ in all probability ties in with the cold war. The cartoonist also suggests that the UN played a part in the war. He shows U Thant standing in the background, making no attempt to prevent the escalating problems.

Source ‘D’ lays most of the blame on U Thant because he ‘failed to stand up to Nasser… when he ordered UN forces out of Sham el Sheik.’ The source says that the departure of UN troops, who had acted as a buffer between Israel and Egypt from Sinai had speeded up the coming of a war. Therefore, as U Thant did not resist Nasser’s orders, he brought war closer.

However, Middle East countries were to blame as well and both sources suggest this. There was a situation in the Middle East, regardless of Western influence. Source ‘C’ shows this. The fact that there is a cauldron for the Superpowers to put weapons into shows that there was willingness for war in the first place. Israel also appointed the aggressive Moshe Dyan as defence minister on the 28th May, just days before the outbreak of war. One could argue that with or without outside interference he would have caused a war. Source ‘D’ also maintains that Middle Eastern countries were to blame, after all it was Egypt who ordered out the Un troops, and the source says “the departure of UN troops brought war closer”

The sources use all of the above evidence to against outside parties (i.e. the USA and Russia), but this is not the whole story, the Middle East countries were also to blame. They actually started a war, and fought it.

In conclusion, both sources go a long way in showing that the Middle East was not to blame for the war, but they seem to accept that a little blame does lie with them.

4) Sources F and G both contradict source E on many points. Source E claims that “[Israel’s] intention is to overthrow the Syrian government.” Source F on the other hand, says “we have resolved to… oust you [Israel] and throw you into the sea for good.”

This clearly shows that Syria plans to overthrow Israel, not the other way round, as source E would have it. Sources F and G are more reliable, as they are government officials talking about their own countries, rather than the enemy. In source E, Egypt claims that they had to “intervene immediately in case of any…action taken…against Syria.” but source F contradicts this where Syria say, “We shall never call for…or accept peace”, showing which country is really the aggressor.

Source E states that Israel is a “mistake” and openly talks of destroying her “Our goal is clear. Wipe Israel off the map”. In source E however, Egypt claims that Israel is threatening the Arabs, not the other way round. “Israel is trying to direct military blows at the Arab people…”

Source F was written before source E, suggesting that the open aggression started with the Arabs, not, as claimed in source E, with the Israelis. Source E is intended to justify Egypt’s desire to attack Israel. It claims that she has military might and is “urged on by the USA”. The other sources put Israel down as a weak country. All three are government propaganda, released to the public, but the earlier dated sources were used to stir up hatred amongst Arabs against the Israelis, whereas E was to justify an Arab attack to the people of Egypt and the rest of the world. Sources F and G do show most of the claims made in E to be false. They show that Arabs are the aggressors, not the Jews as source E suggests. They also contradict E on the strength, however with the benefit of hindsight source E is correct on this subject, as we know that Israel was strong, not defenceless.

In conclusion, the sources F and G show most of the claims made in E to be incorrect, but with outside knowledge and hindsight, one can see that E was accurate in parts.

5) Source H, although an individuals view, the position Israel was in. It was the fact that they “put their chances of survival at 50:50” that caused the Israelis to retaliate first. It is not all that useful as a source because it is a personal opinion, but it was describing his feelings before the war, and gives evidence that there is a lack of security in Israel, and there was not enough defence in the home country.

He says “the school where I teach had no adequate air raid shelters” and “the port of Haifa was a sitting duck.” Source I is useful because it provides photographic evidence that Russian supplied weaponry was being used by Egypt in Sinai, confirming two main causes of the six day war – the outside support of Middle East military operations and the open aggression of Egypt on Israel’s borders. In conclusion, although the two sources are of different types, source H providing a subjunctive viewpoint written before the event, and I providing photographic evidence of a situation at the end of the war, both can be of some use to an historian studying causes of the 6 day war.

6) Source J was written by an Israeli official, and source K by the Egyptian prime minister. The views on the 6 – day war obviously differ greatly. One way in which the opinions differ is who actually started the war. Egypt blames Israel. “The Israelis mounted a heavy onslaught on Syria”, whereas the Israelis laid blame on the Arabs and Russia. The ministry of foreign affairs says that the Syrians said, “Syria will never retreat from the…war to recover Palestine” and claims that the USSR “made and overheated situation worse” by supplying false intelligence to Nasser.

They also have differing opinions on why Egypt joined the war. Source J says that he used Russian intelligence, which he knew to be false “as an excuse to move into Syria”. Source K, defending the move, says that Nasser “could not leave the Syrians to face hostility alone”.

Source J does not mention Israel’s part in the war, but K blames her and says that she planned it, and it “fitted in with her plans”.

J says that Syrian radio “broadcast claims of havoc…caused by Arab terrorists.” Source K says that Israel had “control of western media” and so “enjoyed a free hand during the war”

In conclusion, the sources differ on many points, including ‘who started the war’, why Egypt joined it, what part Israel played, and how propaganda was used by the enemy.

7) There are many ways in which each of the involved parties could be held responsible for the outbreak of war in 1967.

The Arabs, the Israelis, president Nasser, the UN and outside superpowers, in particular Russia and the USA have been blamed at one time or another. There is, however no doubt that all of them contributed slightly to the War.

The Arab states were openly aggressive towards Israel, as source A shows; “Egypt…closed the Gulf of Akaba, which she knew Israel would regard as an act of war” They also say that Israel was a mistake. On Iraqi radio, the president said, “Israel is an error which we must put right”. This evidence shows that Arab states were looking to fight with Israel, so a war would have probably come about.

Nasser called for the UNEF to leave the Sinai ‘buffer zone’, an act that saw Israel even more afraid for her safety and security. Before the six – day war, in May 1966, Syria claimed, “We [Syria] will never call for, or accept peace”. In 1967, the Arab media was aggressive, violent and threatening. This kind of propaganda was seen by Israel to be winding up the Arab people for war. Israel was afraid and felt threatened. This led them to attacking first; they couldn’t afford to wait to be attacked.

The Israelis made the first strike in the war, and so could be blamed for being the ‘trigger factor’. On 28th May, she appointed Moshe Dyan, a “supporter of aggressive policy” as defence minister. The Arabs claim that Israel had a lot to gain from the war, and went to war to “save its economy”. Whether this accusation is true or not, the war certainly did bring “millions of US dollars in…as well as curing her unemployment” as source A tells us.

The UN could also be seen as being to blame for the six – day war. U Thant made a big mistake by not standing up to Nasser when he ordered the UNEF out of Sinai. Sources C and D back this up, source C showing U Thant standing well back from the Middle East situation, which the superpowers were inflaming. This shows that he, and so the UN was not willing to help calm the Middle East, and was happy to see weaponry being poured into it. Source D focuses on U Thants part in the war. It blames the outbreak of war on “U Thants blunder”, and says, “The departure of UN troops brought war closer”. The removal of the buffer zone made Israel ill at ease, and cleared the ay for Nasser to place his troops threateningly on Israel’s border. This, one could argue, made war inevitable.

The aid of outside countries, mainly USA and Russia, contributed greatly to the war. They provided the weaponry and some of the money that made a large-scale war possible. Source C shows the Superpowers ‘stirring’ weapons into the Middle East ‘cauldron’. The Russians in particular caused problems with the already struggling peace. She supplied false intelligence to the Egyptians, telling Nasser (shortly before the war) that Israel was planning an attack on Syria using its air force. This gave Nasser an excuse to move his troops onto the Israeli borders, and to sign a defence treaty with Syria.

Nasser, as leader of Egypt at the time, obviously played a key part in the war. He continuously released anti Israel propaganda, and “ordered the UNEF out of Sham El Sheik” in May 1967. Later in May he ordered the Gulf of Akaba closed to Israeli ships. He also took the intelligence from Russia, which he knew to be false, as an excuse to threaten Israel.

The answer to ‘who started the war?’ very much depends on one’s personal opinions. Israel made the first actual military strikes from the Golan Heights, on Syria, but were they justified? Did the Arabs provoke them? They closed the gulf of Akaba, the main shipping route to Israel. This was not military action, but Nasser knew that Israel would see it as an attack. The moving of Egyptian troops to Israel’s borders was not technically military action either, because Egypt owned Sinai, but again, it seemed like a threat to an already unstable Israel.

The west, the UN in particular failed to see the possible consequences of the above actions. They did not realise that the supply of weapons and intelligence from the superpowers was further increasing tensions between Jews and Arabs, and speeding up the coming of the war.

In conclusion, the answer to the question of who started the war is not an easy one to find, and it depends on whether one views the occupation of Sinai and the closing of Akaba as acts of war or not.

8) There are many reasons for the continuing disagreement over who was to blame for the six – day war. People are still arguing about it today.

There are lots of conflicting views because of the complicated way in which the war started. Although Israel ‘dropped the first bombs’, on the 5th June, when “the Israeli air force attacked Egypt’s airfields”, the Arabs had been openly aggressive towards Israel. Syria said, “We have resolved to drench this land with your blood”

Many of the places that Israel took in the six – day war, for example the Golan Heights and the Gaza strip, are still being fought over today, and consequently many people sympathise with specific sides, and so have biased opinions and views. This leads to lots of disagreement between historians, and instead of looking objectively at the evidence, and using hindsight to their advantage, they tend to be biased.

Obviously different people, especially in the Middle East itself would have different views and be biased even if clashes were not still taking place. The Arabs, for example, blame Israel, saying, “The Israelis mounted a heavy onslaught on Syria” and also that “Israel…is trying to direct military blows at the Arab people”.

The Israelis blame the Arabs, who “were threatening her with destruction and were ready to attack her”. They were openly aggressive and closed the Gulf of Akaba, and removed the UN buffer zone in Sinai. The west usually sides with Israel, because that is whom they backed during the early days of the dispute.

Some people argue that other groups were indirectly to blame, such as the Nazis for driving Jews out of Germany and eastern Europe, and some blame Britain for agreeing to let Jews have Palestine, whilst also maintaining that the Arabs could keep it.

In conclusion, the reason for the continuing disagreement over the Middle East is that it is not a clear – cut case. No party stands out as being solely to blame, but rather many countries and organisations contributed to the start of the six – day war.

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