The iconic photograph of Israeli soldiers gazing at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, after entering the city as Israel beat the invading Arab armies in 1967. Photo: Israel Knesset.
The 48th anniversary of the Six Day War was marked in Israel a few weeks ago on Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, and it’s civil anniversary, June 10th, was noted in several press reports both in Israel and overseas.
As the years go by it seems that Israel’s “crime” of winning the war and not allowing itself to be destroyed is the source of the “Original Sin” of which certain elements of the world community and media consider us guilty.
Although Israel neither welcomed nor wanted this conflict, the Left declared that Israel, not the invading Arabs, had been ‘militaristic,’ ‘colonialistic,’ and ‘fascistic.’
Was Israel really that bad, or was the Left biased, twisting or ignoring inconvenient facts to fit a prepackaged verdict – and has been biased ever since?
By 1967, Vietnam-war, civil-rights, and feminist protestors joined with hippies, yippies, flower-power pacifists, and not so pacifistic Hells Angels to form a vast anti-Establishment counterculture. The 1960s had become the Sixties. It was not the most rational of times.
Facts – such as who actually started the war, and why – were irrelevant. The left was Manichean, pitting the evil West against the good Third World. Israel – a western nation and ally of America – was on the wrong side. It was guilty on all counts.
But international conflict is not a team sport, using crooked umpires is not cricket, and these dodgy methods would result in the Palestinians being not winners but losers over the long term.
Militarism? If Egypt’s President Nasser had not blockaded the Straits of Tiran, replaced UN peacekeepers with his own troops, and allied with several Arab countries, the Six Day War would not have occurred. In 1967, Egypt was guilty of militarism. The left pinned the rap on the wrong side.
Colonialism? After the 1948 war of independence, Egypt occupied Gaza and Jordan occupied and then annexed the West Bank, denying Israeli Jews access to Jerusalem’s holy sites. The left accepted these racist and illegal occupations. Colonialism can be committed only by Israel.
In the same month as the Six Day War, a Black Panther magazine waxed poetic: “We’re gonna piss on the Wailing Wall/…That will be ecstasy, killing every Jew we see in jewland.”
Radical leaders and the majority of the rank and file membership did not – dared not – censure the Panthers. These radicals similarly failed to criticize Arab threats to drive the Jews into the sea.
The Left seemingly did not care – may not have even noticed – that in its tacit acceptance of militarism, racism, and worse, it was subscribing to values it normally derided as repulsive. The movement was progressive in name only. Had it looked in the mirror, it would have labelled itself “fascistic.”
Fast forward to the Camp David peace talks in 2000, which failed, according to the Left, because Israel was ungenerous. This was plausible, initially; the talks had not been minuted and details were lacking. But the left stuck to this position even after numerous first-hand accounts highlighted Yasser Arafat’s astonishing one-word vocabulary: “No.”
In last summer’s Gaza fighting, Hamas fired thousands of rockets into civilian areas in Israel and, in the ensuing ground fighting, used human shields and positioned weapons in schools and hospitals. The Left – in a repeat of 1967 – put only Israel in the dock.
Gaza pales compared with Yarmouk, where Syrian soldiers and ISIS decapitators inflicted unspeakable horrors on Palestinian refugees – to no outcry from the Left. Israel was not involved in this catastrophe. If it had been, her critics would have gone ballistic.
Here Liebman drills down to the essence of the Left’s anti-Israel passion:
This post-1967 anti-Israel left is propelled less by compassion than by anger – hatred of America and western capitalism in the Sixties, which was then redirected to Israel after the Vietnam War ended in the 1970s.
And the Palestinians? They are still stateless, stuck in a hole they dug for themselves by their own obstinacy. But the left helped them dig it, encouraging the Palestinians in their demand for all of mandatory Palestine
For nearly fifty years, the anti-Israel left has been committing crimes not just against Israel but against the Palestinians – and the entire peace process.
It is most gratifying to see the Left’s self-righteousness punctured so neatly.
On a similar theme, David Harris, the Executive Director of the AJC, explains why history matters when it comes to explaining the sequence of events around the Six Day War: (emphases are mine). Apologies for the long excerpts but the whole article is so important.
Mention the word “history” and it can trigger a roll of the eyes.
Add “Middle East” to the equation and folks might start running for the hills, unwilling to get caught up in the seemingly bottomless pit of details and disputes.
Yet without context, some critically important things may not make sense.First,in June 1967, there was no state of Palestine. It didn’t exist and never had. Its creation, proposed by the UN in 1947, was rejected by the Arab world because it also meant the establishment of a Jewish state alongside.
Second, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem were in Jordanian hands. Violating solemn agreements, Jordan denied Jews access to their holiest places in eastern Jerusalem. To make matters still worse, they desecrated and destroyed many of those sites.
Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control, with harsh military rule imposed on local residents.
And the Golan Heights, which were regularly used to shell Israeli communities far below, belonged to Syria.
Third, the Arab world could have created a Palestinian state in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip any day of the week. They didn’t. … It was viewed as an Arab backwater.
Fourth, the 1967 boundary at the time of the war, so much in the news these days, was nothing more than an armistice line dating back to 1949 – familiarly known as the Green Line. That’s after five Arab armies attacked Israel in 1948 with the aim of destroying the embryonic Jewish state. They failed. Armistice lines were drawn, but they weren’t formal borders. They couldn’t be. The Arab world, even in defeat, refused to recognize Israel’s very right to exist.
Fifth, the PLO, which supported the war effort, was established in 1964, three years before the conflict erupted. That’s important because it was created with the goal of obliterating Israel. Remember that in 1964 the only “settlements” were Israel itself.
Sixth, in the weeks leading up to the Six-Day War, Egyptian and Syrian leaders repeatedly declared that war was coming and their objective was to wipe Israel off the map. There was no ambiguity. Twenty-two years after the Holocaust, another enemy spoke about the extermination of Jews. The record is well-documented.
Here too are some vicious cartoons in the Arabic media (via Elder of Ziyon):
Al-Farida, Lebanon, showed Nasser kicking the “Jew,” Israel, into the sea, with the armies of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq supporting him.
he mouths of the guns of eight Arab countries: Sudan, Algeria, United Arab Republic, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Al Jarida , Beirut, May 31, 1967
The article continues with Israel’s plea to Jordan to stay out of the fight – which they ignored – and Egypt’s war-mongering by expelling the UN from Sinai, leaving no buffer zone between Israel and Egypt, and blockading the straits of Tiran, an outright casus belli. Despite its promises, the US did not come to Israel’s aid. France too betrayed Israel by imposing an arms embargo despite its being Israel’s principal arms supplier.
And then, the Three Noes of Khartoum:
And finally, after winning the war of self-defense, Israel hoped that its newly-acquired territories, seized from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, would be the basis for a land-for-peace accord. Feelers were sent out. The formal response came on September 1, 1967, when the Arab Summit Conference famously declared in Khartoum: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiations” with Israel.Today, there are those who wish to rewrite history.
They want the world to believe there was once a Palestinian state. There was not.
They want the world to believe there were fixed borders between that state and Israel. There was only an armistice line between Israel and the Jordanian-controlled West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
They want the world to believe the 1967 war was a bellicose act by Israel. It was an act of self-defense in the face of blood-curdling threats…
They want the world to believe post-1967 Israel settlement-building is the key obstacle to Arab-Israeli peacemaking. The Six-Day War is proof positive that the core issue is, and always has been, whether the Arab world accepts the Jewish people’s right to a state of their own. …
And they want the world to believe the Arab world had nothing against Jews per se, only Israel, yet trampled with abandon on sites of sacred meaning to the Jewish people.
In other words, when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, dismissing the past as if it were a minor irritant at best, irrelevant at worst, won’t work.
Can history move forward? Absolutely. Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994 prove the point. At the same time, though, the lessons of the Six-Day War illustrate just how tough and tortuous the path can be.
I would go one step further and say that the rewriting of history is the basis of the Left’s hatred of Israel (as seen in the first article quoted above) and forms the basis for the persistent efforts at delegitimization and demonization of Israel in the media, the UN, and in all the hundreds of NGOs working for human rights for everybody except Israelis.
Furthermore, as regards the “root cause” of the settlements in the conflict, Israel’s poorly-conceived, badly executed and ill-fated “disengagement” from Gaza, whose 10th anniversary is approaching, demonstrates more clearly than any other example what happened and what is likely to happen again when Israel withdraws from territory. The terrorists take over and immediately (within 24 hours in the case of Gaza) start firing rockets and missiles at Israeli civilian communities. If the settlements were such an irritant, why did Hamas use the territory to attack Israel even more?
International law makes a clear distinction between defensive wars and wars of aggression. Egypt’s blockade of the waterway known as the Strait of Tiran, which prevented access to Israel’s southern port of Eilat, was an act of aggression that led to the Six-Day War in 1967. More than six decades after the 1948 War and four decades since the 1967 Six-Day War, it is hard to imagine the dire circumstances Israel faced and the price it paid to fend off its neighbors’ attacks.
Who Starts Wars Does Matter
UN Charter Article 51 clearly recognizes “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations” by anyone.
Arabs would like the world to believe that in 1967, Israel simply woke-up one morning and invaded them, and therefore Israel’s control of the Golan Heights, West Bank and Sinai is the illicit fruit of an illegal act – like Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991.
Arab leaders ‘bundle’ the countries who fought Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War into one “entity” in order to cloud the issues. They point to Israel’s surprise pre-emptive attack on Egypt as an act of unlawful aggression, and add that this “unlawful aggression” prevents Israel from claiming the Territories under international law.
Professor, Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, past President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) states the following facts:
“The facts of the June 1967 Six Day War demonstrate that Israel reacted defensively against the threat and use of force against her by her Arab neighbors. This is indicated by the fact that Israel responded to Egypt’s prior closure of the Straits of Tiran, its proclamation of a blockade of the Israeli port of Eilat, and the manifest threat of the UAR’s use of force inherent in its massing of troops in Sinai, coupled with its ejection of United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF). It is indicated by the fact that, upon Israeli responsive action against the UAR, Jordan initiated hostilities against Israel. It is suggested as well by the fact that, despite the most intense efforts by the Arab States and their supporters, led by the Premier of the Soviet Union, to gain condemnation of Israel as an aggressor by the hospitable organs of the United Nations, those efforts were decisively defeated. The conclusion to which these facts lead is that the Israeli conquest of Arab and Arab-held territory was defensive rather than aggressive conquest.”
…In fact, Jordan was an illegal occupier of the West Bank from 1948 to 1967, and the undisputable aggressor in the Six-Day War of 1967. Thus, Israel acted lawfully by exercising its right of self-defense when it redeemed and legally occupied Judea and Samaria, known also as the West Bank.
Judge Sir Elihu Lauterpacht wrote in 1968, just one year after the 1967 Six-Day War:
“On 5th June, 1967, Jordan deliberately overthrew the Armistice Agreement by attacking the Israeli-held part of Jerusalem. There was no question of this Jordanian action being a reaction to any Israeli attack. It took place not with-standing explicit Israeli assurances, conveyed to King Hussein through the U.N. Commander, that if Jordan did not attack Israel, Israel would not attack Jordan. Although the charge of aggression is freely made against Israel in relation to the Six-Days War the fact remains that the two attempts made in the General Assembly in June-July 1967 to secure the condemnation of Israel as an aggressor failed. A clear and striking majority of the members of the U.N. voted against the proposition that Israel was an aggressor.”
Professor, Judge Schwebel’s writings lead to the conclusion that under international law, Israel is permitted to stay in the West Bank as long as it is necessary to her self-defense.
Defensive Wars and Wars of Aggression
International law makes a clear distinction between defensive wars and wars of aggression. All of Israel’s wars with its Arab neighbors were in self-defense.
Professor, Judge Schwebel, wrote in What Weight to Conquest:
“(a) a state [Israel] acting in lawful exercise of its right of self-defense may seize and occupy foreign territory as long as such seizure and occupation are necessary to its self-defense;
…UN “Inadmissibility of the Acquisition of Territory by Force”
Most UN General Assembly Resolutions regarding Israel read at the start: “Aware of the established principle of international law on the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force.”
Professor, Judge Schwebel, a former President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), explains that the principle of “acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible” must be read together with other principles: “… namely, that no legal right shall spring from a wrong, and the Charter principle that the Members of the United Nations shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.”
Simply stated: Arab illegal aggression against the territorial integrity and political independence of Israel can not and should not be rewarded.
Professor Julius Stone, a leading authority on the Law of Nations, stated:
“Territorial Rights Under International Law. … By their [Arab countries] armed attacks against the State of Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1973, and by various acts of belligerency throughout this period, these Arab states flouted their basic obligations as United Nations members to refrain from threat or use of force against Israel’s territorial integrity and political independence. These acts were in flagrant violation inter alia [among other things] of Article 2(4) and paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) of the same article
Sadly I don’t expect the UN to pay attention to any of these legalities any time soon. Similarly I have no expectations that the international media, anti-Israel organizations and “human-rights for everyone except Jews” NGOs will take a closer look at the facts – not the myths – surrounding the Six Day War.