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Louis Untermeyer


Six Days of War
June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East

By Michael B. Oren
Oxford University Press, 446 pp, 2002

This is a wonderfully concise, well-written history of the war between Israel and Egypt, Syria, and Jordan that lasted only six days in June 1967. The Arabs got pounded, and Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula. The war, though won by Israel, also brought that country decades of additional strife that continues to this day. It also made the Arab nations more determined to wipe out the Jewish state.

Oren has written a fair history, with all sides presented with no apparent bias or judgment. He gained access to previously undisclosed material, so he has records of internal meetings with all the political parties involved. 

And there are lots of them. The Middle East doesn't exist in a vacuum. Other nations have stuck their noses into the region. In this case, the Soviet Union sided with Egypt and Syria, but only to an extent, never daring to get involved in the actual fighting. The U.S. played a similar role with Israel, pledging undying support but no military involvement. So while outside actors did their best to shape events, the real fighting and dying were done by Israelis, Egyptians, Syrians, and Jordanians.

It's true the Arab armies were routed, but they did fight hard, especially Jordan's troops in the West Bank and Syrian soldiers on the Golan. The Israelis could have easily conquered Cairo, Damascus, and Amman, but such actions would have had brought the Jewish state solid international condemnation, including from the United States. It must be very frustrating for Israel - its enemies fight for its destruction, and it cannot retaliate in kind. And somehow, the Israelis are considered the bad guys by many people.

If you wish to gain a greater understanding of the Middle East, and find out why they still fight over there, reading this book would be a great start.

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