An Online Journal of Political Commentary & Analysis
Volume VI, Issue # 59, March 23, 2004
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor
Government Committed to & Acting in Accord with Conservative Principles
Ensures a Nation's Strength, Progress, & Prosperity
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  World War IV: Islamist Terror War Against the U.S.A. & the West

By Elie Podeh

The Lie:

    "The United States' role: Israel was not [fighting] on its own in the [1967] war. Hundreds of volunteers, pilots, and military officers with American scientific spying equipment of the most advanced type photographed the Egyptian posts for it [Israel], jammed the Egyptian defense equipment, and transmitted to it the orders of the Egyptian command."

The above quote is not a propaganda item; it is taken from an Egyptian high school history textbook published in 1999. [1] This fictitious depiction repeats older textbooks, and is reproduced in new textbooks for lower grades. [2] For more than thirty years, a fabricated narrative of the 1967 war has been transmitted by the Egyptian education system as a fact.

This narrative first appeared on the second day of the war, when Egypt launched a massive propaganda campaign that also included reports of false victories. Radio Cairo and Egypt's Voice of the Arabs (Sawt al-‘Arab) played key roles in this campaign. While the Egyptian authorities later repudiated most of the news transmitted during the war, the story of U.S. "collusion" with Israel became an enduring myth, perpetuated in Egyptian historical writing and textbooks even decades later. Although educated and informed Egyptians may not give credence to the collusion story, it has become part of the Egyptian and Arab collective psyche. Most accounts of the 1967 war, including recent historiography, mention the "big lie" story in their narratives. Yet, none of these studies has explored its origins and subsequent ramifications. [3] This article, based mainly on archival material, has four aims: first, to explore how and to what end the Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser invented the big lie; second, to describe the U.S.-British counter-campaign and the reasons for its failure; third, to analyze the conditions facilitating the fabrication of this story and its subsequent popular acceptance; and fourth, to expose the process by which the story has turned into a living myth in Egypt and the Arab world. [4]

This episode is but one of many examples of the propensity in the Arab world to seek conspiracies. In another example, opinion polls show that a vast majority of Arabs believe that the attacks of September 11, 2001, were the work of Israeli intelligence. Future historians may uncover how that myth arose and who was complicit in its propagation. The merit of studying the 1967 case is that such questions can be answered, thanks to newly opened diplomatic archives. The 1967 episode illuminates the processes at work in many other instances of Arab mythmaking, and why so large a body of opinion remains so totally impervious to fact.

Egypt Alleges:

In the early hours of June 6, 1967, Egyptian media began to spread the allegation that both the United States and Britain were taking part in Israel's preemptive attack on Egypt and Syria. According to Radio Cairo, U.S. and British aircraft carriers provided an air umbrella for Israel and played an active role in the operations. In the following hours and days, the Egyptian media constantly repeated the same argument in a variety of forms.

Thus, for example, on the afternoon of June 6, Radio Cairo reported that British Canberra bombers had taken part in air strikes against Egyptian posts in Sinai and that U.S. aircraft had left the U.S. air base in Libya for Israel. The next day, Egypt's leading newspaper, Al-Ahram, quoted by Radio Cairo, reported that British and U.S. pilots were flying Israeli planes under the guise of volunteers and that Israeli pilots used aerial photographs taken by U.S. spy aircraft. The Egyptian propaganda machinery then let launch a barrage of reports on the Anglo-American "aggression" with Israel. [5]

The sustained campaign retailed the claim that the current war, much like the prior one in 1956, was the result of collusion between Israel and its Western allies. This time, it was not France but the United States that had joined Britain, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson replaced Anthony Eden as the main culprit. The collusion claim constituted the bulk of the Egyptian propaganda campaign conducted during and after the war. The aim of the collusion story, according to historian Michael Oren, was to secure direct Soviet assistance to reverse an Israeli victory achieved with Western support. [6]

The Egyptian allegation was strengthened by broadcasts from Jordan and Syria, the two other parties to the fighting. In the early morning of June 6, Radio Amman broadcast that "foreign forces … effectively support Israel," and that "there are three aircraft carriers close inshore from which aircraft take off to bomb our forces." The radio quoted a statement by the director of military intelligence to the effect that the radar in Ajlun, Jordan, detected three aircraft carriers located between twenty and eighty kilometers off Tel Aviv. According to the report, a group of sixteen and later a group of twelve aircraft had flown from the carriers to the Israeli airfield at Ramat David on June 5. [7]

Syrian broadcasts repeated the information transmitted by Cairo and Amman. Radio Damascus added that a captured Israeli pilot had admitted that seventeen British Vulcan bombers, with full equipment and pilots, had arrived in Israel ten days before the outbreak of the war. These aircraft, in addition to other bombers flying out of British bases in Cyprus, allegedly attacked Syria and Egypt on June 5. The radio further reported that, at the end of May, some 3,000 British troops had arrived in Israel from Cyprus, and British aircraft carriers had moved to an Israeli port on June 6. [8]

These allegations had an immediate political impact: following Egypt's lead, Syria, Iraq, Algeria, Sudan, and the Republic of Yemen severed diplomatic relations with both the United States and Britain, while Lebanon recalled its ambassadors. [9] In addition, Arab oil-producing countries announced either an oil embargo on the United States and Britain or suspended oil exports altogether. Syria, for its part, closed the pipelines crossing its territory from Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Radio Cairo and Radio Damascus even called on the Arab workers in the Arabian Peninsula and the gulf to sabotage the oil pipelines. Abdel Nasser decided to close the Suez Canal to shipping on June 6, with the intent of damaging Western economic interests. [10] In addition, demonstrators vandalized American and British institutions in several Arab countries.

On June 8, as doubt set in about Egyptian reports from the battlefield, the propaganda campaign around the collusion story intensified. For example, Israel's mistaken attack on the USS Liberty, a radio ship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet near the shores of Sinai, was paraded as proof that U.S. forces were located near the battlefield and therefore took part in the war. It was claimed that the ship was engaged in monitoring Egyptian operational messages and relaying them to Israel. [11]

The Soviet Union played an indirect but important role in disseminating the Egyptian allegation by adopting a double strategy. On the one hand, the Soviet media in Russian, Arabic, and other foreign languages avoided any reference to active Western military involvement. The Soviet Union was aware that the collusion story was a fabrication; the Soviet foreign ministry even notified the Arab ambassadors in Moscow in the early days of the war that the collusion story had no foundations. [12] On the other hand, the Soviet media quoted the reports from Radio Cairo and Radio Damascus on the collusion, stating that all the evidence proved that the United States and Britain "are playing a leading role in the aggression which Israel has launched." [13] Arabs listening to Soviet radio might well have concluded that some sort of collusion did take place. This ambiguous Soviet attitude also continued after the cessation of hostilities. [14]

The credibility of the collusion claim was dramatically strengthened when President Abdel Nasser himself referred to it in his resignation speech on June 9:

    "The enemy, whom we were expecting from the east and north, came from the west — a fact that clearly showed that facilities exceeding his own capacity and his calculated strength had been made available to him.

    The enemy covered in one go all military and civilian airfields in the UAR [United Arab Republic]. This means that he was relying on some force other than his own normal strength to protect his skies against any retaliation action from our side. The enemy was also leaving other Arab fronts to be tackled with outside assistance …

    There is clear evidence of imperialist collusion with the enemy — an imperialist collusion, trying to benefit from the lesson of the open collusion of 1956 … What is now established is that American and British aircraft carriers were off the shores of the enemy helping his war effort. Also, British aircraft raided, in broad daylight, positions of the Syrian and Egyptian fronts, in addition to operations by a number of American aircraft reconnoitering some of our positions … Indeed, it can be said, without exaggeration, that the enemy was operating with an air force three times stronger than his normal force." [15]

Elaborating the Myth:

With the cessation of hostilities, Egypt's propaganda campaign continued. Local radio stations and Radio Cairo broadcast allegations of collusion, which also appeared in bulletins by Egyptian embassies throughout the Middle East. While Arab opinion came to regard most of the wartime information provided by Egypt as false and fabricated (e.g., alleged Egyptian-Arab victories on the battlefield and huge Israeli losses), claims of collusion gained more credence.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry played an important role in disseminating Egypt's claim. A typical report, published by the Egyptian Embassy in Baghdad on June 11, stated that the "new tripartite plot" against the Arab states was prepared in advance by the United States, Britain, and Israel and drafted during Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's visit to South Vietnam in June, 1966. The plot included a secret shipment of U.S. and British arms to Israel and a promise by the U.S. Sixth Fleet to protect it. The statement then provided a day-by-day account of the plot, beginning on May 21 and leading to the outbreak of hostilities on June 5. To show that the war was "an Anglo-American-Israeli attack," the document repeated all the known "facts" broadcast during the war, including the report of the Jordanian radar, the "confessions" of Israeli prisoners in Damascus, and other pieces of "intelligence" about the movements of U.S.-British forces. [16]

Even more influential was the column of Muhammad Heikal in Al-Ahram. In a series of weekly articles that were simultaneously broadcast on Radio Cairo, Heikal attempted to uncover the "secrets" of the war. In eloquent language, he presented a blend of facts, documents, and interpretations that could not but win the confidence of his readers. His evidence was circumstantial at best, and, in many cases, he twisted events. Heikal's conclusion was clear-cut: there was a secret U.S.-Israeli collusion against Syria and Egypt. (Although Britain's role was somewhat downplayed, Heikal thought it was party to the collusion as well.) [17]

Although no opinion polls were taken, there is little doubt that the intensive Egyptian media campaign, coupled with the broadcasts of other Arab stations, led many in the Arab world to believe that 1967 was another Suez, with some minor change of actors. The fact that these actors categorically denied any involvement in the collusion (see below) did not diminish the impression. As a British diplomat astutely observed, Arab thinking was that "just as it has taken ten years for the truth about the U.K.-Israel collusion at Suez to come out, so, in ten years, the British Prime Minister of 1967 will be shown to have been in collusion with Israel." [18]

The West Replies:

In spite of this pessimistic forecast, the United States and Britain put up a fight. After all, this time, in contrast to 1956, the collusion claim was a lie. Both the United States and Britain understood the adverse potential of the Egyptian allegation.

On June 6, when the magnitude of the Egyptian propaganda campaign became clear, London and Washington issued clear denials. The British, for example, stated:

    "Her Majesty's Government are shocked by reports emanating from the Middle East … that planes from a British aircraft carrier have been involved in the fighting. This is a malicious fabrication. There is not a grain of truth in it. It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to avoid taking sides in this conflict and to do everything they can to bring about a cease-fire as soon as possible. [19]

This statement was followed by another denial by Foreign Secretary George Brown and Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the House of Commons. At the same time, Brown sent a personal letter to all Arab ambassadors in London, in which he ridiculed Cairo's allegations and indicated that the only two British aircraft carriers in the area were located at Malta and Aden. [20] A similar letter was sent to all Arab ambassadors, except that of Egypt, which had not had diplomatic relations with Britain since December, 1965. Furthermore, American and British heads of missions in the United Nations (UN), Arthur Goldberg and Lord Caradon, respectively, delivered strong denials at the Security Council, describing Arab allegations as a "complete lie." Letters in this spirit were also sent to the President of the Security Council. [21] Both delegations, at U.S. initiative, offered to arrange a UN investigation into the charges of U.S.-British involvement in the war. [22]

The U.S. State Department named an official, Chet Cooper, to the task of countering Arab charges. On June 7, he met with the British Foreign Minister in Washington to discuss ideas on how to "nail the big lie." At the meeting, Cooper suggested that, once a cease-fire was in place, an attempt should be made to "find a prominent Arab willing to expose Egyptian mendacity for what it was." He also offered to increase publicity of Egyptian use of poison gas in Yemen in order to discredit Abdel Nasser in Arab eyes. Finally, it was agreed to see if it was possible to step up transmission hours of the Arabic broadcasts of the Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). [23]

This meeting, held only a day after Egypt's initiation of the collusion campaign, indicated the gravity with which both the United States and Britain viewed the issue. Yet, it seems that they still thought that they would be able to arrest the tide, if proper measures were taken. The "big lie" was seen primarily as an alibi for Abdel Nasser for his defeat; it was not seen as a psychological mechanism for satisfying the basic needs of an entire society. [24] Therefore, the British thought that a statement by the Prime Minister at that stage would "over-egg the cake." [25] Gradually, however, Washington and London realized that the Egyptian-Arab allegations were gaining ground in the Arab world, despite the efforts of American and British diplomats to refute the allegations. Thus, Lord Caradon, the British representative at the U.N., bitterly commented on June 8: "The Arabs do not want to believe our denials." [26]

Indeed, reports from Arab capitals indicated that both leaders and masses embraced the collusion story. Attempts by U.S. and British diplomats to refute it with logic and reason were usually brushed aside. In Baghdad, an official British démarche was received with disbelief. According to the Iraqi Foreign Minister, it was impossible to ignore the evidence received from Jordan (he was referring to the report of the Jordanian radar), as well as the statements of Egypt's Foreign Minister, Mahmud Riad, concerning the Western involvement in the war. [27] The Iraqi response led the prescient British Ambassador in Baghdad to this conclusion: "It is likely that the story of Anglo-American intervention in the hostilities … will become a myth." [28]

Other Arab capitals responded similarly. Even long-time allies of the West, such as the governments of Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, seemed convinced. It is also possible that some Arab leaders did not believe in the collusion story, but figured they could not swim against the tide. The Lebanese, for example, told the British that Lebanon had to demonstrate its solidarity with the Arabs, and therefore any attempt to dissuade Lebanon would not serve Western interests. [29] Particularly hurtful was the attitude of Jordan's King Hussein, who frequently relied on Western support for his survival, but now was demanding an impartial U.N. investigation on reports that British aircraft participated in the fighting. [30]

With many Arab states either severing relations or announcing an oil embargo, it became clear to both the United States and Britain that the effects of the Egyptian collusion story were more severe than initially expected. Yet, although the main problem lay in the realm of mass psychology, Washington and London continued playing on logic and reason. They believed that, if they supplied accurate and reliable information, the Egyptian lie would be openly exposed. This line of thinking dictated the nature of their response.

On June 8, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) made public a recording of a telephone conversation between Abdel Nasser and Hussein, monitored in Israel at 4:50 on June 6. The recording proved that the collusion idea had been concocted between the two leaders:

Abdel Nasser: "Do you know that the U.S. is participating alongside Israel in the war? Should we announce this? … Should we say that the U.S. and Britain (are participating) or only the U.S?"

Hussein: "The U.S. and England."

Abdel Nasser: "Does Britain have aircraft carriers?" >p> Hussein: (Inaudible)

Abdel Nasser: "Good. King Hussein will make an announcement and I will make an announcement…we will make sure that the Syrians (also) make an announcement that American and British aircraft are using their aircraft carriers against us." [31]

London also attempted to refute Jordan's allegation that British aircraft had been detected by Jordan's radar. Following an investigation, the Ministry of Defense came to the conclusion that no Jordanian or any other Arab radar was capable of detecting British aircraft. These findings were delivered to Jordan. [32] In addition, both the United States and Britain continued their diplomatic activity under the auspices of the U.N., aiming to erode the credibility of the Egyptian story.

But since most Western diplomatic activity was focused on achieving a cease-fire, the struggle against Egyptian propaganda could not command full attention in Washington and London. Only when the war ended did the United States and Britain tackled the issue more resolutely. By then it was already too late: the Egyptian allegation had turned into a "fact" in the Arab world.

A report by the British representative in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, was a typical assessment of the situation in Arab capitals:

    President Abdel Nasser's allegation … is firmly believed by almost the whole Arab population here who listen to the radio or read the press … Our broadcast denials are little heard and just not believed. The denials we have issued to the broadcasting service and press have not been published. Even highly educated persons basically friendly to us seem convinced that the allegations are true. Senior Foreign Ministry officials who received my formal written and oral denials profess to believe them, but nevertheless appear skeptical. I consider that this allegation has seriously damaged our reputation in the Arab world more than anything else and has caused a wave of suspicion or feeling against us which will persist in some underlying form for the foreseeable future … Further denials or attempts at local publicity by us will not dispel this belief and may now only exacerbate local feeling, since the Arabs are understandably sensitive to their defeat with a sense of humiliation and resent self-justification by us who, in their eyes, helped their enemy to bring this about. [33]

That such was the atmosphere in Saudi Arabia — a country uninvolved in the battle and an enemy of Egypt since 1962 (as a result of the Yemen war) — is evidence that the collusion story had taken hold in the Arab world. This report is even more telling in light of the fact that the Saudi King himself rejected the Egyptian allegation. In a reception for the heads of diplomatic missions in Jedda, the Egyptian Ambassador went to lengths to persuade the participants of the existence of an Anglo-American scheme to support Israel in the war. King Faisal, however, in front of foreign representatives, at length and in detail, ridiculed the Ambassador's claims. [34]

The story received a sudden boost from an unexpected quarter on June 13, when journalist Louis Heren reported in The Times on growing belief in the collusion story among certain diplomats in Washington. Such a report in a respected British newspaper at this critical moment could only add credibility to the Egyptian allegation. Naturally, the Arab press was quick to pick up Heren's article as final proof of collusion. [35] The British Ambassador in Washington desperately concluded the Heren affair thus: "The harm is already done, and there can be no hope of a retraction." [36]

The British Foreign Office and the U.S. State Department did not necessarily share this view. After succeeding in enlisting Saudi and Turkish support in their campaign to counter the "big lie," [37] they attached great importance to the position of their old ally in the Arab world: King Hussein. In two interviews with Western agencies, Hussein stated that Jordan had "no physical evidence or definitive proof that there was any intervention by Britain or the United States." [38]

These positive signs coincided with dispatches from Middle East posts recommending that Washington and London stop attacking the "big lie" and, instead, speak of it as a "mistake." The Foreign Office therefore instructed its posts to convey the opinion that "genuine mistakes of radar interpretation were made in Jordan in the tense atmosphere of June 5. It is also understandable that other Arab countries were misled by the continued accusations by Radio Cairo." [39]

But by the end of June, London and Washington had to admit that their propaganda counter-campaign met only limited success. The bulk of the population in the Arab world remained convinced that the collusion, in some way or another, did indeed take place. A British guidance telegram to Middle East posts concluded: "The Arabs' reluctance to disbelieve all versions of the big lie springs in part from a need to believe that the Israelis could not have defeated them so thoroughly without outside assistance." [40]

The reverberations of the collusion story affected British interests in both Libya and Cyprus. In the former, Britain received a formal request to evacuate land forces from its base at Benghazi (although not from the base at Tobruk). [41] In the latter, Cypriot President Makarios demanded that Britain evacuate its bases because British planes based in Cyprus had attacked the Arab states. [42]

However, Britain did not bear the brunt of the collusion claim. Most significantly, it did not obstruct Britain's resumption of diplomatic relations with those Arab countries that severed them during the war. Even relations with Egypt were resumed in December, 1967, and the able British Ambassador, Harold Beeley, returned to his post in Cairo. [43] The oil embargo, too, was lifted shortly after the announcement of a cease-fire, and Egypt's propaganda against Britain was substantially reduced.

In contrast, however, Egyptian attacks against the United States did not abate, as reflected in Heikal's articles in Al-Ahram. Washington, for its part, insisted that Abdel Nasser retract the "U.S. air-cover story" as a condition for resuming diplomatic relations. [44] Only in March, 1968, did Abdel Nasser recant his charge that the United States had given air support to Israel during the war, implying that Egypt had fallen victim to faulty information. Heikal, whose writings had reflected official policy, finally admitted in June, 1968, — a year after the war — that charges of U.S.-Israeli collusion were unfounded. He attributed fabrication of the story to purged military commanders who had used it as an excuse for their defeat. [45] (Abdel Nasser, Heikal later maintained, did not concoct the collusion story himself but got it from the military and "genuinely believed" it. [46])

By then, the story had turned into myth.

An Appealing Lie:

Why did the collusion story gain such a hold in the Arab collective psyche? Why did the Western counter-campaign, which provided data and evidence, fail to sway Arab opinion?

First, the story's frequent repetition and transmission via various communication channels (radio, press, television, diplomacy, and later the education system and historiography) made the story seem truthful. A foreign diplomat once remarked in a different context: "Tell a lie long enough and often enough and inevitably you start believing it." [47] This perfectly fits the Egyptian case.

The second reason was that the ground was well prepared for the acceptance of the collusion theory. During the first half of 1967, following an anti-U.S. speech by Abdel Nasser on February 22, Heikal published a series of eight articles in Al-Ahram, entitled "We and the U.S." He blamed the United States for adopting a neocolonialist policy in the Middle East, involving "economic and psychological warfare, the hatching of plots and assassinations, and a basic and fundamental reliance on secret activities." The last in this series of aggressive articles was published on May 12, less than a month before the outbreak of the war. [48]

In addition, there were indications that, in late 1966, Abdel Nasser became convinced that the United States was bent on assassinating him. The successful military coup in Greece and other coups in Third World countries led him to believe that Washington had chosen him as the next target. [49] The collusion story was seen as a natural continuation of the charges against the Johnson administration and the fulfillment of Abdel Nasser's fears.

The third reason for the absorption of the story was psychological. On June 6, there was an urgent need to explain a chaotic situation to perplexed and largely gullible masses. Not only did the story attempt to explain reality; it was conceived as truthful because it dovetailed with the Arab nationalist narrative, which interpreted history as an unfolding of successive conspiracies. In other words, there was no need to sell or market the myth to the public because it was like an old wine in a new bottle. Thus, for example, Tahsin Basheer, a perceptive Egyptian diplomat, claims that, while he did not believe in conspiracy theories, "the modern Middle East started with the [1916] Sykes-Picot agreement — a huge conspiracy hatched in the British and French Embassies in Cairo." [50] It was only natural, therefore, that Arab thinking would associate the collusion story with previous conspiracies, some of which did actually happen.

Fourth, the collusion story satisfied the Arab need to deny the prowess of Israel. From an Arab perspective, the notion that little Israel could have defeated three Arab states was unbearable and shameful; the idea that Western involvement played the crucial role in the defeat was comforting.

This kind of thinking, however false, contained a grain of optimism — namely, that if the might of the Western superpowers could be neutralized, it would be possible to fight on a par with Israel. Such thinking may even have helped to bring the Arab states back to the battlefield only six years after the disaster of 1967.

Although both Abdel Nasser and Heikal retracted the collusion story in 1968, it continued to be fueled by others. For example, Mahmud Riad, the Egyptian Foreign Minister during the war, gave the myth new legs in his memoirs. He claimed that the United States played a major role in the 1967 aggression in three ways. First, it provided Israel with intelligence information on Egyptian moves. Second, President Johnson deceived Abdel Nasser by pressing him not to make the first move, while giving a "green light" to Israel to strike a preemptive blow. (Riad arrived at this conclusion on the basis of his interpretation of the diplomatic contacts between Abdel Nasser and Johnson prior to the war.) Third, the vessel Liberty was sent to monitor and jam Egyptian communications. In describing the U.S. role, Riad used the term "perfidy" (khida‘). [51]

But it was the education system, and especially Egyptian textbooks, that entrenched the collusion story in the Egyptian collective memory. All post-1967 history textbooks repeated the claim that Israel launched the war with the support of Britain and the United States. The narrative also established a direct link between the 1967 war and former imperialist attempts to control the Arab world, thus portraying Israel as an imperialist stooge. The repetition of this fabricated story, with only minor variations, in all history school textbooks means that all Egyptian schoolchildren have been exposed to, and indoctrinated with, the collusion story. Undoubtedly, the repetition of the story in the schoolroom did more than anything to transform it into a living myth.

History suggests that myths do not simply disappear. Indeed, the endurance of the 1967 collusion myth, as well as the appearance of new conspiracy theories — such as the ones surrounding the Egypt Air crash of November, 1999, and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — demonstrate their powerful vitality within Middle Eastern societies. Since psychological, historical, and cultural factors lie at the bottom of conspiracy theories, it is not easy to eradicate them. Once created, myths have lives of their own.

But where the state controls agents of information dissemination — such as the media, the education system, and other socialization tools — it should use all means available to confront the retail of fabricated conspiracies.

A case in point is school textbooks, which are written or supervised by ministries of education. Research shows that history textbooks, which are geared to inculcate the national narrative, are often replete with biases, distortions and omissions, fostering a climate of conflict and prejudice. In such cases, the governmental apparatus should take responsibility for modifying the historical narrative. And, as the Egyptian government fully controls Egypt's education system, including the content of the textbooks, [52] it should be held responsible for eliminating a narrative refuted long ago by Egyptians and others. In addition, U.S.-Egyptian teams should collaborate in order to scrutinize textbooks with the aim of eliminating any biases or historical distortions. [53] Cleaning up textbooks would be an important step toward undermining stereotypes, diminishing political misunderstandings, and closing cultural gaps.


[1] ‘Abdallah Ahmad Hamid al-Qusi, Al-Wisam fi at-Ta'rikh (Cairo: Al-Mu'asasa al-‘Arabiya al-Haditha, 1999), p. 284.

[2] For examples, see Abu al-Futuh Radwan, Usul al-‘Alam al-Hadith, li's-Saff al-Awwal ath-Thanawi (Cairo: G.A.M., 1969), p. 221; Muhammad ‘Abd al-Ghani Sa‘udi, Ta'rikh al-‘Arab al-Hadith wa'l-Mu‘asir, li's-Saff ath-Thalith ath-Thanawi (Cairo: Al-Maktaba an-Namudjiya, 1973), pp. 142-3; Yusuf Ahmad Mahmud al-Qusi, Al-Wahda fi Ta'rikh al-‘Arab al-Hadith wa'l-Mu‘asir (Cairo: ‘Isa al-Baba al-Halabi, 1975), pp. 75-6; Muhammad Ibrahim ad-Dasuqi, Ad-Dirasat al-Ijtima‘iya, Misr wa-al-‘Alam li's-Saff ath-Thalith al-I‘dadi (Cairo: Maktabat Misr, 1991), p. 290; ‘Abd al-Mun‘im Gharib, Al-Muhit fi'd-Dirasat al-Ijtima‘iya: Jughrafiyat al-‘Alam wa-Ta'rikh Misr al-Hadith (Cairo: Al-Mu'asasa al-‘Arabiya al-Haditha, 1999), p. 238; Al-Mu‘llam fi at-Ta'rikh (Cairo: Al-Mu'asasa al-‘Arabiya al-Haditha, 1999), p. 427.

[3] See, for example, Michael B. Oren, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (London: Penguin, 2002), p. 217; Richard B. Parker, ed., The Six Day War: A Retrospective (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996), pp. 237-88; William B. Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict since 1967 (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1993), pp. 52-4.

[4] For an expanded discussion of the big lie as a case study in propaganda and myth-making, see Elie Podeh, "The ‘Big Lie': Inventing the Myth of British-U.S. Involvement in the 1967 War," The Review of International Affairs, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 1-23.

[5] Radio Cairo, June 6-8, 1967, in British Broadcasting Corporation, Summary of World Broadcasts: The Middle East (hereafter: BBC), June 7-9, 1967.

[6] Oren, Six Days of War, p. 217.

[7] Middle East Record, vol. 3, 1967 (Jerusalem: Israeli Universities Press, 1971) (hereafter: MER), p. 242; United Kingdom Public Record Office (PRO), Adams (Amman) to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (hereafter: FCO), June 5, 1967, FCO 17/598; minutes by Brooke-Turner, June 8, 1967, FCO 17/598. All FCO files cited below are from the PRO.

[8] MER, pp. 242-3; Evans (Damascus) to FCO, June 6, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 376.

[9] MER, p. 244.

[10] Ibid., pp. 244-5.

[11] Commentary by Ahmad Sa'id, Radio Cairo, June 8, 1967, in BBC, June 10, 1967; Stephen Green, Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations with a Militant Israel (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1984), pp. 212-42.

[12] Harrison (Moscow) to FCO, June 16, 1967, FCO 17/599, tel. 1050; Arthur (Kuwait) to FCO, June 6, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 222.

[13] Dean (Washington) to FCO, June 7, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 1959; MER, p. 243.

[14] Fall (Moscow) to Eastern Department, June 14, 1967, FCO 17/599.

[15] Radio Cairo, June 9, 1967, in BBC, June 11, 1967. The "collusion" was also mentioned by Syrian president Nur ad-Din al-Atasi, Radio Damascus, June 9, 1967, in BBC, June 11, 1967; and by Algerian president Houari Boumedienne, Radio Algiers, June 10, 1967, in BBC, June 12, 1967. Significantly, it was not mentioned in King Hussein's statement, Radio Amman, June 11, 1967, in BBC, June 12, 1967.

[16] Radio Baghdad, June 11, 1967, in BBC, June 12, 1967.

[17] Radio Cairo, June 16, 22, 1967, in Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report: The Middle East, June 16, 23,1967.

[18] Adams to FCO, June 7, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 573.

[19] June 6, 1967, FCO 17/598, guidance tel. 128.

[20] Brown to Sheikh Abd ar-Rahman al-Helaissi, ambassador of Saudi Arabia, June 6, 1967, FCO 17/598.

[21] Lord Caradon (U.K. Mission in New York) to FCO, June 6, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 1240; Caradon to FCO, June 7, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 1249.

[22] Caradon to FCO, June 6, 1967, FCO 17/492, tel. 1244; Caradon to U.N. Security Council, June 7, 1967, FCO 17/599.

[23] Dean (Washington) to FCO, June 7, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 1958.

[24] Dean to FCO, June 6, 1967, re: Dean Rusk, U.S. secretary of state, FCO 17/598, tel. 1949; Podeh, "The ‘Big Lie': Inventing the Myth," pp. 17-9.

[25] FCO to Washington, June 8, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 6273.

[26] Caradon to FCO, June 8, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 1262.

[27] Beaumont (Baghdad) to FCO, June 6, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 704, tel. 706, tel. 711, tel. 707.

[28] Beaumont to FCO, June 10, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 776.

[29] Riches (Beirut) to FCO, June 6, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 536. But it seems that even in Lebanon many believed the collusion story, see Riches (Beirut) to FCO, June 7, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 555.

[30] Moberly's minutes, June 11, 1967, FCO 17/598.

[31] Hadow (Tel Aviv) to FCO, June 8, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 546; MER, p. 242.

[32] Brooke-Turner's minutes, June 8, 1967, FCO 17/598.

[33] Cranston (Jedda) to FCO, June 11, 1967, FCO 17/599, tel. 393. For a similar assessment from Iraq, see Vincent (Baghdad) to FCO, June 12, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 801. For a more cautious attitude by King Hussein, see Adams to FCO, June 14, 1967, FCO 17/599, tel. 665.

[34] Cranston to FCO, June 20, 1967, FCO 17/599, tel. 446.

[35] Arthur (Kuwait) to FCO, June 15, 1967, FCO 17/599, tel. 319.

[36] Dean to FCO, June 17, 1967, FCO 17/599, tel. 2078; FCO to Washington, June 15, 1967, FCO 17/598, tel. 6684.

[37] Cranston to FCO, June 17, 1967, FCO 17/599, tel. 434.

[38] Adams to FCO, June 21, 1967, FCO 17/599, tel. 722; Wright (New York) to FCO, June 27, 1967, FCO 17/599, tel. 104.

[39] June 21, 1967, FCO 17/599, guidance tel. 156.

[40] June 30, 1967, FCO 17/600, guidance tel. 168.

[41] MER, pp. 59-60.

[42] Tesh (Nicosia) to FCO, July 8, 1967, FCO 17/600, tel. 676.

[43] MER, p. 61.

[44] Ibid., p. 51.

[45] Middle East Record, vol. 4, 1968 (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1973), p. 77.

[46] Mohamed Heikal, The Sphinx and the Commissar: The Rise and Fall of Soviet Influence in the Middle East (New York: Harper and Row, 1978), p. 181.

[47] Quoted in Daniel Pipes, The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996), p. 236.

[48] Al-Ahram, Feb. 24, Mar. 3, 10, 17, 31, Apr. 21, May 5, 12, 1967; MER, pp. 49-50.

[49] Pipes, The Hidden Hand, p. 17; Richard Parker, The Politics of Miscalculation in the Middle East (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), p. 106.

[50] Quoted in "Conspiracy Theories," Parker, The Six-Day War, p. 244.

[51] Mahmud Riad, Mudhakkirat Mahmud Riad: Amrika wa'l-‘Arab (Cairo: Dar al-Mustaqbal al-‘Arabi, 1986), pp. 40-2.

[52] Elie Podeh, "Recognition without Legitimization: Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict in Egyptian History Textbooks," Internationale Schulbuchforschung/ International Textbook Research, vol. 25, no. 4 (2003), pp. 1-27.

[53] Such ventures were successfully carried out in Europe, as well as between Israeli-German and Israeli-Polish teams, under the auspices of the Georg Eckert Institute in Braunschweig, Germany, the leading institute in Europe for international textbook research. See Falk Pingel, UNESCO Guidebook on Textbook Research and Textbook Revision (Hannover: Verlag, 1999).


The Israeli-Arab Conflict

The Middle East & the Arabs

Radical Islam & Islamic Terrorism

More on Radical Islam & Islamic Terrorism

War & Peace in the Real World

Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.

Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization

Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies

U.S. National Security Strategy

Republished with Permission of the Middle East Forum
Reprinted from the Middle East Forum News (MEF NEWS)
March 16, 2004

The original version of the article appeared in the Middle East Quarterly (Winter, 2004) and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum.

Elie Podeh is senior lecturer in the Department of Islam and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose Harry S. Truman Institute supported this project.

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Africa: Black Africa * Africa: North Africa * American Government 1
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UnAmerican Activity * UN & Its Agencies * USA Patriot Act * U.S. Foreign Aid
U.S. Infrastructure * U.S. Intelligence * U.S. Senate * War & Peace
Welfare Policy * WMD & Arms Control

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