Israel, the Six-Day War and Just War Theory

This week we commemorate the 47th anniversary of the "Six Day War" between Israel and her Arab neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in June 1967.

Some have asked, "Wasn't Israel the aggressor?" No, they were not.

In the months leading up to the outbreak of war, Palestinian terrorist groups had been conducting increasing numbers of violent raids against Israel, causing Israel to respond with retaliatory attacks. In April 1967 the Israeli air force shot down six Syrian MIG fighter jets.

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In May 1967, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser mobilized Egyptian Armed Forces in the Sinai and expelled the U.N. Emergency Force (UNEF) from their place as a buffer on the Israeli-Sinai border. He also put part of Israel under naval blockade (which is an act of war according to international law). At the same time Nasser also signed a mutual defense pact with Jordan whose armed forces were then put under Egyptian command.

It was clear that Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were preparing an eminent coordinated attack on Israel from the South, East, and North.

According to Just War theory, followed by most Christians for well over a thousand years, for a war to be "just' it must be defensive. However, this does not mean you have to wait to be attacked. If you believe your enemy is preparing to attack, you are justified in defending yourselves by attacking first – especially when your enemies' stated goal is to "drive you into the sea."

The Israelis did attack first to defend themselves from a three-sided attack by overwhelmingly numerically superior enemies. In doing so Israel scored a lightning –quick, spectacular victory over their enemies in just six days, rewriting the map of the Middle East.

My father was a 20-year-old sailor with the U.S. Navy task force that left Pearl Harbor to reinforce Wake Island a few days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I promise you, had they encountered the Japanese fleet operating under radio silence less than one hundred miles from Pearl Harbor, they would have considered it an act of war and they would have attacked the Japanese fleet before they could have launched their carrier-based planes at Pearl Harbor.

Also many of us are old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. President Kennedy did not wait for the Russian missiles to become operational in Cuba. As soon as aerial reconnaissance photos revealed the presence of the construction of Soviet missile sites being prepared in Cuba, President Kennedy put a naval blockade around the island (as stated earlier, an "act of war" even though he called it a "quarantine"). He then made it clear that either Soviet Union would remove the missiles or the U.S. would remove them by force.

The majority of just war theorists would have considered the U.S. military's hypothetical actions in 1941 against the Japanese and their actual, and proposed, actions against the Soviet Union's military forces in around Cuba in 1962 to fall within the parameters of taking defensive actions to defend yourself against an eminent threat, as they did the Israeli's actions in 1967.

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