Fathom | The Six-Day War was a watershed in Middle Eastern history

The Arab defeat in 1967 shattered the image of pan-Arabism as a vehicle of Arab modernisation. The Islamists could now argue that Western style secular nationalism was a false messiah and that “Islam is the solution”. The Arab states followed state interest with far less devotion to the general Arab cause, and slowly but surely withdrew from the conflict with Israel, leaving the Palestinians to fend for themselves. Change within Israel itself, including the rise of what Asher Susser, professor emeritus of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University (TAU), calls “Settlerist neo-Zionism” has been no less fateful. This article first appeared in Fathom.

The 1967 War was a watershed in Middle Eastern history. Israelis call it the Six-Day War, which is symbolic of the euphoric sense of victory that Israeli Jews felt in the aftermath of the war. The Arabs don’t call it the Six-Day War; for them it’s the “June War”, or the “67 War”. It was the most humiliating of defeats for the Arabs in modern times, maybe of all time.

First of all, the war wasn’t just a defeat in the battlefield. The war was also a horrendous defeat for the idea of Arab nationalism or pan-Arabism or Nasserism – whatever you want to call it. It showed that it was an empty vessel. A whole generation of Arabs had hung on every word of Abdel Nasser. The Palestinians were great believers in Nasser as the man who would deliver Palestine. Almost overnight, it all came to naught.

Nasser had, in theory, the formula for Arab modernisation and success: Arab unity, Arab socialism, and alliance with the Soviet Union in the Cold War. This was to be the panacea for Arab ills and for the modernisation of the Arab world. I think many Israelis don’t realise the extent to which the war of 1967 was an utter shock and humiliation for the Arabs and for the Egyptians in particular.

Read the full article in Fathom.

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