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on 22 June 2007
Post modernists argue that history is a myth spun by victors. Here is a war and here is a book that spells the death of postmodernism.

Oren's work is detailed, without losing a sense of perspective. It is rigorously well documented from Russian, French, Spanish, Arabic as well as English and Hebrew sources, yet never loses its pace or sense of growing tension. His empathy with and grasp of the Egyptian and Jordanian leadership's thinking is born from detailed study and interviews. I was amazed even at the detail of his account of Syrian officers and soldiers - a notoriously impenetrable field.

There is a times a sense of a creeping wisdom of hindsight in some partipants' accounts, which touches the narrative, but he spares noone sifting and sometimes painful analysis. Unlike others it's difficult to know from this book alone what views the author holds on many issues related to the justice of the war.

Oren is the unquestionable master of this field, and this is THE book to start with on the '67 war and will remain the standard by which other works are judged. It is a remarkable example of an objective, nuanced and sympathetic analysis of each party to the conflict.
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on 23 May 2009
Thoroughly enjoyable--hard to put down. He has the unusual combination of the depth of a serious historian perfectly combined with the story-telling ability of an accomplished novelist.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 December 2013
It is no surprise that any book about events in the Middle East attracts vastly differing views in different reviews, especially when - as in this case - the author is a former official in the Israeli government. However, the critics of the book - who claim it is heavily pro-Israel - left me puzzled by the time I reached the end, as its detailed and clear accounts of events leave the reader with plenty of material with which to criticise the author's own country.

Whether, for example, you think Israel was right or wrong to start the Six Days War, there is much in Oren's account to bolster your view, and if you start reading it without a clear view on the topic then neither does it bludgeon you into taking the same view as him.

That is not to say the book is flawless, for which book is? In this case, the main blemish is the way the account in the book simply reports at face value much of the rhetoric from Arab leaders about wiping out Israel. How seriously such rhetoric should be taken - whether the comments indicate real intent or traditional phraseology aimed at winning popular support - is of course a continuing matter of heated debate. For the comments of this ilk made in the run up to the June 1967 war, Oren alas does not give much in the way of other evidence to help the reader judge them.

Otherwise, for the Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian actions, Oren paints a nuanced picture of conflicting motives, disagreements amongst rulers and numerous shades of grey when it comes to judging their actions. The Syrians, by contrast, are the inscrutable, consistent villains of the piece. That is, however, in large part a side-effect of the absence of sources on the internal workings of the Syrian government, which means that the sorts of disagreements and tensions portrayed elsewhere are simply not known about when it comes to Syria.

Yet where the book does have sources, it shines. Oren is particularly good at pointing out how the Egyptian and Jordanian governments ended up being fooled by their own propaganda, failing to seize early chances for a ceasefire or to make sensible military reactions because too many of their decision makers believed the stories of glorious victory being pumped out in their media when in fact they were suffering heavy defeats. Yet the difficulty of knowing what to do even if you have accurate information is poignantly reflected in the book's closing pages, which follow the key figures through later years. On the Israeli side, numerous figures were at various times in favour of strong military action and at others in favour of trading land and other major concessions for peace. There are some consistent hawks and doves, but for most either approach appealed at some point.

The printed version of book has a slightly disappointing range of photographs and a rather complicated and unhelpful set of maps, particularly as they do little to portray the geographic features such as the heights of the Golan Heights, which are so important to understanding the political tensions and military actions. Other than that, it's a book I recommend highly.
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on 25 January 2013
In Six Days of War, Michael B Oren, historian and Israeli ambassador to the US, set out to write the most thorough account of the 1967 six day war between Israel and the Arabs, seeing as what happened following the battle has had as much drama and importance as the war itself.

In the foreword, Oren states that other accounts he had read about the '67 war focused mostly on the military battle, and not the diplomacy and the reasons behind the actions. In this, Oren sought to redress the balance and doesn't fail in writing an engrossing and enlightening account of the Middle East at the time. Doing this enables Oren to remain on familiar ground (diplomacy/history), in which Oren thrives, and this energy comes through in the writing.

With so many players (not only states but various players and schemers within the individual states) requires some careful planning and thought, but one of Oren's strong points as a writer is his narrative-creating ability and as such the story starts small and fans out gradually so even someone new to the subject would be better able to get their teeth into the subject.

The book starts out with Egypt and its leader at the time, Gamal Abdl Nasser. Oren works his way through Nasser's and Egypt's wants and considerations, not only with regards to internal power struggles but internationally as well, regarding the complex relations the Arab states have with one another (power struggles and distrust while needing to cooperate for shared interests). And only later does Israel enter the scene.

Six Days of War is at one and the same time academic, but entirely readable to the layman, lending much new information about, especially for those who seem to think the whole region revolves around Israel.

If I did have my criticism it would be that while Oren's work is entirely academic, the trade-off is that he doesn't take sides. Obviously, one can understand how difficult a task that is to accomplish when trying to please two sides to a conflict (which, by all accounts this is something Oren achieved), but the trade-off is that the battle (in particular) lacks drama. There are no good guys or bad guys. For example, in the battle for Ammunition Hill, Israeli commandos simply leapt one after the other into the line of fire and to their deaths, as if before a `firing squad', until somehow, the hill was captured.

This agonising and bewildering feat that some are willing to make is only given a brief mention. One could easily miss it while reading through. This isn't to imply Oren should be more pro-Israel, one can be for one side or the other, but the point is Oren's neutral approach sacrifices some drama.

The other gripe is somewhat more important. And that is the lack of attention paid to the Soviet's role in provoking the war. This is something covered more thoroughly in the interesting (but far less readable) Foxbats Over Dimona.

Overall though, this is a great account of this period in history. Oren's highly skilful narrative fleshes out the story behind the story, and with his academic rigour encompassing a vast array of sources, means that this will become the book by which all other accounts of this war will be judged, for quite a long time to come.
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on 24 October 2013
This is the best book on the Six Day War at the moment. Read all the other five-star reviews. They are right. Great build-up with the full context, then the events themselves, and plenty of illuminating vignettes of individuals' experiences. All pretty much fairly written in my view.
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on 2 March 2005
Anyone interested in better understanding world politics should read Oren's "Six Days of War." Not only does he lucidly present thoroughly researched factors leading to the 1967 conflict, but he also examines the political implications of the decisions made by each country involved in the conflict.
I have encountered few authors on any subject, who so thoroughly and clearly explain their topic. The only other examples of such well packaged material that come to mind are Daniel Yergin's "The Prize" about oil, and James Billington's "The Icon And The Axe" about Russian culture.
Even if you might think that you're not interested in the affairs of the Middle East, the global implications of the Six Day War should make this book an interesting and enjoyable read for any thinking person.
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on 16 June 2008
This definitely is the most comprehensive work to date on the Six Day War. The author has consulted vastly documents, newspapers, books and interviews with important players.
Michael Oren interviewed such figures as former Jordanian Brigade Commander Ata Ali, Egyptian historian Issam Darraz former Syrian Ambassador to the UN, George Tomeh, former MOSSAD chief, Meir Amit, former Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, widow of PM Levi Eshkol, Miriam Eshkol, former IDF Chief of Operations and later President, Ezer Weizmann and former Deputy IDF Chief of Staff and later Tourism Minister, Rechavam Ze'evi, interviewed a month before his brutal murder by terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine , in the corridor of a Jerusalem hotel , former members of the Supreme Soviet and Soviet military advisors to the Egyptians and Syrians and former Le Monde correspondent , Eric Rouleau , just to name a few of the Syrians , Egyptians , Jordanians , Israelis , French , British and Russians that Oren interviewed.

The novel is written in real time , as we trace events as they happened-it is really like watching the Six Day War , and the preceding and subsequent events unfold. He does not write to prove political points or to fit in with what it is currently fashionable to believe, like the malignant anti-Zionist `new historians' do.

Ultimately it is a history book about Israel's fight for survival, as we read of the bellicose threats of the Arabs and their Soviet backers, to destroy Israel and drive the Jews into the sea. Hence reading some of the Arab promises of genocide, much like they had threatened in 1948, and much as they threaten today, one can only gain a greater understanding of what Israel faces if it is ever - G-D forbid- defeated.
Here are some of the chilling promises of a second holocaust thundered by Arab leaders , and their evil Soviet instigators , before and during the Six Day War.

Ahmed Shuqayri, the first leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said: "We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants."

"Leading to the purification of Arab land from reaction, imperialism and Zionism."
Damascus Radio, April 10 1967.

"If war comes it will be total, and the objective will be Israel's destruction...this is Arab power."
Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser

"We have decided that this battle will be one for the final liberation from imperialism and Zionism...We shall meet in Tel Aviv.
Syrian President Attasi.

"The United Sates, oh Arabs, is the enemy of all peoples, the killer of life, the shedder of blood,, that is preventing you from liquidating Israel"
President Nasser

"If Israelis become drunk with success, and pursue their aggression further , the future of this little country will be a very sad one indeed"
Soviet Ambassador to Israel, Sergei Chuvakhin

"The cream of our troops stands at the front. Strike the enemy settlements, turn them into dust, pave the Arab roads with the skulls of Jews. Strike them without mercy.
Syrian Air Force Commander Hafez al Assad.

Essentially a reading of the book demonstrates how a combination of bellicose Arab rhetoric, threatening behaviour and, ultimately, an act of war left Israel no choice but pre-emptive action.

It is instructive to read the words of Israel's Prime Minister at the time Levi Eshkol who reminded the world:" We cannot afford to lose. This may be our last stand in history. The Jewish people have something to give to the world. I believe that if you look at our history and at all the difficulties that we have survived, it means that history wants us to continue. We cannot survive if we experience again what happened to us under Hitler...I believe that you should understand us."

Reading about the worlds equanimity over Arab plans to destroy Israel, and over Syrian shelling into Israel and PLO terror attacks into Israel, before the war, compared to the strident outcry against Israel when it hit back, gives one a chilling sense of de ja vu today.

I felt a cold anger at the Soviet Union condemmning Israel for ` aggression' and `imperialism', while half the world groaned under the Communist jackboot.
The same type of rhetoric is even more prevalent today in leftist academia, the UN, the international media , the so-called Non Aligned Movement , much of the European Union etc .

The malignant high priest of leftist totalitarian ideology Noam `Wormtongue' Chomsky simply perfected Soviet/Red Chinese and Arab rhetoric , and sold it to millions.

Sadly there was more understanding for Israel's plight in much of the world in 1967 than there is today. The fact that today the world has turned so viciously on Israel, as that tiny country still struggles to survive, is an indictment of a world that is clearly more evil today in 2004 than it was in 1967.

It is also worth noting that the Arabs are not very good fighters against soldiers, but like the Amalekites of old , are very good at killing Jewish women and children.
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on 27 June 2010
This highly acclaimed work of scholarship explains the events leading up to and the 1967 Arab-Israeli war with its consequences.

Never before and perhaps never again so many sources were consulted to write the book, including numerous surviving Arab military and politicians. Is worth quoting Fareed Zakaria " using as many sources as are likely to be available Oren has constructed the best account of events ".

The first 170 pages are like a political thriller and deal with the preparation to war , this part of the book is a fast read and the author does a tremendous work in painting the wider picture of the inter-Arab relationships which eventually lead to the downfall of Jordan.

There is a fantastic analysis of casus belli from Titan to UNEF and the from the militar balance to the use of poison gas in Yemen by Nasser ,but the real winner ,according to the author , is Dimona.

When the fist wave of planes are airborne the pace changes and the book offers a clear picture of the action on the ground , the highlights being the desperate fight of the Arab legion in the west bank and Milta .

In "Aftershocks "the book also deals with the sad consequences of the war , the sight of relief for Israel of the disappearance of the imminent threat of utter obliteration by the combined UAR armies and the plights of the Palestinian refugees .

Of particular interest is the sense of the Arab nations use of the Palestinian cause for the own political gain .

The book has a collection of useful maps , black and white photographs and cartoons. Is printed in high quality paper has a hard durable cover with a good format.

Is it 100% impartial ? Of course not , is has been written by an Israeli diplomat and ex-soldier ,but that is beyond the point , the real issue is that this THE BEST book ever written about the 1967 war and will continue to be so for many years to come.
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on 14 December 2007
This is a well written book, which is extensively researched and accurately relays the events of this period in history.

I would particularly praise the pacing of the book, which makes it easy to read, and also the way in which the authors portrays the people behind the events. As well as the pure facts of the piece, the author attempts to give depth and perspective to the main leaders of the period, so as to help the reader understand why the events occurred.

Highly recommended
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on 26 May 2006
There doesn't seem top be anything else to say after reading this account from all sides involved. Even with all the hyperbole one can think of the momentous effects of thge Six day war do, as Oren states, still linger with us. As he puts it, now in the 21st Century it really is still too early to say what all these effects are.

It appears tzhat no stone is left unturned in this accouint, from Arafat instigating bombing personally against Israeli water supplies, to the build up of Arab forces under Nasser, to the sidelined super-powers watching on; all the tension of Israel's pre-emptive strike is relayed compulsively. the politicians are handled fairly, from the confused Johnson, unready Eshkol and the unbalanced Nasser, it seems that Oren has looked at all sides, not just his own admittedly Jewish.

The triumph is celebrated here in the same unsure way that the Israeli's did in 1967, overwhelmed with how much they had achieved against massive opposing forces from 5 nations, and surprised by how much territory lay in their hands. just how the Arab nations broke apart is detailed well, but still one over-arching aspect is missing. the spiritual side of the victory is left unsaid, in a secularised vacuum. Oren would have done well to quote from Nehemiah 2, verse 20, when Nehemiah spaeks to Geshem the Arab: "the God of heaven will give us success. We His servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it."
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