There are many quotations used in the battle of narratives between Israelis and Palestinians. Some are accurate, some inaccurate. Some illuminating, some out of context – and some entirely fabricated. In the race to score points, the veracity of these quotations is not often considered.
As part of a series on accurate scholarship, I am going to look at specific, well known quotations and examine their utility. I am going to begin with a series of quotations most often used in relation to Israel’s culpability (or lack thereof) with regards to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Today’s quotation is from Menachem Begin :
In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.
The first question we should ask is this – is the quotation accurate? In this case, yes it is. The quote is taken from a speech given by Begin to the graduating class of the IRE National Defense College in 1982. I have added the source in full here.
The second question we should ask pertains to the context.
The speech (at least the section reproduced by the MFA), which is a brilliant piece of propaganda has but a single purpose – to justify the Israeli attack in 1967. There is no doubting that the Israelis felt justified in attacking, but objectively one should focus not on whether they felt justified, but on whether they were justified.
As is reasonably common with Zionist propaganda, Begin is quick to draw analogies between, Hitler, the Nazis, World War II and the 1967 war. His argument being that World War II could have been averted had France sent two divisions “into the demilitarized Rhineland”. The analogy Begin is making is that Nasser is Hitler, the Arab armies the Nazis and so on.
The quotation we’re looking at is used, correctly in my view, to support the thesis that Israeli leaders did not seriously believe in an imminent threat from the Arab armies. This is consistent with admissions from other Israeli leaders who were involved in one way or another in the 1967 war. It cannot, however, be used to support the thesis that Israeli leaders admit to launching a war of aggression.