Six days of war : June 1967 and the making of the modern Middle East

by Michael B. Oren

Paper Book, 2002




Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2002.


Six Days of War is the most comprehensive history ever published of the six days of intense Arab-Israeli fighting in the summer of 1967. Oren spotlights all the participants--Arab, Israeli, Soviet, and American-involved in this clash that transformed the world.

User reviews

LibraryThing member nbmars
Fascinating study of the June 1967 Middle East War in which the author seeks to present a "fair and balanced" narrative, using both Arab and Israeli sources. In Oren's moment-by-moment account, he highlights the complexities of the politics behind the war (such as Johnson's weakness because of
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Vietnam; the Soviet fear factor; Nasser's love-hate relationship with his military commander Amer; Hussein's vulnerability and fear of Nasser; and the battles within the Israeli government among the strong personalities of Eshkol, Dayan, and Rabin). Oren also elaborates on many small elements of caprice that affected the outcome of the war (for example, when the American Ambassador Wally Barbour decided to take off for the weekend instead of conveying Hussein's letter of apology to Eshkol for a mine accident along the border in November 1966; or the crisis period after Nasser evicted the U.N. from the Sinai, and U-Thant postponed a trip to Cairo for three days because he wanted to wait until his horoscope said it was propitious to travel.) Oren recounts developments that even seem very humorous in retrospect, as when the Israelis confronted Chuvakhin, the Soviet Ambassador to Israel, in May 1967 about the lie that Israeli troops were massing on the border in Syria. Chuvakhin "replied simply that his job was to communicate Soviet truths, not test them." Or when the Israelis entered Nablus on day three of the war to find thousands of people lining the streets to applaud them: the citizens had believed the propaganda that the Arabs were winning, and mistook the Israelis for Iraqis.

Oren presents rich portraits of Nasser, whom he labels "a tragic figure" and Dayan, whom Oren claims in an afterward still not to understand. Although he feels Dayan "was a leader of a caliber virtually unknown in the Middle East today," Oren also calls Dayan "a man of utter contradictions - passionate and cold, creative and close-minded, fearless and fainthearted..." with a "prodigious ego" and enigmatic mind.

Oren posits that the greatest political change wrought by the war of 1967 was the collapse of Nasserism - or secular pan-Arabism - and its replacement by Islamic extremism. Israel also became "more Jewish" from the reclamation of its biblical homelands, while the Arab street became more anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic than ever. (In addition to Arab shame and anger over Israel's military hegemony, Oren attributes this increase to the propaganda that "dominates the Arab press and poisons Arabic school textbooks.")

The discussion of the American involvement (or lack thereof) will be particularly interesting to Americans. Johnson's incapacitation by Vietnam presaged Reagan's weakness after Iran-Contra, and even moreso, the perception that Clinton's impeachment battle affected his ability to respond to the growing terrorist threat from Al Qaeda.

Oren tries to shed light on the still unresolved circumstances surrounding the accidental Israeli attack of the USS Liberty on day four of the war. The Liberty was only thirteen nautical miles from the Sinai coast, in an area declared off-limits by Egypt. Johnson had told the Sixth Fleet stationed 240 miles away not even to turn around, so no one could charge the U.S. with collusion. Many aspects of the incident remain a [classifed] mystery.

Oren asserts that this war, "triggered by [Syrian-sponsored] Palestinian guerrilla raids and Israel's retaliations against them" and yet also due to a myriad of other issues, never really ended. As long as ignorance and falsehoods persist, and unless and until Arab societies develop strong middle classes with vested interests in stability, no real end to the conflict can be contemplated.

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LibraryThing member Donogh
Oren's account starts with a question on what to begin the history with
(a point which appealed to me as an Irishman). Oren's appreciation of the complexity of the background to the war is quite astute - from the earliest days of the state's formation nothing had ever been clearly resolved.
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spends a large amount of time going through the political background to the war, its place on the world stage (the US was in the middle of the Cold War and becoming ever-more involved in Vietnam).
The psychology of the protagonists is given centre-stage. Much like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the inexorable creep of decision-making, the claustrophobic encroaching of opinion and remaining options pressurises the almost inevitable progress towards hostiliities.
Once we get to the war itself, Oren is less sure than before, almost entirely relating the war's progress by relating/quoting first-hand accounts, but as the war's continuance is in some ways entirely political this is not a serious disadvantage to the work.
In the appendix Oren's value as a historian is apparent. While Arab sources are still not available, he has interviewed as many Arab participants as Israeli during his research.
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LibraryThing member mgreenla
A great introduction to the 1967 war and it's causes. The author tries his best to cover what is a very politically charged and still unresolved subject. I found the coverage of the diplomatic moves before the fighting started to be the highlight of the book.

I would recommend it.
LibraryThing member WouterGil
A very extensive, complete and neutral account of the story of 1967 war. The amount of attention paid to the context in which this war could come about is it's strong point and weakness at the same time. I almost quit reading cause I wanted to read about the going of the war instead of the context.
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But when I was finished I realised that this context and prelude was necessary to really understand the war and indeed how political it was. I am quite familiar with the middle east, but this book gave me an extra insight into the ridiculous complexity of this war tormented area.
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LibraryThing member stringsn88keys
An attempt at an objective telling of the Six Days War and the conflicts within individual nations and between nations that shaped the outcome.Certainly, history is kinder to the losers than the winners, but this book makes a valiant attempt at exposing the dysfunction that shaped the conflict and
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the subsequent landscape of the modern Middle East.
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
The first 60% covers the chaotic political machinations leading up to the war. It is far too detailed and esoteric for the casual reader without some background in recent Middle East history. The war itself is pretty interesting but high level and not too personal. Battles go by quickly. In the end
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the author keeps impressing how important the war was for subsequent Middle East history, but doesn't really explain why or how except for about a dozen individuals who get a "where are they now" treatment - once again, it helps to be knowledgeable before arriving. This book was written by someone who was involved in the war and an important Israeli politician and public figure, he set out to write a definitive history of the war and it probably is. Does not adapt very well to audio, though doable for the attentive listener, 18 hours is a long slog and the mind wanders. Recommend an abridged version if you can find it, probably best read so you can absorb the material.
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LibraryThing member GeoKaras
Excellent description of the War, particularly the political aspects, utilizing newly available sources. Particularly intriguing is the description of how the war evolved from an effort to drive the Egyptians awary from their close deployment on the Isreali border, the original intent, into an
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unplanned conquest of Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Haights.
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LibraryThing member jimnicol
Oren describes the sadly destructive momentum that developed in the weeks leading up to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Oren's challenge was to weave together an accurate account of the Six Day War that covered many different perspectives from a myriad of sources. All sides of the conflict needed to be represented and not just from the perspective of battles and conflict. He needed to produce an account that was not
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only balanced and unbiased, but thorough in its investigation and analysis. This was accomplished through meticulous and extensive research.
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LibraryThing member SGTCat
This history of the Six Day War is extremely well written. Based on extensive research, this tale of the war reads better than most thriller/suspense novels I've read. It also presents data from both sides of the equation, though it obviously has a more pro-American / pro-Israeli stance when
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opinion is interjected into the retelling of events. If you want to know about the Six Day War, though, this is the book to use to acquaint yourself with it.
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LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — History — 2002)
National Jewish Book Award (Winner — 2002)


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