The Seven-Day War
The Egyptians are Weak with the Sword
but Strong with Their Mouths
In the seven days of fighting between the southern army
of Israel and the Royal Army of Egypt, the Egyptian troops have taken
a beating on hip and thigh. The Israel have smashed the army of Farouk
along the entire front, cut off the troops of Jerusalem and Bethlehem
from every line of communication with Egypt, captured Beersheba and other
strongholds, and slashed to ribbons the royal army on the coast.
On Oct. 21 the New York Times correspondent radioed that
there were signs of panic in the positions still held by the Egyptians.
The Israel army fought on with increasing success. . . The Egyptian
troops remaining in the Negev were in a bad way, and the fall of Beersheba
threatened those about Jerusalem with a similar fate.
On the same day and on the same page of the New York Times
the Cairo correspondent quoted an official source of the Egyptian government
as declaring that there was good news from the front, and
the Associated Press quoted Abdul Rahman Azzam Pasha, Secretary Gen. of
the Arab League, that the Egyptian army had emerged victorious from
the current fighting in southern Palestine.
In a message to Arab delegations at the United Nations he
added, After a battle of seven days the Egyptian army has emerged
victorious... We are looking to future battles with more confidence than
we used to have before this experience. It has now become clear that the
Egyptian army alone can repulse all Jewish forces and take the initiative.
* * *
The good news was sufficient to bring the Egyptian premier
to Amman to beg help of Abdullah whom the Egyptians had snubbed only a
fortnight before by declaring that he would have no authority over the
Arab part of Palestine. At the desperate Egyptian S.O.S. the premier of
Syria and the regent of Iraq also flew to Amman.
Rescue came, not from any Arab ruler or army, but from Dr.
Bunche, who obligingly put a deadline on the fighting. He acted like a
referee of a kind of game, and stopped hostilities just when the Arabs
were on the verge of final collapse.
I wish this system were in effect elsewhere besides Palestine.
For example, it might be an idea to have a United Nations mediator to
tell the fighting forces in China and Greece when to shoot and when to
cease fire; he would stand with a stopwatch in his hand and give the signals
to start and stop. An unusual war under new rules!
That the Egyptians agreed to the cease-fire order is no
wonder; it was their only salvation from utter destruction, from not being
able to save a single solder of their entire army. But that the Israelis
submit to these rules that are nowhere else imposed is real testimony
to their genuine desire for peace: no other people, well on the road to
complete victory, ever accepted rules of warfare designed to halt them
on their way.
* * *
On their visits to the capitals of the West, the Arabs appear
with swords and daggers and pistols in their belts; and the tradition
has grown up around them, supported by a reading of the Arabian Thousand
and One Nights, that they are a very warlike people, a precious
ally in time of war. This notion is exploded. A Turkish diplomat said
recently: We have little respect for the forty millions who take
a beating from half a million (a ratio of one against eighty).
That the Arabs are not great military heroes can be excused.
But that they should herald a victory when actually they are suffering
a rout is reprehensible. This lack of candor is a dominant feature of
their politics, too: Many pronouncements by their representatives in the
United Nations and elsewhere are in the same category as calling a real
rout a great victory.