Monday May 01, 2017

The Enright Files: fifty years after the Six-Day War

An Israeli soldier studies an oil refinery at Port Suez set alight by Israeli shelling during the Six-Day War. He views it from the other side of the Suez Canal.

An Israeli soldier studies an oil refinery at Port Suez set alight by Israeli shelling during the Six-Day War. He views it from the other side of the Suez Canal. (Central Press/Getty Images)

Listen to Full Episode 53:59

History, the adage goes, is written by the winners. But it's not so simple where Israel is concerned. It's not completely clear who won what or who were the aggressors and victims in its many conflicts since achieving statehood. Its history is never settled, and it is never a dead issue. 

The history of Israel and its relations with its Arab neighbours and who has a rightful claim to what land -- and even to existence -- are fiercely contested to this day. And it's not only the history of the past 70 years. A history that goes back millennia still infuses the conflicts and geopolitical debates between Israel, its allies and enemies in the Middle East and the global community at large.

One month before the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War of 1967, The Enright Files revisits interviews about that war and the way it and the fallout from Israel's other conflicts still weigh on the state of Israel today.


The Enright Files - Six-Day War

Israeli soldiers on June 9, 1967 at Jerusalem's Western Wall. ( David Rubinger/AFP/Getty Images)

That pivotal 1967 conflict that shaped so much of Israel's subsequent history has become known as the Six-Day War, but the outcome was effectively decided in the first 45 minutes. 

On the morning of June 5th, two Israeli squadrons of jet fighters destroyed hundreds of Egyptian aircraft as they sat on the ground. Less than a week later, the war was over. 

Israel had vanquished the mightiest of Arab armed forces determined to exterminate it. And now, Israel also occupied a huge amount of captured territory … The Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank of the Jordan River, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem.

The country was triumphant. Young Israeli paratroopers wept as they kissed the sacred temple wall, which had been in Jordanian hands since 1948.

Whatever Israel is today, it is in large measure a result of what happened that June 50 years ago. According to historian Tom Segev, it was a Pyrrhic victory. In the decades that followed Israel faced more wars, two Intifadas and countless missile attacks and suicide bombings. What has not happened has been a resolution to the plight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in the occupied territories. A two-state solution seems as distant as ever.


Guests in this episode:

  • Tom Segev, Israeli historian.
     
  • Michael Oren, Israeli historian and politician.
     
  • Margaret MacMillan, Canadian historian.
     
  • David Shulman, Israeli academic and peace activist 
     
  • David Grossman, acclaimed Israeli novelist.
     

**The Enright Files is produced by Chris Wodskou