I was curious to see what exactly makes British academics believe Israel is the source of all evil, so I looked to see what’s on the BBC News homepage.

BBC News has a slideshow about the “Arab-Israeli war of 1967”. The slides and captions make it look like the war was a spontaneous, random act of Israeli aggression of which poor, defenseless Arabs were the victims. Israelis come across as up against no resistance whatsoever. Anyone whose knowledge of the war comes just from this slideshow would never in a million years guess that this war was about a tiny country surrounded by enemies poised to obliterate it.

Below are the captions for all of the photographs:

1) The capture of East Jerusalem on the third day of the war was a key objective for the Israelis.

2) Much of the Israeli victory in the West Bank depended on ground troops, including crack paratroopers.

3) “The Temple Mount is in our hands” declared Israeli radio as troops secured one of Judaism’s most sacred sites.

4) Elated Israeli troops carried this portrait of Jordan’s King Hussein upside down to mark their triumph.

5) This picture of troops by the Wailing Wall has come to symbolise the war of 1967 for Israelis.

6) Israel’s arrival spelt the start of a long trek into exile by hundreds of thousands of West Bank Palestinians.

7) Israel devastated the airfields of Egypt, the strongest Arab air power, at the start of the war.

8 ) Taken by surprise, some Arab troops stood and fought, while others pulled back rapidly before the onslaught.

9) Hundreds of Israeli tanks churned up the sands of Gaza and Sinai as they pushed Egyptian units back.

10) On the final day of the war, Israeli forces captured the tip of the Sinai, taking Arab prisoners as they advanced.

The implication from this slideshow is that the war was above all else about Israelis’ desire to disturb an otherwise peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, out of a greedy desire to secure more “holy” sites. The whole Arab-states’-aggression angle is omitted entirely. Looking at these captions a bit more closely, what shall we make of the Arab troops being “taken by surprise”? In that Arab troops were on the verge of attacking Israel anyway, was this the surprise of, Oh my, I’d thought they were our friends! If only they would discuss their grievances with us over coffee.? Or was it the surprise of, damn, looks like the enemy we thought we were about to take down might win? And then there’s that final photo, the parting image of Israelis taking Arab prisoners. I’m a graduate student and not a soldier, but my limited knowledge of war suggests that the taking of prisoners-of-war is not unusual and by no means an Israeli-specific practice. This final image leaves the impression that “the Arabs”–and not just the Palestinians–are the innocent and weak victims of the Israelis. This is exactly how I would see this war if all I ever saw was information like what the BBC just provided. Probably a few more people will see that than will read this, but I’m trying…

Crossposted at WWPD.

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  • Have you not been listening to BBC over the past two-bloody-weeks? Nothing but 6 day war coverage from morning til night, and the most nauseating BBC programming I’ve ever heard. And I’ve heard a lot of nauseating BBC programming.

    One of the best was when the BBC reported that Israel is so ashamed of what it did that it no longer celebrates the war … on June 5. Apparently no one ever told them about Yom Yerushalaim and the Jewish calendar.

    Another great one is this slippery deal where they can’t exactly reconcile the fact that the people in the west bank and gaza were occupied by Egypt and Jordan until Israel took over, yet they weren’t exactly resisting this occupation.

    So how they speak about who exactly lived where, what the result was ,and that “Palestine” was made up many years afterwards are a complete mess of weaseling out from under the facts.

    I actually have to turn off the programming it is so awful.


  • Thanks, Barry, that was unremitting propaganda from the BBC. Somehow, the IDF generals tricked all of Israel. The Israeli civilians were fooled and the weak PM was fooled. Except that he was strong enough to hold the army back for two weeks, which contradicts the reporter’s premise in the first place. I am truly disgusted.

  • Those captions would lead anyone who knows nothing about the war (nearly everyone) to conclude that it was a greedy land grab, in which the Arabs were passive who-me? victims. Nothing mentions the lead up to the war, nor shows what the goals of the Arabs were. Really disgusting, but what you’d expect these days from the BBC, and the UK.

  • I enjoy reading/watching the Beep. All the time they picture Israel as the fierce superpower that leaves it’s enemies trembling with fear and due to it’s vast resources can take on virtually every army in the world at once.


    At least is is a distraction from the harsh realities in the middle east.

  • WOW, i have never seen a post that was so far off before. I suppose you can take anything and make it out to be anti-Israeli, but you really had to stretch here Phoebe. and what is the correlation between british academia and the BBC. Are you saying that the BBC represents the whole of British academia? Also surprised you didn’t find a way to plug france or hertzl anywhere in the post.

  • Jon C, caption 8 is the key. The Arabs were not taken by surprise, although the specific Arabs in that picture might have been. The Arab nations attacked Israel, not the other way around. So how could they have been taken by surprise? It was their initiative. You are not surprised when it is you who are doing it.

    The whole war was full of impossible things, obvious divine intervention, utter miracles. Fits very nicely with the Parsha about the Spies, this week.

    This is academia today, Jon C. I am so glad I am too old for school. Home schooling is very interesting, under certain conditions.

  • who says they weren’t captured by surprise JM? I mean Nasser was pumping out tons of propaganda throughout egypt and the rest of the Arab world. the troops thought the victory would be as easy as they were told, I don’t believe its a stretch to say they weren’t surprised…..

  • Nasser wasn’t surprised, he was just stupid. Or, should I say, he was surprised because he was stupid.

    It is obvious that the Arabs were not expecting the Jews to fight back, or figured that if they did, they had no way of defeating all of the Arabs combined, supported as they were by the USSR. Remember, at this time their was no “special relationship” between Israel and the US and Israel’s main European backer was France.

    The Arabs thought they could win in a cakewalk, and so did not take Israel seriously. Underestimating your enemy almost always leads to defeat.

    So Nasser was caught off guard because he was too stupid and arrogant to really prepare properly for the war he caused.

    Boo friggin’ hoo.

  • I am of the opinion that neither Egypt, nor Israel wanted this war. Recent research suggests that the war was instigated by the Soviets, with plans to land Soviet troops in Israel! The Russians were concerned about Israel’s nukes and wanted to neutralize Dimona. Still, regardless of who pressured him, it was Nasser who told U Thant to move out the UN peacekeeping troops. It was Nasser who closed off the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. That alone was a causus belli and Israel was fully justified in its response. Was Nasser stupid? I don’t think so. Was he arrogant? No doubt. Why did the Soviets never intervene directly according to plan? Because Israel’s victory was so breathtakingly complete and fast. No one expected the Arabs to fold so quickly.

    But casting Israel as the villain in this story is quite the exercise in revisionism, unles the winner is always the villain. But whatever. I’d rather be the villain everyone hates then the martyr everyone mourns.

  • Jon C, hear Ephraim.

    I DID say that the specific Arabs in that particular photo might have indeed been surprised, but the war was not a surprise to Arab leadership – obviously. There were doing it, so how could they be surprised? The BBC is giving the impression that Israel made war on the Arabs. That’s not what happened. It was the other way around. That is Phoebe’s point.

    It is a crucial point.

    Changing who started the war, even by implication and omission, is like saying water is fire, and fire is ice cream. That is what the Beeb is doing.

  • Of course Nasser was stupid, ck.

    He trusted the Soviets and underestimated Israel. You can’t get more stupid than that.

    And of course he wanted the war. Or, should I say, what he thought the war could get him.

    He was assuming that with the massing of troops on Israel’s borders and no one in the world coming to its defense, Israel would cave and he would be able to get what he wanted without firing a shot.

    But, we should be glad he was stupid. If he had been a good general, he might have actually been ready for the war he started. Thank G-d he wasn’t.

  • Jon C.:

    Omission can itself be misinformation. The BBC tells a story that makes Israel look like the (sole) aggressor. All action of Arab states, up to and during the war, is left out, making it look as though Israel spontaneously and with no provocation started reclaiming acre after acre.

    “what is the correlation between british academia and the BBC”?

    That’s easy. If I’m correct, British TV owners pay a tax for the BBC. There’s no US equivalent; this is simply the news that everyone in Britain watches. British academics included. Since only a small percentage of academics’ expertise is the contemporary Middle East, it’s fair to assume they get their information from the news like everyone else.

  • how the HELL do you e-mail a letter to the BBC editor?!? I have scoured the website for the editor’s e-mail address but to no avail.

    almost as if they don’t care what I think….hmmmmmm….

  • ck,

    the egyptian leadership wanted something,

    kicking out the UN and closing the straits of tiran meant something…

    the egyptian ppl wanted war too…..

  • The bbc is biased, nothing new in that. But they’ve gone a bit overboard these past weeks, subjective news reporting is one thing, reinventing history something else altogether. Yehuda, i actually believed the “Israel is so ashamed of what it did that it no longer celebrates the war ” report!

  • Ironically, the captions imply the success of the war. It did, after all, lead to peace with Egypt and Jordan in due course, and result in a modus vivendi in the Golan Heights. The unresolved issue (or the “juxt of the matter”, to quote a character in Don DeLillo’s ‘Underworld’) is whither the Palestinians and the West Bank.

    Doesn’t Ephraim state the rough consensus on Nasser and his aims? It seems very unlikely that the Soviets would have started a war with Israel– the late sixties were a time of retrenchment and detente in Soviet foreign policy. Of course, once its Arab allies, with their faulty Russian weapons, began circling the drain, Moscow’s calculus changed– but too late.

    Jewish Mother: you find “obvious divine intervention” in the war? I envy your ability to discern God’s design. In any event, I assume you’ll take the bitter with the sweet: are we to ascribe the Holocaust, or the stalemate with Hezbollah, to “obvious divine intervention”?

    One man who knew from war, and religion too, was the sixteenth president of the United States. These words from his second inaugural address could apply to 1967’s combatants: “Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other . . . . The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

  • Tom Morrissey, great questions, but 1) I am no rabbi. And, 2) there were TWO gods in play here, not one. I have said that before. Pay attention. As for divine intervention, you seem to be up to speed on that. The Almighty does indeed have His own purposes, as you say. 3) As for the Holocaust, I, and a lot of other people, fall silent. Just because I talk a lot doesn’t mean I always talk. Even I shut up sometimes. That is all I have, so don’t ask for more.

  • Whatever happened to Middle’s promised epic post on the Six-Day War? The legions of would-be revisionists wanna know.

  • Beyond my limited expertise, JM. Middle’s the man for the job.

  • 1967 in a nutshell:

    The Arabs figured Israel would be a pushover, so they set in motion a train of events that they knew would do one of two things: 1) lead inevitably to a war they were sure they could win, or 2) lead inevitably to Israel’s unconditional capitulation. A win-win for them, no matter how you look at it.

    They were wrong, and their plan blew up in their faces. They got the war they wanted, but they lost.

    You know, basically the same thing that happened in 1947-48.

    That’s all you need to know. The rest, as they say, is commentary.

  • CK writes, “Recent research suggests that the war was instigated by the Soviets, with plans to land Soviet troops in Israel!”

    Here is some of that recent research and a review from the Jerusalem Post.

    The Cold War’s Longest Cover-Up:
    How and Why the USSR Instigated the 1967 War
    –Isabella Ginor

    Foxbats Over Dimona: The Soviets’ Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War
    –Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez

    “Fearing an imminent invasion, Israel launched a preemptive air attack on Egypt in June 1967 and it achieved such staggering devastation that in just six days the war was won and the future of the Middle East was forever changed. But have our assumptions about the genesis of the Six-Day War been misguided? What was the involvement of the Soviet Union? Were the Israelis planning to use nuclear weapons? Were the Soviets?

    This book provides an account that is startlingly different from all previous histories of the Six-Day War. Award-winning Israeli journalists Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez investigate newly available documents and testimonies from the former Soviet Union, cross-check them extensively against Israeli and Western sources, and arrive at fresh and frightening conclusions. Filled with astonishing new information about this crucial week in history, the book paints a disturbing picture of Cold War aggression, deception, and calculated willingness to precipitate a global crisis.”

    ‘Soviets engineered Six Day War’
    –David Horovitz

    “Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the war, Foxbats over Dimona: The Soviets’ Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War, by Remez and Isabella Ginor, is to be published by Yale University Press early next month. The title refers to the Soviets’ most advanced fighter plane, the MiG-25 Foxbat, which the authors say flew sorties over Dimona shortly before the Six Day War, both to help bolster the Soviet effort to encourage Israel to launch a war, and to ensure the nuclear target could be effectively destroyed once Israel, branded an aggressor for its preemption, came under joint Arab-Soviet counterattack.”

  • WEVS1: Thanks for the links. That is exactly the recent research I was talking about. It certainly further dispels the notion that the 6-Day war was one of agression instigated by the State of Israel.