Sunday, September 25, 2005

While things were heating up in and around Gaza I finished reading Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Michael B. Oren. It has been a long time since I last read such a good and well written (*) historical study, and I highly recommend it to anybody who wants to get an idea of the events and developments that led to, made up and followed the Six Days War. Reading the book I learnt some interesting things. For instance, the ministers of the National Religious Party - which since the 1970s has been the political home for many if not most settlers - were the least bellicose members of the Israeli government before and during the war, always trying to rein in the more daring ministers, like Yigal Allon. Also, the victories achieved by Israel were often bloody and far from being a matter of course. Especially the Jordanians fought very bravely. That the battles with the Jordanian army were fought almost from the very beginning of the war I did not realize, nor did I know that the final decision/permission to attack the Golan - an attack that gave Israel the most strategic asset that was conquered in the war - was only made/given in the last phase of the war. If the Arab countries had agreed to a cease fire proposed by the UN Security Council after two days of fighting, most of Israel's conquests ( e.g. Jerusalem's Old City, the Golan, Sharm al-Sheikh ) would not have taken place. Also, although I knew that Israel was threatened before June 5th, I did not know that it took so long for both the country's government and the army leaders to decide on the pre-emptive strikes that have become so famous. All in all, I say it again, a highly recommended book.

(*) As is all too common even in books brought onto the market by renowned publishers such as Oxford University Press and Penguin, there are some ugly or badly edited sentences, annoying grammatical and other errors in this book, but that did not spoil the enjoyment of reading it. Two examples:

* p. 237: In Gaza, the installation of a full military government was approved and charged with preventing looting and restoring normal life.

* p. 220: Built by the British during Mandate times and later passed on to the UN, the Police Academy was believed by the Israelis to house 'Ata 'Ali's main headquarters and was therefore heavily defended. In fact, the area was manned by a single company, 140 men, of the 2nd al-Husseini Battalion under Capt. Suliman Salayta. ( the second part of the first sentence does not make real sense ).

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