Days of Palestine – Ramallah
On this day in 1967, the occupying state of Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria. After hitting the air defenses of these countries, Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Twenty years after being recognized as an independent state on the ruins of historic Palestine, Israel began an occupation that would become the longest in modern history. As such, Israel took control of the final 22 percent of historic Palestine that it wasn’t able to occupy in 1948.
The term ‘Naksa,’ or the ‘setback,’ refers to the beginning of the 1967 Six-Day War on June 5, which saw Israel triple in size beginning over 55 years of occupation.
Nearly 400 thousand Palestinians were displaced by the Israeli onslaught adding to the hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced in 1948 by the invading Zionist pre-Israel militias. Around half were being displaced for the second time in less than 20 years.
The number of Palestinian refugees in the camps run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon even grew further.
The attack saw Israel disregard the previously agreed upon Green Line borders drawn up in the 1949 armistice with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, which separated the newly established Israel from the Palestinian areas of the Jordanian-administered West Bank and Jerusalem, and the Egypt-administered Gaza.
Following the onslaught, facilitated with the strong backing of the United States, Israel imposed a military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza and annexed East Jerusalem which is going on until today.
Palestinians in the “occupied Palestinian territories” have since been subjected to a brutal Israeli military occupation as well as the activities of armed, right-wing Jewish settlers, for whom Israel’s victory was a license to colonize the land which they believed was promised to them by God and them alone.
In 2005, Israel pulled out its troops and settlers from Gaza as part of a unilateral disengagement plan under late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Despite many UN resolutions asking for its withdrawal from these territories, Israel continues to occupy all of the territories except the Sinai Peninsula. Israel withdrew from this territory in 1982, following a peace treaty with Egypt.
In June 1967, the Six-Day War, the third Arab-Israeli war, broke out; it resulted in the Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights of Syria, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank of the Jordan River.
Israel could win an overwhelming victory over the Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian troops in six days.
It was called the Six-Day War and became known in the Arab world as the “Naksa.” This setback led to occupying the rest of the historic Palestinian territory.
When Israel decided to reroute the Jordan River in 1963, the political situation in the region did not seem to indicate that another war was imminent.
The Arab reaction to Israel’s decision was fairly limited. At the Arab Summit in Cairo in January 1964, Arab countries announced plans to detour the headwaters of the Jordan River, establish a unified Arab military headquarters, and create a Palestinian political organization.
However, in early 1965, when the Syrian-backed Fatah movement began sending armed troops to Israel and Syria, tensions rose rapidly, and Jordan began preparing to divert the upper Jordan River.
Tension escalated again in the spring of 1967. Israel threatened a full-scale attack on Syria, which continued to support Palestinian militants, and signed a mutual defense pact with Egypt in November 1966.
On April 7, 1967, Israel threatened the Syrian border and launched an attack. An Israeli plane clashed with Syria over Damascus, shooting down six Mig21s.
Faced with an increased likelihood of Israel’s full-scale attack on Syria, the Egyptian government, especially after receiving information from the Soviet Union on May 13, 1967, that Israel had gathered considerable troops along the Syrian border, the Egyptian government announced the army on May 15 on alert.
On the same day, Egypt demanded the withdrawal of the UN Emergency Force Sharm El Sheikh and Gaza, which was established after the 1956 war. On May 22, it announced that the Strait of Tiran (the entrance to the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aqaba) would be closed to Israeli shipping.
On May 30, Jordan joined the Egyptian-Syrian Mutual Defense Treaty after ascertaining the impending war. Meanwhile, Israel has announced the formation of a national unity government, including for the first time Menachem Begin, the leader of the right-wing Herut Party.
US President Lyndon Johnson’s administration publicly sought to ease tensions in the Middle East and urged Egyptian President Jamal Abdel Nasser to avoid hostilities, but the United States continued to supply Israel with weapons, gave signals that it would not oppose an Israeli offensive that would destroy Egypt’s military, and undermine Nasser’s position of leadership in the Arab world, and strike a blow to the Soviet Union’s political and military stature in the region.
On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a surprise offensive on an Egyptian airfield that lasted more than two hours, almost destroying the Egyptian Air Force and damaging the Egyptian runway.
The fighting on the West Bank has caused extensive migration of residents there, especially from the Palestinian refugee camps in the Jordan Valley. Palestinians in Gaza Strip tried to flee to the west bank and from there to Jordan, while the Israeli troops on the Golan Heights expelled most Syrian inhabitants.
Defeating was especially strongly felt by Nasser, who declared on June 9 to the Egyptian people that he alone as a president just took responsibility and would thus be resigning his post as president.
However, the next day, millions of Egyptians demonstrated in the streets calling him to stay president. He then gathered the Arab ranks where the Arab heads of state at the Arab Summit in Khartoum at the end of August 1967.
Syria did not attend the summit, and Egypt agreed to withdraw its army from Yemen on September 1, 1967. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Libya pledged substantial financial assistance to Egypt and Jordan.
The summit issued the famous “Khartoum Resolution” after PLO Chairman Ahmad al-Shuqairi had threatened to walk out to protest what he called the Arab states’ “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause.
Khartoum Resolution affirmed the determination of the Arab states to act collectively to secure the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Arab territories occupied after June 5, 1967, “within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.
On 22 November 1967, after five months of deliberations, the UN Security Council passed resolution 242. At the suggestion of the British representative, he stressed the necessity of Israel’s withdrawal from the Arab territory occupied during the war in exchange for an end hostile war situation; recognition of the rights of all countries in the region to live in peace within secure borders; freedom of navigation in the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba; and a just solution to the refugee problem.
The June 1967 war provided Israel with the opportunity to achieve its regional expansion goals. Zionist leadership never considered borders created after 1948 permanent and hoped to reaffirm its allegations about what had slipped away in 1956.
In addition, the war helped to alleviate the economic crisis that struck Israel, which witnessed a 10 percent unemployment rate and a decline in Jewish immigration.
In order to quickly enjoy the outcome of the victory, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and began establishing Israeli settlements there and on the Golan Heights in the early days of the occupation.
The defeat of the Arab armies in 1967 led to the proliferation of Palestinian freedom fightings and the transfer of PLO leadership to the Palestinian armed group.
On a regional level, the defeat in 1967 led to the decline of the Arab nationalist movement and the awakening of political Islam. It also showed that the Arab government accepted the existence of Israel as a fait accompli in the region, especially after Egypt and Jordan agreed to UN Security Council resolution 242. The goal of “undoing the effects of the war” has replaced the goal of liberating Palestine.
Internationally, the 1967 war made the Middle East even more prominent as the setting for the Cold War. Israel claims to be a strategic US asset in the region, while the Soviet Union —despite the painful blow inflicted upon its Egyptian and Syrian allies—became the only international power able to rebuild the Arab armies and support Arab demands in the international arena.
Jabber, Fuad, ed. International Documents on Palestine, 1967. Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1970.
Louis, Wm. Roger, and Avi Shlaim, eds. The 1967 Arab-Israeli War: Origins and Consequences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Parker, Richard B. “The June War: Whose Conspiracy?” Journal of Palestine Studies 21, no.4 (Summer 1992): 5–21.
Schleifer, S. Abdullah. “The Fall of Jerusalem, 1967.” Journal of Palestine Studies 1, no.1 (Autumn 1971): 68–86.
Segev, Tom. “The June 1967 War and the Palestinian Refugee Problem.” Journal of Palestine Studies 36, no.3 (Spring 2007): 6–22.
“Special Document File: Jerusalem 1967.” Journal of Palestine Studies 37, no.1 (Autumn 2007): 88–110.