When my mother was going through her stuff, she came upon a 1967 issue of Life magazine entitled “Israel’s Swift Victory.” It’s a 100 page special edition, so I won’t attempt to retype all of it here. I’ll just cherry-pick my way through those bits of coverage I found most striking. What makes the magazine so distinct from today’s coverage is the tone. The Life editors admired Israel tremendously for standing up to the overwhelming odds the Arab nations presented, and triumphing. The very first page identifies Israel as a beleaguered haven for refugees, surrounded by an ocean of hostile Arab nations:
The state of Israel, no bigger than Massachusetts, was established in 1948 in Palestine as a haven for the war-ravaged Jewish communities of Europe. Bitter fighting attended her birth and fixed her boundaries against the surrounding phalanx of hostile Arab states: Jordan cut into her narrow wasp waist and through the holy city of Jerusalem; Egypt along her western desert flank was entrenched in the coastal strip of Gaza. At Israel’s southern tip is the strategic port of Elath, against which Egypt made the play that brought on th war and unhinged the entire Middle East.
The magazine opens by describing Nasser’s conduct, which presented such a threat that Israel had no option but to react. It’s interesting to read in part because it assumes a legitimacy to Israel’s 1967 preemptive strike. After describing how Pres. Abdel Gamel Nasser, speaking from Cairo, demanded Israel’s extermination, the Life editorial board goes on to say this:
The world had grown accustomed to such shows [of destructive hatred towards Israel] through a decade of Arab-Israeli face-offs that seasonally blew as hot as a desert sirocco. Since 1948, when Israel defeated the Arabs and won the right to exist as a nation, anti-Zionist diatribes had been the Arab world’s only official recognition of Israel. Indeed, in the 19 years since the state was founded, the surrounding Arab states have never wavered from their claim that they were in a state of war with Israel.
But now there was an alarming difference in Nasser’s buildup. He demanded that the U.N. withdraw the 3,400-man truce-keeping force that had camped in Egypt’s Sinai desert and in the Gaza Strip ever since Egypt’s defeat in the Suez campaign of 1956 as a buffer between Egyptians and Israelis. A worried United Nations Secretary-General U Thant agreed to the withdrawal, then winged to Cairo to caution Nasser.
He found him adamant. Plagued by economic difficulties at home and bogged down in the war in Yemen, Nasser had lately been criticized by Syrians for hiding behind the U.N. truce-keeping force. With brinksmanship as his weapon, Nasser had moved to bolster his shaky claim to leadership of the divided Arab world.
So, a few things haven’t changed — the UN has always been craven. Egypt demands that they withdraw and, voila, they withdraw. The other thing that hasn’t changed, although it’s no longer spoken of in polite MSM company, is the fact that the Arab nations have always used anti-Israeli rhetoric and conduct to deflect attention from their failures and as a vehicle to establish dominance over other Arab nations in the region. In other words, if there weren’t an Israel, the Arab nations would have had to invent one.
In contrast to the fevered, irrational hatred on the Arab side, the Life editors are impressed by the Israelis. Under the bold heading “Israel’s cool readiness,” and accompanied by photographs of smiling Israeli soldiers taking a cooling shower in the desert, listening to their commander, and attending to their tanks, Life has this to say:
With the elan and precision of a practiced drill team, Israel’s largely civilian army — 71,000 regulars and 205,000 reservists — began its swift mobilization to face, if necessary, 14 Arab nations and their 110 million people. As Premier Levi Eshkol was to put it, “The Jewish people has had to fight unceasingly to keep itself alive…. We acted from an instinct to save the soul of a people.
Again, can you imagine a modern publication pointing out the vast disparity in landmass and population between Israel and the Arabs, or even acknowledging in the opening paragraph of any article that Israel has a right to exist? The text about Israel’s readiness is followed by more photographs of reservists preparing their weapons and of a casually seated Moshe Dayan, drinking a soda, and conferring with his men. Under the last photograph, you get to read this:
The Israelis, Dayan said, threw themselves into their hard tasks with “something that is a combination of love, belief and country.”
After admiringly describing the Israelis’ offensive strike against the Arab air-forces, which gave Israel the decisive advantage in the War, Life addresses Israel’s first incursion into Gaza. I’m sure you’ll appreciate how the Gaza area is depicted:
Minutes after the first air strike, a full division of Israeli armor and mechanized infantry . . . was slashing into the Egyptian-held Gaza Strip. A tiny wasteland, the strip had been given up by Israel in the 1956 settlement and was now a festering splinter — the barren harbor for 315,000 refugees bent on returning to their Palestinian homes and the base for Arab saboteurs.
Wow! Those clueless Life writers actually seem to imply that Egypt, which controlled Gaza for eleven years, had some responsibility for this “festering,” dangerous area.
The Life editors are agog about Israeli tactics.
The Israeli plan was so flexible that its architects at the last minute switched strategy to avoid a new deployment of enemy forces in southern Sinai. After the air strikes that wiped out the Arab air forces, Israeli armor and infantry swept westward across the waist of Sinai, parallel to the path of the Gaza breakthrough. A smaller column cut south from El Kuntilla, then raced toward Suez. Patrol boats and paratroops were sent to Sharm el Sheikh to break the blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba, but the airborne troops were able to land at the abandoned airfield because the Egyptians had fled. Meanwhile, fighting erupted on another front — the divided city of Jerusalem, where an Israeli pincer column encircled the old, Jordanian section. Yet another Israeli force moved against Jenin, north of Jerusalem. The final Israeli attacked, at the end of the week, was mounted against Syria, which had been shelling border settlements.
[Regarding the last sentence, it seems as if some things never change.]
The Life editor’s tactical admiration emerges again when speaking about Israel’s successful taking of the Sinai Peninsula:
Stabbing into the Sinai desert, the Israelis stuck to the same strategy that in 1956 had carried them to the Suez Canal in 100 hours: never stop. Although outnumbered more than two to one — by an Egyptian force of almost 100,000 men grouped in seven divisions and supported by 900 tanks — they smashed ahead day and night, outracing the foe, encircling him time and again and trapping thousands of prisoners as Egyptian discipline collapsed. *** The battle — one of the epic armored engagements in history — lasted 24 hours and involved some 1,000 tanks.
A couple of things occur to me as I read this: First, in the recent Israeli/Hezbollah war, if press reports are to be believed (and that’s always a leap of faith) Israel did not demonstrate either flexibility or speed. She remained rigidly fixated on using air power, despite the fact that (a) this hadn’t served the Americans that well in Iraq and (b) it didn’t appear to be achieving her objectives. Israel did not seem to have a plan for air power’s failure, and the subsequent land-based incursions seemed ad hoc and half-hearted. Israel was also afraid of casualties, which is logical and humane, on the one hand, and a dangerous way to wage war, on the other hand. As for the “never stop” doctrine, Israel seemed constantly to want to stop — partly because of that same fear of casualties and partly, I think, because Israel didn’t have a clearly defined goal going in.
The other thing that occurred to me reading the above was the fact that the Life writers are describing a traditional war: army versus army. Under those circumstances, there’s a tremendous virtue in cheering for the underdog who routs the larger force. Nowadays, where asymmetrical warfare means that there’s a traditional army on one side and terrorists hiding amongst and targeting civilians on the other side, the battle lines, the tactical lines, and the victory lines can easily be confusing. This is especially true when you have those, like members of MSM, who don’t understand the nature of the war (one side wants peaceful coexistence; one side wants genocide), and who focus on the minutiae of the daily casualty reports. It was interesting to see how, in a traditional army versus army conflict, the press could still distinguish the forest from the trees, as demonstrated in this paragraph:
The Sinai victory had cost the Israelis heavier casualties than the 1956 Suez campaign, 275 dead and 800 wounded. . . . The Egyptian losses were staggering — 20,000 dead by Israeli estimates and perhaps a billion-dollar lost in war materiel. But the objective was gained. Israeli troops took up positions on the east bank of the Suez Canal — and trained their guns on Egypt’s homeland. [Emphasis mine.]
Work calls, and calls, and calls (the telephone will not stop). I’ll pick up on this later. (Part II is here; part III is here.)
UPDATE: For an analysis about the UN’s most recent, and entirely expected, act of perfidy against Israel, read this Weekly Standard article which details how the UNIFIL carefull provided info to Hezbollah about Israeli troop movements, weapons positions, etc. with, in the name of neutrality, providing to Israel the same information about Hezbollah. The same article details how the UN deliberately stood aside when it had information that could well have prevented terrorists from murdering three kidnapped Israeli soldiers.
Talking to Technorati: Israel, Life Magazine, Palestinian refugees, Arab refugees, 1967 War, Sinai, Soviet Union, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, UN, United Nations
Filed under: Israel, Media matters, United Nations | 9 Comments »