The Six Day War has endured for 50 years

Tony Gosling tony at
Sat Jun 3 02:18:55 BST 2017

The Six Day War has endured for 50 years
This conflict has caused untold misery for those living its consequences.
Tony Walker - Show comments
A week today the world will note the 50th 
anniversary of the start of the most enduring 
conflict of the modern era, and one which has 
caused untold misery for those living with the consequences.
On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive 
strike against surrounding Arab states in 
retaliation for an Egyptian blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba.
In a matter of hours, Israel had destroyed 90 per 
cent of Egypt's Soviet-supplied air force, and 
over succeeding days, in what became known as the 
Six Day War, it seized the Sinai Desert and Gaza 
Strip from the Egyptians, Jerusalem and the West 
Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria.
Overnight, the Jewish state trebled the size of territory under its control.

Moshe Dayan, Israeli Minister of Defence during the Six Day War

By any standards this was an extraordinary 
military achievement, but the question a half 
century later is whether Israel, as an occupier 
of several million Palestinians, has been cursed by that success.
Might it not have been desirable for the 
country's leaders to declare victory and pull 
back to defensible boundaries, and thus avoid the 
opprobrium that inevitably accompanies occupation?
I can tell you, having observed it in various 
parts of the Middle East over many years, that 
occupation is as corrosive for the occupiers as it is for the occupied.
Anticipating criticism in the letters pages, 
let's assert that Israel was a victim of 
aggression by the Arabs led by Egypt's Gamal 
Abdel Nasser, that it had every right to defend 
itself to the best of its ability and, in the 
process, make use of territory gained in the 
conflict to negotiate a just peace.
What a smashing victory in 1967 did not entitle 
Israel to was to be a permanent occupier of 
territory and its people and settlers of land 
seized in war in defiance of international law.
Much will be published in the next several days 
hailing a stunning victory, but significantly 
less attention will be paid to voices in Israel 
who have sought to question that triumphalist perspective.
We should heed these voices since they represent, 
in many cases, fine Jewish traditions of moral 
courage and intellectual curiosity.
The distinguished Israeli writer, Amos Oz, had 
this to say in the aftermath of the 1967 war: "We 
are condemned now to rule people who do not want 
to be ruled by us. I have fears about the kind of 
seeds we will sow in the near future in the 
hearts of the occupied. Even more, I have fears 
about the seeds that will be planted in the hearts of the occupiers."
Some might describe Oz as a prophet without honour in his own country.
Or Benny Morris, the historian, quoted in The 
Guardian who said of the great paradox of the Six Day War victory:
"On the one hand, it contributed to peace because 
it was so decisive that it persuaded the Arab 
regimes that Israel couldn't be beaten militarily 

 On the other hand, it gave rise in Israel to a 
messianic right-wing expansionism and ideology 
that had not really existed before 1967."
Or Tom Segev, author of the definitive work on 
the 1967 war, 1967: Israel, the War and Year that 
Transformed the Middle East, who observed in 2007 on the 40th anniversary:
"Forty years of oppression and Palestinian 
terrorism, both extremely cruel, have undermined 
Israel's Jewish and democratic foundations."
It is interesting to compare Australia's cautious 
responses to Israel's 1967 war victory with 
alignments of today in which conservative 
politicians fall over themselves to identify with 
Israeli right-wing nationalists wedded to settlements on Palestinian land.
The recent visit to Australia by Israeli Prime 
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a case in point. 
Hardly a word was heard from government ministers 
about Israel's continued settlement expansion.
This brings us to the arrival in the White House 
of a man who has described peace between Israel 
and the Palestinians as the "ultimate deal".
On his visit to the Middle East this month, 
including time in Saudi Arabia, in Israel and in 
the occupied Palestinian territories Donald Trump 
evinced what seemed like a naive faith in his 
ability to bring about a resolution of arguably 
the world's most vexed conflict.
But if there is reason for the slightest optimism 
it may well lie in Trump's unpredictability, and 
one other important ingredient best summed up by 
the Arab saying: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Thus, Israel and the Sunni Arab world led these 
days by Saudi Arabia – in lieu of an impoverished 
Egypt – might find common ground in their fear 
and loathing of the Islamic Republic of Iran 
whose shadow is lengthening across the entire Middle East.
Trump left the region without making any concrete 
suggestions about a way forward, and may well 
prove to be a false god, but at least in his 
public statements he did no harm. Fifty years 
after the Six Day War remade the contours of the 
Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians deserve a fresh start.
Tony Walker is the co-author of Arafat: The 
Biography and a former Middle East correspondent for the Financial Times. 
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So much emphasis is placed on select Jewish participation in Bormann 
companies that when Adolf Eichmann was seized and taken to Tel Aviv 
to stand trial, it produced a shock wave in the Jewish and German 
communities of Buenos Aires. Jewish leaders informed the Israeli 
authorities in no uncertain terms that this must never happen again 
because a repetition would permanently rupture relations with the 
Germans of Latin America, as well as with the Bormann organization, 
and cut off the flow of Jewish money to Israel. It never happened 
again, and the pursuit of Bormann quieted down at the request of 
these Jewish leaders. He is residing in an Argentinian safe haven, 
protected by the most efficient German infrastructure in history as 
well as by all those whose prosperity depends on his well-being.
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