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I recently stumbled upon Daniel Gordisarticle on the purpose of the state of Israel.

It’s an excellent piece and I highly recommend that you read it. Dr. Gordis hits the nail smack on the head. He contrasts two different pictures of Jews. In one there is the little boy, hands held high in the air in surrender, completely vulnerable while a Nazi points a gun in his surrender. We know what his fate is — the fate of Jews for centuries past — death. In the second we have a different photo of a Jew. One where the Jew determines his own destiny, his own fate. A picture where the iconic image of the Jew as defenseless and a victim is transformed into an image where the Jew is now the soldier — strong, at home in Jerusalem not in Europe — able to defend himself and his loved ones.

Warsaw Ghetto - WWII

Warsaw Ghetto - WWII

Six Day War soldiers at the Temple Wall

Six Day War soldiers at the Temple Wall

These two pictures provide a dramatic contrast — in one the fate of the Jew lies in the hands of others while in the second the fate of the Jew lies in his own hands. As I read Dr. Gordis’ article I find myself agreeing with him that the world has changed seems to regret it’s decision of November 29th 1947 to partition the Palestine Mandate into a Jewish and Arab state. The world seems to regret having created the state of Israel and restoring the land to it’s rightful heirs — the Jews. Why?

Perhaps it’s because the rest of the world wishes to return all Jews to the ghetto where they can be periodically harassed and murdered without consequence. Or perhaps because the rest of the world needs a victim and a scapegoat on which it can blame all the ills of their society on — which in turn leads harassment and murder of Jews. Or perhaps it’s because the rest of the world knows that we are God’s chosen people and they hate us for that simple fact. No matter. We will not accommodate them. We wish for peace with our neighbors and with the rest of the world but we will not do so at the expense of our lives. As Dr. Gordis put it at the end of his article

[O]ne fact must remain clear: we [Israel] will not end the conflict at all costs. That is what the international community must demonstrate it understands. For on this Erev Yom Ha-Atzma’ut, as on all the others, we, at least, know well what is at stake. Given the choice between sending our children off to fight yet again, or of returning to the world of that first photograph in which someone else will decide if we live and for how long, almost all of us will choose the former.

(Gordis, Daniel, “Erev Yom Ha-Atzma’ut – A Brief Reminder About Purpose”, danielgordis.org, April 28, 2009)

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It never seems to fail that at some point history gets reworked into something other than what happened. It happens with current events — like the recent war in Gaza — but also with more distant events. Take the Arab-Israel war of 1967 — the Six Day War in which Israel roundly defeated the armies of Jordan, Egypt and Syria and captured the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights. In his most recent commentary in the British paper, The Independent, Bruce Andeson gets things completely wrong. In this piece, “Israel is trapped, and the chance of peace is ever more remote” he essentially blames Israel for the failure of the peace process and revises history to fit that blame.

With regards to the recent war in Gaza, Anderson states

It is easy to understand why the Israelis reacted as they did. Once you have suffered a Holocaust at the hands of the race which produced Beethoven, Goethe and Mozart, you lose trust in mankind’s benevolence: lose faith in everything except your own soldiers and weaponry.

(Anderson, Bruce, “Israel is trapped, and the chance of peace is ever more remote“, The Independent, February 16, 2009)

He portrays Israelis as losing faith in “everything except [their] own soldiers and weaponry.” Really, then what was the Oslo Accords and the Oslo II processes about? Or the Wye River Memorandum? Or the 2000 Camp David Summit? Or the Road map for Peace? Or the Annapolis Conference? He never considers the possibility that Israelis are right to lose their faith in the process when the other side does not keep its obligations or when the other side continues to send homicide bombers into and rains rockets onto its cities. No that doesn’t enter into Mr. Anderson’s analysis at all.

He continues in his tirade against Israel’s quest for peace and security by saying

Because of the circumstances in which their Jewish state was created, most Israelis believe that they have two existential necessities, and entitlements. They want to enjoy security and they insist that their neighbours recognise their rights to do so. That does not seem unreasonable. But it is. It fails the highest test of political rationality. It is not realistic.

(Anderson, Bruce, “Israel is trapped, and the chance of peace is ever more remote“, The Independent, February 16, 2009)

Why is it not realistic (not just reasonable) for Israel to expect to live in secure borders and for her right to exist be recognized? Israel is the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland (something that appears to be happening more and more these days among everyone else — why are the Jews to be singled out and denied this right?). The ties of the Jewish people to that land run uninterrupted for thousands of years and yet in today’s world Mr. Anderson argues that we should not expect to have these ties and our rights recognized by our Arab neighbors. Other countries, other peoples are seeing their rights recognized…why not the Jews? Why not the Israelis?

Then Mr. Anderson makes the most eggregious error in his commentary. He rewrites history and turns the 1967 Six Day War from a war of survival (where Israel is attacked first) to a war in which Israel sought out territorial gains

The first act of the current tragedy began in 1967, after the Six-Day War. Plucky little Israel was master of the battlefield. She had overrun a vast acreage of Arab territory. Almost immediately, even by those who had never been enthusiastic about the State of Israel, distinctions began to be drawn between the pre-’67 boundaries and the 1967 conquests. Israel had a tremendous hand of cards, strategic and moral. There was never a better moment for “in victory, magnanimity”.

Israel should have announced that unlike almost every previous military victor, she did not seek territorial gains; her sole war aims were peace and justice. [emphasis added] To secure them, she was prepared to trade her conquests, with the obvious exception of the Holy Places in old Jerusalem. On such a basis, and with huge international support, a deal would have been possible. But there were problems. At its narrowest point, pre-’67 Israel was only 12 miles wide. A tank thrust from the West Bank could have cut the country in two. Although the generals cannot be blamed for failing to predict the era of asymmetric warfare in which tank thrusts would only occur in war movies, their insistence on a demilitarised West Bank complicated matters. Then a temptation emerged, like the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

(Anderson, Bruce, “Israel is trapped, and the chance of peace is ever more remote“, The Independent, February 16, 2009)

And here he is completely wrong and exposes his ignorance and naivete. Apparently Mr. Anderson did not read the aftermath of the Six Day War. According to former Israeli President Chaim Herzog,

On June 19, 1967, the National Unity Government [of Israel] voted unanimously to return the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace agreements. The Golans would have to be demilitarized and special arrangement would be negotiated for the Straits of Tiran. The government also resolved to open negotiations with King Hussein of Jordan regarding the Eastern border.

(Herzon, Chaim, Heroes of Israel: Profiles of Jewish Courage, Little Brown and Co., Boston, 1989, p. 253)

Israel offered to return the territories in return for peace with her Arab neighbors. The response from the Arabs was the Khartoum Resolution of 1967 which incorporated the, now famous, three “No”s:

  • No peace with Israel
  • No recognition of Israel
  • No negotiation with Isreal

Even when Israel has acted to further peace she is met with an Arab response that demands more. Israel gave Egypt the Sinai peninsula in return for peace — a cold peace but at least peace. Israel made peace with Jordan in 1994 — perhaps the most amicable peace to date between former enemies in that area. And it has attempted, time and time again, to make peace with the Palestinians to no avail. It is not for lack of trying. Even when Israel unilaterally relinquishes territory as it did with Gaza the response from the other side is more terror. To be sure, Israel has made missteps in its pursuit of peace with the Palestinians — some considerably large missteps, others smaller. But Israelis have longed for peace since the beginning. They have longed to be allowed to live in peace in their ancestral homeland. And it is that longing that drives them to continue to pursue peace with their neighbors and the Palestinians.

Mr. Anderson ends his tirade by claiming

The country [Isreal] emerged out of tragedy. It would be heart-rending if its heroic journey ended in tragedy. Yet that is the likeliest outcome, and it would be Israel’s fault.

(Anderson, Bruce, “Israel is trapped, and the chance of peace is ever more remote“, The Independent, February 16, 2009)

No Mr. Anderson…that is not the likeliest outcome…and whatever happens it will not be Israel’s fault.

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