“I remember the 1967 borders,” half-joked the Israeli comedian. “That’s when our trains had signs inside that said, ‘Passengers are requested to please not lean their heads out of the country!’”
A young woman who prefers to hear democracies cheered and dictatorships booed listened with alarm as Palestinian Authority boss Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both addressed the United Nations. “Abbas got more applause than Netanyahu,” she complained. I explained that, when it comes to Israelis getting applause at the U.N., it’s like two elephants making love. You marvel, not that it works imperfectly, but that it works at all. After all, Israel is a Middle Eastern Western-style democracy. One good apple ruins the whole rotten bunch.
Netanyahu scored a huge moral victory for Israel in earning the reception he did. And his speaking abilities make Barack Obama sound like Rocky Balboa.
Another friend of Israel wrote, “Israel didn’t just wake up one morning and decide, ‘Gee. It’d be fun to go conquer Sinai, Golan, everything west of the Jordan River; stuff like that.’ Israel,” he pointed out, “was responding to Arab threats of extermination.” True, but as I read that I had the feeling the altar boy had when, cleaning up the sanctuary after a particularly bombastic sermon, he noticed the preacher had penciled into the margin a note to himself that read, “Argument unsubstantiated here. Yell like hell!”
There’s no need to yell. Egypt’s strongman, Nasser, chased out the U.N. peacekeepers separating the Egyptians from the Israelis. Belligerent, but Nasser had the right. He then moved an Egyptian tank army right up to the Israeli border. Belligerent, but Nasser had the right. Then Nasser blew it and the whole Arab and Jew-hating world sky-west and a thousand miles from Sunday. He closed the Straits of Tiran, thus denying Israel’s southern port of Eilat access to the Red Sea. Closing an international waterway is as much an act of war as bombing Pearl Harbor. Israel counter-attacked!
It took me years to get the answer to the biggest mystery of the Six-Day War. When we woke up Monday morning, June 5, 1967, we knew there was war before we heard one single word on TV. We didn’t see Barbara Walters on the “Today” show. We saw a map of Israel tacked to an easel. A voice told us, “That’s all we have from the war zone at this time.” Egypt was saying a lot, and the Egyptian communiqués were bone-marrow-curdling. “Two Egyptian tank columns are knifing through Israel’s Negev!” “Haifa is in flames!”
The odd part was, Israel said nothing! Usually when war breaks out both sides come out and straightforwardly lie about the whole thing. Israel said not a word. There were Jews far outside Israel who died of heart failure fearing there was no Israel left to speak. It wasn’t until late Tuesday afternoon before we in America learned the extent of Israel’s victory. Why, for the first time in known military history, did a country deliberately conceal its battlefield success?
I finally got the answer from Israeli general and later president, Chaim Herzog. It was worth the wait. As he sat across my New York microphones I asked him, “General Herzog, you knew, before we in America woke up that first day of the Six-Day War, that you’d destroyed five Arab air forces on the ground. You’d pierced Egyptian defenses in Gaza. You’d taken Khan Yunis. There was nothing to stop you between there and the Suez Canal. You knew you were going to storm East Jerusalem the next afternoon. You knew you were saving Syria for Thursday. There are more Jews in New York than in Jerusalem. Why did you make us twist?”
Usually when I speak at fundraisers for Israel the coordinator asks me to “Keep it to 30 minutes.” If they ever asked me to keep it to 30 seconds, I would just repeat Chaim Herzog’s short answer to my question.
The question: “Why did Israel try to keep its lightning victory a secret?”
Herzog’s answer: “We wanted everybody to believe the Arabs. You see, as long as the world believed Israel was losing, we knew the United Nations would take no action!”
I invite your deep breath and deep thought on that one. The Israelis knew that, as long as the world believed Israel was in its final hours of life, the United Nations would remain glassy-faced and silent. Only when Israel was revealed as the winner would the NYPD cars, with sirens screaming, cut through traffic so the long black limousines could speed the worried delegates to U.N. headquarters to “make peace.”
How dare the United Nations allow itself to become such a brazen VIP lounge for dictators, thugs, murderers, anti-Semites! And it didn’t start yesterday, last weekend or Wednesday before last.
After one of the earliest disappointments that this much-trumpeted “Parliament of Man” laid upon the hopeful idealists of the watching world, New York Journal-American columnist Arthur “Bugs” Baer appealed thusly to the U.N. delegates:
“Please, fellows: Do something quick, or put the brewery back!”