* This is the second of two dispatches to mark this week’s 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War. This dispatch concentrates on the recent media coverage of the anniversary.
(The first dispatch, which dealt with events leading up to the war, some new analysis of why the war started, and some lessons from the fighting, can be read here. Thank you to The Spectator magazine’s Clive Davis for recommending the first dispatch.)
1. Tiny democratic Israel gets more criticism than large dictatorial Russia
2. “We were all crying. It seemed like a miracle.”
3. European Union “funding anti-Israeli events for war’s anniversary”
4. Arab media more critical of Arab regimes than anti-Israel media in the west
5. Oxford University’s idea of balance
6. The Economist calls Six-Day War the “wasted victory”
7. Der Spiegel labels Six-Day War “Israel’s alleged victory”
8. “John Pilger is the kind of humanist who doesn’t much care for Jews”
9. The view from 1968
10. “The issue then is largely the same as it is today”
11. “They tried to kill us. We won. Get over it.”
12. The forgotten refugees
13. “The Economist is wrong” (Yediot Ahronot, May 27, 2007)
14. “U.K.-based humanists who don’t care for Jews” (Ha’aretz, May 29, 2007)
15. “Israel’s peculiar position” (Los Angeles Times, May 26, 1968)
16. “The heavy burden of victory” (Jewish Exponent, May 31, 2007)
17. “A classic case of ‘Battered Nation Syndrome’” (Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2007)
TINY DEMOCRATIC ISRAEL GETS MORE CRITICISM THAN LARGE DICTATORIAL RUSSIA
There are massive anti-Israel rallies planned around the world for this weekend to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War (and small pro-Israel counter-rallies planned in London on Saturday and in Washington DC on Sunday).
The anti-Israel rallies are likely to generate much media coverage after all the BBC alone is running dozens of reports each day, on radio and TV, for the entire six days of the anniversary of the war. Many of the reports are replete with inaccuracies (“It was the 1967 war that exposed Israel to what Israel calls terror attacks”; “Some are saying that Israel should start handing back the 1967 territories”; “Israel still occupies most of the Arab lands won in 1967”; “What some see as the liberation of Jerusalem is celebrated only among right-wing Israelis”. The BBC apparently has forgotten that Israel was subjected to thousands of terror attacks in the 1950s and 60s, that it has withdrawn from Sinai and Gaza, and so on.)
When I met with Gary Kasparov this week in Prague a fascinating, articulate and extremely brave man (considering the KGB’s propensity for using poisons) he told me how disappointed he was that the pro-democracy rallies he is co-organizing this weekend in Moscow and St. Petersburg were likely to gain only a fraction of the international media coverage that the anti-Israel rallies being held elsewhere would get.
(Kasparov may well stand for president of Russia next year against the anti-democratic candidate Putin is likely to put up. Kasparov regarded as the greatest chess player the world has ever known was in Prague for a pro-democracy conference organized by former political prisoners Natan Sharansky and Vaclav Havel, and attended by dozens of dissidents from the Arab world and elsewhere. For more, see here.)
“WE WERE ALL CRYING. IT SEEMED LIKE A MIRACLE.”
Amid the many anti-Israeli reports in the western media this week, few journalists have pointed out that in 1967 Israel genuinely faced a threat of annihilation, barely two decades after the Holocaust had ended. As David Rubinger, the Israeli photographer who took the most famous pictures of the war, of IDF paratroopers capturing the Western Wall, said at the time:
“We were all crying. It wasn’t religious weeping. It was relief. We had felt doomed, sentenced to death. Then someone took off the noose and said you’re not just free, you’re king. It seemed like a miracle.”
EUROPEAN UNION “FUNDING ANTI-ISRAELI EVENTS FOR WAR’S ANNIVERSARY”
The reliable group NGO Monitor has revealed that the European Union has funded much of the anti-Israel events being held by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to coincide with the anniversary of the 1967 war
NGO Monitor says “one-sided view of events, repeating the Palestinian narrative and providing a distorted history of the war” are being propagated by the following NGOs funded (at least in part) by the European Union: “Machsom Watch, War on Want, ICAHD, Amnesty International, Sabeel, Rabbis for Human Rights, and Christian Aid.”
(For more, see here.)
ARAB MEDIA MORE CRITICAL OF ARAB REGIMES THAN ANTI-ISRAEL MEDIA IN THE WEST
Unlike the western media, some in the Arab press have been critical of the Arab dictatorships misuse of their defeat by Israel in 1967. Egyptian columnist Wael Abdel Fattah wrote in the independent weekly Al-Fagr that Arabs blame the defeat for “everything” from “price hikes, dictatorship, religious extremism, sectarian strife, even sexual impotence.”
Jordanian columnist Faisal al Ref’ou also criticized the Arab world. “Our Arab nation didn’t learn from the history lesson,” he wrote in Al Rai, Jordan’s largest newspaper. “We’re still at square one. We still have the spear in our abdomen in Gaza, Baghdad, Darfur, and Mogadishu. And our executioners are the same they hand us the knives and we stab ourselves.”
OXFORD UNIVERSITY’S IDEA OF BALANCE
Following the decision last week by British academics to boycott Israelis, one of the UK’s most prestigious universities, Oxford, is demonstrating a BBC-like approach to “balance”.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1967 war, it has chosen four panelists: two are Arabs and two are Jews, Oxford tells students in an effort to show balance.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the two Arab speakers on the panel (held at St Antony’s College in conjunction with the Middle East Center) are anti-Israel: Dr Laleh Khalili (author of Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine, published by Cambridge University Press) and Dr Karma Nabulsi (formerly PLO representative at the United Nations, Beirut and Tunis, and now a columnist for The Guardian).
But then the two Jewish speakers picked for the panel by Oxford in a pretense to show “balance” are even more anti-Israeli: Professor Avi Shlaim and Dr Brian Klug, both of whom devote much of their lives to undermining the state of Israel, calling for international boycotts and so on.
And just in case Oxford students which judging by Oxford’s past record are likely to go on to senior positions in government in countries throughout the world don’t get the message from the four speakers, the event begins with a screening of “The Iron Wall” by Mohammed Alatar. It is a film not known for its sympathetic approach to Israel.
THE ECONOMIST CALLS SIX-DAY WAR THE “WASTED VICTORY”
Because it presents its case in a sharp, authoritative way (like the BBC), many people around the world tend to regard The Economist magazine (like the BBC) as somehow fair and accurate. Last week’s special feature in The Economist marking 40 years since the Six-Day War, headlined “Israel’s Wasted Victory,” said the victory had been “a calamity for the Jewish state.” The Economist forgot to tell readers that it had saved Israel from threats of annihilation at the hands of Egypt (a country 50 times Israel’s size) and other Arab regimes.
Sever Plocker, one of Israel’s leading columnists responds vigorously. Writing in Yediot Ahronot (his full article is attached below), Plocker says that “The Economist which boasts a circulation of more than one million and whose readership comprises members of the world’s financial, political and cultural elites is very wrong. For Israel, the victory of 1967 was not wasted. Israel’s population grew from 2.6 million to 7.1 million, 2 million of whom were new immigrants. The Gross National Product grew by 630 percent. Real per capita product, the benchmark for measuring economic development, grew by 163 percent and last year crossed the $21,000 mark. The average standard of living in Israel is only 22 percent lower than in Britain; on the eve of the Six Day War there was a 44 percent gap. And The Economist has often noted Israel’s information technology achievements.”
The Economist also claims that “the Arabs did not phone to sue for peace and Israel did not mind not hearing from them.” This is untrue. The Israelis, via Washington, phoned just ten days after the war’s end to offer land-for-peace. No Arab regimes returned the call. The silence from the Arab league lasted until September 1, 1967, when the Arab nations gathered in Khartoum collectively issued their three “no’s” to Israel no peace, no recognition, and no negotiations.
DER SPIEGEL LABELS SIX-DAY WAR “ISRAEL’S ALLEGED VICTORY”
Der Spiegel, the leading German-language news magazine, has described the Six-Day War as “Israel’s alleged victory in the six days war”.
Its article last week on the 1967 War begins: “Shootings in Gaza, fights in Lebanon: 40 years after the six-days-war it becomes clear that the Israeli triumph of 1967 was a Pyrrhic victory.”
Under a photo of the then Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Der Spiegel placed the caption “Kriegsherr Dajan, Soldaten” (“War lord Dayan with soldiers”), which is perhaps a fair reflection of where they stand on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“JOHN PILGER IS THE KIND OF HUMANIST WHO DOESN’T MUCH CARE FOR JEWS”
Bradley Burston, writing in the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, also takes a look at the media coverage of the anniversary of the Six-Day War. Burston is particularly incensed by an article in the New Statesman by London-based Australian journalist John Pilger titled “Children of the Dust.”
Burston describes the article as “A political cartoon in the guise of factual exposition. It discusses with minute resolution and admirable compassion the effects of occupation and warfare on the children of Gaza, while writing off the post-traumatic stress of the blitz-plagued children of [the bombarded Israeli town] Sderot as the negligible, they-had-it-coming whining of the faceless offspring of callous brutes.”
Burston continues, “The problem goes beyond Jews, after all, because the Israeli people on Israeli soil who are in the line of Palestinian fire are both Jew and Arab, Semites all. The crux of the matter is this: To argue that attacks on civilians is justified, is to declare those civilians to be sub-human. John Pilger is the kind of humanist who doesn’t much care for Jews.”
What is also interesting is that such an article appeared in Ha’aretz. It seems that even the Israeli left is becoming tired of the anti-Semitism in some European media masquerading as anti-Zionism.
Pilger has won many journalist awards for his writings. For more on Pilger, I strongly recommend you read On Yom Kippur, British TV screens a particularly harsh attack on Israel (Sept. 18, 2002).
THE VIEW FROM 1968
The third full article below, by Eric Hoffer, was published on May 26, 1968 in The Los Angeles Times. I attach it to show that many of the arguments remain as relevant today as they were 39 years ago.
Hoffer writes: “The Jews are a peculiar people: Things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people, and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it. Poland and Czechoslovakia did it. Turkey threw out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchmen. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese and no one says a word about refugees.
“But in the case of Israel, the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis. Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world...” (Full article below.)
“THE ISSUE THEN IS LARGELY THE SAME AS IT IS TODAY”
Jonathan Tobin in the fourth article below, writes about how “much of the coverage and commentaries about the topic seem to center on the same theme: How Israel’s historic triumph has become an intolerable burden that is itself the primary ‘obstacle’ to peace.”
Yet “had Israel been defeated, then the oft-repeated threats of extermination of both the State and her people by Arab leaders such as Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser and Palestinian leader Ahmed Shukairy, might well have been fulfilled.”
Tobin continues “The war’s anniversary ought to bring to mind the fact that the issue then is largely the same as it is today what the war demonstrated to the world was that the Jewish re-entry into history that Zionism represented was not to be erased after a mere 19 years.”
“French writer Alexandre Dumas the elder wrote in 1854 that ‘nothing succeeds like success.’ But when it comes to the State of Israel, it appears that nothing seems to fail as abysmally as victory.”
“THEY TRIED TO KILL US. WE WON. GET OVER IT”
Michael Freund in the fifth article below (from the Jerusalem Post) argues that “Israel should stop apologizing for defeating the Arab states in 1967. Like any other nation, we have the right to defend ourselves, and we have the right not to be thrown in the sea.”
“Israel neither asked for war nor initiated it in 1967, so let’s stop acting like we did. We do not owe the Arabs anything for defeating them, and we certainly do not need to give them any further territory from which to attack us. They tried to kill us. We won. Get over it.”
Freund’s article, titled “Battered Nation Syndrome,” is as much directed at left-wing Israelis who are constantly criticizing Israel, as external critics.
THE FORGOTTEN REFUGEES
Amid the wealth of news coverage on Israel and the Palestinians this week, much has been made of the Arabs who became refugees in 1948 (and who were later referred to as Palestinians). There has been almost no mention of approximately the same number of Jews from Arab countries that became refugees.
Most Jews in Arab countries fled their homes after 1948. Most of the remainder were forced out during or soon after the 1967 war, when, in fury over their disastrous defeat, Arab regimes subjected their remaining Jewish populations to violent attack, resulting in the deaths and imprisonment of many Jews in Egypt and elsewhere. In contrast to the Arab refugees in Arab lands (many of whom remain second-class citizens until today), Israel has fully integrated Jewish refugees from Arab countries (and Iran) into Israeli society. They and their descendants now make up more than one-half of the country’s population, and include among their number the president and senior government officials.
These Jewish refugees have been completely ignored by the world’s media and the UN. Needless to say neither Israel nor the refugees themselves have received any compensation for losing their homes and other possessions.
Jews had lived in what are now Arab countries since Biblical times, many having been dispersed from ancient Israel after the Roman conquest. Since 1947, there have been more than 100 UN resolutions expressing concern over the Palestinian refugees. The UN has not once condemned the substantial injustices done to 850,000 Jewish refugees from the Arab states in the late 1940s and in 1967.
-- Tom Gross
THE ECONOMIST IS WRONG
The Economist is wrong
Six Day War had significant positive effects and is not a ‘wasted victory’ as The Economist argued
By Sever Plocker
May 27, 2007
“Israel’s Wasted Victory,” this is the headline of The Economist’s editorial marking 40 years since the Six Day War. The Economist boasts a circulation of more than one million copies and its readership comprises members of the world’s financial, political and cultural elites. The articles written by its authors (the majority of which go unsigned) are perceived as God’s words. “The Economist says” is a ruling that goes unchallenged in many circles.
Nonetheless, in describing the Six Day War as a “Pyrrhic victory” and “a calamity for the Jewish state no less than for its neighbors,” The Economist is making a grave mistake. The Six Day War changed the course of history for the better, ensured Israel’s existence and convinced the Arabs to come to terms with it. Thanks to Israel’s full and shining victory, the rulers of the Arab states relinquished their vision of eliminating Israel, and by lack of choice engaged in dialogue based on the concept of “land for peace.”
In his book “The Six Day War,” historian Michael Oren wrote that events in the Middle East, which until 1967 only culminated ahead of the conflict, could have moved towards peace even after the war. He added that diplomatic breakthroughs considered unrealistic became almost commonplace after the war.
In November of that year, the UN Security Council passed resolution 242, which since then has constituted a cornerstone for every diplomatic effort in the region including the recent Saudi Initiative.
Resolution 242 called for “just and lasting peace” between Arabs and Jews; Israel endorsed it immediately. It took Egypt another decade to internalize 242 and to sign a peace agreement with Israel in exchange for return of the Sinai.
The maturation process took Jordan an additional 20 years. Syria announced its willingness to sign a full normalization agreement with Israel in January 2000. Here is therefore, a basic fact: Due to Israel’s military victory in June 1967, Israel was accepted by the Arab world as a legitimate “Jewish State” entitled to exist within peaceful borders, land that until then was deemed Zionist occupation.
Somehow, The Economist manages to ignore these developments and minimizes their significance. The editorial focuses on Israeli-Palestinian relations. Israel, wrote The Economist, “embarked on its hubristic folly of annexing the Arab half of Jerusalem and - in defiance of law, demography and common sense planting Jewish settlements in all the occupied territories to secure a Greater Israel.” And “When, decades later, Egypt and Jordan did make peace with Israel, the Palestinians did not recover Gaza and the West Bank.”
The Palestinians did not recover Gaza and the West Bank? Until 1967, Gaza and the West Bank were territories administered by Egypt and Jordan. It may well be assumed that that the Jordanian regime would not have permitted Palestinian refugees, their children and grandchildren to realize their national sovereignty in Gaza and the West Bank and to establish the Palestinian state there.
As to criticism regarding Israel’s acts of annexation and settlement since 1967, large parts of the Israeli population share these sentiments, including the author of this article. Under the charismatic and destructive influence of Moshe Dayan, at the end of the Six Day War the government chose to prevent Palestinian autonomy, oppressed Palestinian rights and subjugated the Palestinian workforce to the interests of Israeli employers. This is indeed “hubristic folly.”
But is it only ours? The “Land for Peace” movement immediately challenged the Greater Israel movement, and they divided Israeli society from within. Not Palestinian society.
Palestinians prefer ‘state of no state’
It should be said unabashedly: Had the Palestinians really wanted a state of their own it would have been established long ago; even Israel’s excessive military might would not have sufficed in preventing its establishment within some type of border.
Yet the Palestinians prefer a state of “no state,” no responsibility, no commitments and no solution, alongside ongoing terror. Generation after generation, Palestinian nationalism has excelled in denouncement. Had Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres not unwillingly dragged the PLO leadership to the Oslo Accords in 1993 it would not have initiated a thing by itself.
The Economist is very wrong. For Israel, the victory of 1967 was not wasted. Israel’s population grew from 2.6 million to 7.1 million, 2 million of whom were new immigrants. The Gross National Product grew by 630 percent. Real per capita product, the benchmark for measuring economic development, grew by 163 percent and last year crossed the $21,000 mark. The average standard of living in Israel is only 22 percent lower than in Britain; on the eve of the Six Day War there was a 44 percent gap. And The Economist has often noted Israel’s information technology achievements.
Among Palestinians, however, the situation has deteriorated drastically. Are we to blame? Yes, it is our fault as well as theirs. Two states for two peoples: If this vision was wasted, it was not so because of the Six Day War, but despite it. And if it is realized, it will be another outcome of the Arab plan’s defeat in June 1967.
UK-BASED HUMANISTS WHO DON’T CARE FOR JEWS
U.K.-based humanists who don’t care for Jews
By Bradley Burston
May 29, 2007
There’s been a refreshing note to much of the overviews, analyses and reconsiderations accompanying the imminent 40th anniversary of the Six Day War balance.
The early entries, those of the Economist, for example, and the New Yorker, are notably free of the slavish leanings that have poisoned much of the writing on the subject for decades.
A notable companion to these accounts is “Gaza, The Jailed State,” an article by author and journalist Zaki Chehab, writing in this week’s New Statesman. Nuanced and knowing, the piece examines the performance of the Hamas-led Palestinian government in dispassionate detail.
The article is all the more valuable for the one which follows it, “Children of the Dust,” by the London-based Australian writer John Pilger. A political cartoon in the guise of factual exposition, it discusses with minute resolution and admirable compassion the effects of occupation and warfare on the children of Gaza, while writing off the post-traumatic stress of the blitz-plagued children of Sderot as the negligible, they-had-it-coming whining of the faceless offspring of callous brutes.
There have always been two sides to the imbalance story: On one hand, there is the humanist who cries out against the violence and slander dealt to the Jews of the Holy Land, suggesting, with respect to what has happened to the Arabs, that they’re only getting what they deserve.
Then there are writers like John Pilger, the kind of humanist who doesn’t much care for Jews.
Why, after all, should we care about the people of Sderot at all, when, as Pilger reminds us as the opening of the piece, the only issue that should move anyone, is the fact that Israel’s single-minded imposition of hardship on the Palestinians could be seen in the anguish of all distressed peoples everywhere:
“Israel is destroying any notion of a state of Palestine and is being allowed to imprison an entire nation. That is clear from the latest attacks on Gaza, whose suffering has become a metaphor for the tragedy imposed on the peoples of the Middle East and beyond.”
Pilger scorns British reporters for what he sees as their overt and consistent pro-Israel bias. He takes them to task for mentioning in reports on Israeli airstrikes “the rockets fired at Israel from the prison of Gaza which killed no one.”
Contrast this with the balance and the breadth of the lead sentence of Chelab’s article: “As hundreds of Israeli families leave the town of Sderot in southern Israel to escape Hamas-designed Qassam rockets and mortars, Palestinians in turn are fleeing the wrath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza, which in the past week have killed more than 30 people, many of them civilians.”
For Pilger, any suggestion of anything smacking in the least of equivalence, or of Palestinians mounting deadly attacks for example, a British Channel Four reporter’s mention of an “endless war,” rather than a unilateral Israeli onslaught against the Palestinian people as a whole is indicative of unforgivable pro-Israeli pandering:
“There is no war,” Pilger writes. “There is resistance among the poorest, most vulnerable people on earth to an enduring, illegal occupation imposed by the world’s fourth largest military power, whose weapons of mass destruction range from cluster bombs to thermonuclear devices, bankrolled by the superpower.”
In Pilger’s kindergarden class of the left, the basic legitimacy of Palestinian suicide bomb, rocket, and drive-by sniper attacks ? most of them aimed at civilians is both self-evident and intentionally omitted from BBC and other wildly pro-Israel press accounts:
“Under international law an occupied people has the right to use arms against the occupier’s forces. This right is never reported.”
Here’s another point that’s never reported: Any Jew who has ever worked for a British news outlet knows which members of staff are anti-Semitic. Any Jew who has ever worked for a British news outlet knows how that Jew-hatred can insinuate itself into news copy.
I have no evidence that John Pilger falls into that class. He may even be Jewish for all I know. I think it entirely legitimate that he may at once detest Israel and have not a molecule of anti-Semitism in his entire constitution.
Which is all the more reason that I believe he owes the Jews of this place a little more consideration as human beings.
The problem goes beyond Jews, after all, because the Israeli people on Israeli soil who are in the line of Palestinian fire are both Jew and Arab, Semites all. The crux of the matter is this:
To argue that attacks on civilians is justified, is to declare those civilians to be sub-human.
Come to think of it, perhaps this is why a humanist like John Pilger can’t be bothered to bring himself to care about them.
“EVERYONE EXPECTS THE JEWS TO BE THE ONLY REAL CHRISTIANS IN THIS WORLD”
Israel’s peculiar position
By Eric Hoffer
The Los Angeles Times
May 26, 1968
The Jews are a peculiar people: Things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews.
Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people, and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it. Poland and Czechoslovakia did it. Turkey threw out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchmen. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese and no one says a word about refugees.
But in the case of Israel, the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis. Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world.
Other nations when they are defeated survive and recover, but should Israel be defeated it would be destroyed. Had Nasser triumphed last June, he would have wiped Israel off the map, and no one would have lifted a finger to save the Jews.
No commitment to the Jews by any government, including our own, is worth the paper it is written on. There is a cry of outrage all over the world when people die in Vietnam or when two Negroes are executed in Rhodesia. But when Hitler slaughtered Jews no one remonstrated with him.
The Swedes, who are ready to break off diplomatic relations with America because of what we do in Vietnam, did not let out a peep when Hitler was slaughtering Jews. They sent Hitler choice iron ore and ball bearings, and serviced his troop trains to Norway.
The Jews are alone in the world. If Israel survives, it will be solely because of Jewish efforts and Jewish resources.
Yet at this moment Israel is our only reliable and unconditional ally. We can rely more on Israel than Israel can rely on us. And one has only to imagine what would have happened last summer had the Arabs and their Russian backers won the war to realize how vital the survival of Israel is to America and the West in general. I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel, so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the holocaust will be upon us.
“THE ALTERNATIVE IN 1967, AS WELL AS TODAY, REMAINS UNTHINKABLE”
The heavy burden of victory
By Jonathan Tobin
The Jewish Exponent
May 31, 2007
Lamenting the ‘occupation’ won’t make the facts that led to ’67 conflict go away
French writer Alexandre Dumas the elder wrote in 1854 that “nothing succeeds like success.” But when it comes to the State of Israel, it appears that nothing seems to fail as abysmally as victory.
As the world notes the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War this coming week, much of the coverage and commentaries about the topic seem to center on the same theme: How Israel’s historic triumph has become an intolerable burden that is itself the primary “obstacle” to peace.
Once upon a time, the great victory of 1967 that was achieved against great odds and at a moment in history when much of the world expected that Israel was about to suffer a catastrophic defeat was emblematic of Jewish pride. Yet that event is now increasingly seen as emblematic of unhappiness with the Jewish state.
40 YEARS OF ‘OPPRESSION’?
After all, the critics note, the anniversary’s not so much of battles fought and won against great odds, but of 40 years of Israeli “oppression” of Arabs in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, the territories “conquered” in 1967.
The toll exacted by Israel’s presence in the territories is seen as being responsible for the country losing its soul. Settlements and checkpoints have become deeply negative symbols of the country. In the Diaspora, it is the villainous Israel of “occupation” that has become the pariah despised by intellectuals and academics, and increasingly shunned by Jews who are not eager to identify with an oppressor.
Among those who do still embrace Israel, the war’s anniversary inspires nostalgia for the state that existed before the unification of Jerusalem, and access to places where our history began to topple the existing Israeli political applecart. It was, as the Israel Policy Forum’s M.J. Rosenberg, recently wrote, the Israel of the book and film “Exodus,” a place he asserts, that could be admired without apology.
The war set in motion a series of events that led inevitably not just to settlements, but to the end of Labor Party domination of Israeli politics and the mainstreaming of forces such as the nationalist right, religious and Sephardi Jews, who had hitherto been marginalized by the Ashkenazi elite.
The Israeli right has had its failures, but the idea that the country was better off under the rule of the paternalistic Labor-dominated government of Israel’s pre-war era is more myth than fact. The socialism embraced by that governing elite didn’t merely retard the nation’s economic progress. An era in which the government prevented the development of local television to cite just one example of the excesses of this time is nothing about which we should wax nostalgic.
Yet Rosenberg is right when he says that a more powerful Israel than the idealized early pioneer state “is a hard sell to those under 50, and particularly to young Jews of college age.” But the problem is that those, like Rosenberg, whose main agenda is “to end the nightmare” of the occupation, seem to forget what the alternative to the actual outcome of the Six-Day-War was.
That is the crux of much of the teeth-gnashing about Israel’s 40 years of post-1967 sin. The main point of contention between Israel and the Palestinians, and their supporters, is the same as it was 40 years ago: the existence of a Jewish state within any borders.
What then was the alternative to victory and “occupation?”
The answer is simple. Had Israel been defeated, then the oft-repeated threats of extermination of both the State and her people by Arab leaders such as Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser and Palestinian leader Ahmed Shukairy, might well have been fulfilled.
We are told, ad nauseum, that the “occupation” is the reason for the ongoing conflict. Yet in 1967, Israel’s dominion was limited to the exact boundaries that we are told are the only solution to the conflict. The world of June 3, 1967, was one in which not a single Jew lived in Judea and Samaria, nor in the eastern part of Jerusalem. No Jew prayed at the Western Wall, or could even visit any Jewish historic or religious site in the West Bank.
The war’s anniversary ought to bring to mind the fact that the issue then is largely the same as it is today. There is not a shekel’s worth of difference between the rhetoric and the goals of Hamas, Al Qaeda, or that of the leadership of Iran and that of the pre-’67 war Arab and Muslim world.
Compare the Jews of Sederot, who are subjected to missile attacks from Gaza today, and those slain by cross-border terror attacks that emanated from the same area prior to June 1967. The only difference is that prior to the Oslo peace accords and Israel’s complete withdrawal from the territory in August 2005, we could still harbor illusions about the willingness of the Palestinians to embrace a chance for peace.
LONGING FOR DEFEAT?
All the introspection about 1967 ought to lead us to wonder why so many of us here are so uncomfortable with an Israel that is identified with power rather than weakness. Was the Israel that so many believed to be fated for imminent extinction in May 1967 more virtuous than the contemporary Jewish state? No. The “occupation” that fuels Arab and Muslim fury refers to every inch of the country. Israel’s victory did not create Islamist extremism, it’s just another excuse for a hatred that already existed.
Conversely, the joy with which the Jewish world greeted the events of June 1967 stemmed not only from being reunited with places like the Kotel, as identification with a proud, successful Jewish people. Like the creation of the state in 1948, the Six-Day War changed the lives of every Jew. For centuries, Jewish identity was bound up with homelessness and powerlessness. These victories allowed Jews to hold their heads up higher not only here in the United States, but even in the Soviet Union, where a movement for emigration to Israel was launched in its aftermath.
The Israel that emerged from that war has made its share of mistakes though some of those errors were rooted more in a naive belief in the possibility of peace than triumphalism. But what the war demonstrated to the world was that the Jewish re-entry into history that Zionism represented was not to be erased after a mere 19 years.
That is a verdict some would like still to reverse. Yet the “occupation” so many lament was created by Arab aggression, and is rooted in the alienable right of the Jewish people to their own country rather than in some aberrant variant of Zionist imperialism. More territorial compromise will come when Israel’s enemies give up their war to destroy it. Sadly, as recent events have again proved, that moment is nowhere in sight.
Until it does, those supporters of Israel here who spend so much time apologizing for it would do better to apply themselves to the task of asserting the justice of Israel’s right to self-defense. Success in war has its drawbacks, but the alternative in 1967, as well as today, remains unthinkable.
“BATTERED NATION SYNDROME”
A classic case of ‘Battered Nation Syndrome’
By Michael Freund
The Jerusalem Post
May 30, 2007
It was 40 years ago next week that tiny little Israel , facing destruction at the hands of its enemies, miraculously emerged triumphant from the 1967 Six Day War. Existential fear quickly dissolved into breathtaking joy as the Jewish state decisively vanquished its foes, reuniting Jerusalem and reclaiming large swathes of our ancient homeland.
Our adversaries, who had gleefully pledged to feed us to the fish in the Mediterranean Sea , were forced to look on as their troops beat a hasty and humiliating retreat.
The stunning victory of 1967 had all the markings of Divine intervention. It was a gift from Heaven to a besieged and beleaguered people. After nearly two millennia we were reunited at last with the cradle of Jewish civilization in Judea and Samaria , and with the heart of the nation, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
And yet, it seems, four decades later, many Israelis still just cannot forgive themselves for winning.
In what has become an annual ritual, a variety of media pundits, left-wing activists and even some officials launch into mournful sessions of hand-wringing and breast-beating. They bemoan the outcome of the Six Day War, grumble about Israel’s success in reclaiming Judea, Samaria and Gaza , and sound as if they would have preferred going down in defeat.
Displaying an extraordinary lack of appreciation and an exceptional lack of historical perspective, these critics long to give up the hard-earned fruits of that war of self-defense, all in the vain hope of mollifying an incorrigible foe.
How could so many forget so much in so short a time? Even now, as Palestinians fire rockets daily at southern Israel from the very same Gaza Strip that we handed over to them two years ago, the proponents of appeasement still refuse to acknowledge the error of their ways.
It seems the only way to explain this phenomenon is to borrow a term from psychology: Certain parts of the Israeli public and its leadership are clearly suffering from what I refer to as “Battered Nation Syndrome.” Like a victim of ongoing domestic abuse, the advocates of surrender to the Palestinians cannot muster the wherewithal to hit back at the abuser. All the hallmarks of the syndrome are there: low self-esteem, a belief that the violence aimed against us is somehow our fault, and a tragic pattern of preferring to appease those who terrorize us rather than confront them.
Naturally, this distorted world-view results in an almost obsessive focus on Israel’s perceived faults as lying at the root of the conflict with our neighbors.
Consequently, the actions of the Palestinians are downplayed and minimized, excused and ignored, and Israel’s policy-making process instead begins to resemble a good, ol’-fashioned self-inflicted guilt trip.
But it is time to break out of this collective funk and start viewing the world the way it really is.
To begin with, Israel should stop apologizing for defeating the Arab states in 1967. Like any other nation, we have the right to defend ourselves, and we have the right not to be thrown in the sea.
What many of the defeatists conveniently choose to ignore is what led up to the 1967 war: increased Palestinian terror, massive Arab military buildups, and public threats by Arab leaders to annihilate the Jewish state.
They also forget that two years prior to 1967, back when Israel did not yet “occupy” the territories, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol put forward a proposal that could have resolved the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all.
Speaking to the Knesset on May 17, 1965, Eshkol suggested turning the 1949 armistice agreements into peace treaties, and offered to hold direct talks with the Arab states in order to do so.
Pointing out that Egypt , Jordan , Syria and Lebanon , combined had 60 times the land area of the Jewish state, the premier noted that there was no logical reason for the Arabs to continue to pursue war. Instead, he offered a vision of peace that included open borders, bilateral trade, economic cooperation and freedom of access to the holy sites.
All he asked in return, said Eshkol, was “full respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the States in the region.”
But Israel’s offer of peace was met two years later with a clear and unequivocal Arab response. Egypt and Syria mobilized their armies and their people, and vowed to destroy the Jewish state.
Hence, Israel neither asked for war nor initiated it in 1967, so let’s stop acting like we did. We do not owe the Arabs anything for defeating them, and we certainly do not need to give them any further territory from which to attack us.
They tried to kill us. We won. Get over it.