Do Some Israelis Wish That Their Country Had Not Won the Six Day War?

Recently I commemorated my grandmother’s Yartzeit. She died in 1968. She passed away in an exceedingly peaceful fashion . She was old and frail, but generally healthy. On the morning of her passing she went to Shaarei  Tzedek Hospital for a routine checkup. After talking to her for a few minutes, the doctor left her to get undressed. When he returned, he found that she had passed away.

A few months earlier my father had gone to Israel to see his parents. He was the only of their three children who lived outside of the country. We were not rich and overseas travel was more expensive in relative terms in 1968 than it is today. My father could only afford to see his parents once every five or six years. In 1968, he saw both his father and mother for the last time.

My father remembered one special outing from that trip. One afternoon my father hired a taxi and took my grandmother to the Kotel (the Western Wall of the Second Temple) and on a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City. My grandfather was too weak to make the trip. Since my grandparents were Orthodox Jews the trip had special emotional significance for my grandmother. It was her first visit to the holy places in the eastern portion of Jerusalem. Although my grandparents had lived in Jerusalem since they had emigrated from Romania in the 1950’s, this was my grandmother’s first visit to the Kotel and the Old City. Before the Israelis captured the eastern half of Jerusalem, Jordan prohibited Jews from being in any sections over which it ruled. My father had a particularly fond memory of the excursion. As the day was ending my father took my grandmother to the top of one of the hills in the Old City. From there they watched, as my father would tell me, a setting sun turn the city into a real “Jerusalem of Gold”. After my grandmother passed away, my father took some comfort from his belief that the visit to the holy sites left my grandmother with a sense of completion that allowed her to pass away peacefully. Naturally, enabling a mother whom he saw only infrequently, to make this trip, was also significant emotionally for my father.

I have been thinking about my grandmother’s Yartzeit and her excursion with my father more this year than I have in previous ones. I am sensing that an increasing number of Israelis are regretting that Israel won the war that made it possible to go to the Kotel and the rest of formerly Jordanian-occupied Jerusalem.

When terrorists killed four civilians in his city a few weeks ago, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai placed the blame on the “occupation” of the territories that Israel captured in that war as well the terrorist themselves,

We might the only country in the world where another nation is under occupation without civil rights. You can’t hold a people in a situation of occupation and hope they’ll reach the conclusion that everything is alright.

In fact, there are over 200 territorial disputes in the rest of world in which one country is accused of occupying another. It’s not hard to think of other places — say, Chinese- occupied Tibet — in which the occupied population is much worse off than the Palestinians. Moreover, the Palestinians have their own governments in both Gaza and the West Bank. In the latter, legal niceties aside, the PA possesses almost all of the powers of a sovereign state. It receives billions of dollars in foreign aid. If Mayor Huldai is truly interested in the welfare of the Palestinians, he would be trying to ensure that the money is spent on development and not, as most of it is, on lining the pockets of the ruling kleptocracy and using their media and education system to spread hatred of Israel and Jews.

The notion that the occupation is responsible for Arab terrorism distorts history. Arabs attacked Jews in what is now Israel for decades before there was an occupation or even before there was an Israeli State. The first Arab uprising against the local Jewish community occurred in 1921. Since then violent attacks on Jews have almost unceasingly continued, without any extended period of interruption.

Furthermore, one can envision only a limited number of scenarios under which the Israelis would not now be occupying the West Bank. On one hand, in order to avoid war at all costs, Israel could have chosen not to try to drive away the hostile armies that had had been massed along its borders in 1967. If those armies had never attacked, Israel would have been forced to keep its citizen army on a constant high state of alert in order to deter or repel a possible invasion. Also, with access to the Indian Ocean blocked, with Egypt denying it the use of both the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran, Israel would have been forced to conduct all of its shipping through the Mediterranean Sea. The need to keep the armed forces constantly fully mobilized and the commercial dislocations caused by the shipping blockades would have imposed an unbearable burden on Israel society and its economy.

This situation is, of course, inherently unstable. Its impossible to imagine enemy armies encircling Israel for the half-century since 1967. If the armies had not been withdrawn, either Israel or the Arab armies would have inevitably launched the war. Had the Arabs had driven the Israeli forces back into their own country — instead of Israel pushing the Arabs back (and acquiring territories in the process)  — the consequences would have surely been disastrous. Not only would the Israeli state have been destroyed, but, driven by their intense hatred of Jews, the invading armies would almost certainly have massacred much if not all of Israel’s Jewish population.

There is only one other way in which the occupation of the West Bank (the only territory captured in 1967 that has not yet been returned to the Arabs.)  could possibly no longer exist. Israel could have some point turned back over  the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority or some other Arab regime.

It is rarely mentioned that over 80% of the territory that Israel captured since 1967 has already been returned to the Arabs. In most cases the results of surrendering territory have been horrible for Israel. When Israel left Gaza, the population launched rocket attacks against Israeli communities in southern Israel. The Islamist militia Hezbollah shelled the cities and towns of northern Israel in 2006 from southern Lebanon. Israel had captured southern Lebanon in the 1982 First Lebanon War, but had retreated from there in 2000. Since 2006, the northern border has remained relatively quiet, but the outbreak of a new round of shelling from Hezbollah continues to be a constant threat. The establishment of the Palestinian Authority in part of the West Bank — as provided for in the 1993 Oslo Accords — led directly to the Second Intifada. This was a murderous four-year Palestinian campaign of bombings that targeted Israeli civilians. Hundreds lost their lives. Of all the territories surrendered, only the Sinai — returned to Egypt — has always stayed calm. But the peace with Egypt has been frosty. The Egyptians have never let relations with Israel has become friendly. Had the extremist Muslim Brotherhood managed to hold on to power in Egypt after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, relations between Israel and Egypt could have quite possibly also deteriorated into war.

If the autocrats that now rule the Palestinian Authority take over the rest of the pre-1967 West Bank, the outcome will almost certainly be equally as violent. That violence may not immediately follow the creation of a Palestinian State. But at some point the new Palestinian State can be expected to launch some form of warfare against Israel. The Palestinians have never acknowledged the legitimacy of the State of Israel or even of a Jewish presence in the Holy Land. According to Palestinian Media Watch,

The PA created an odious alternative history to denigrate the rebirth of the State of Israel and deny Israel’s right to exist. Since Jews, they say, have never had a history in the Land of Israel and they would have never started the Zionist movement on their own, an imaginative story had to be created to explain the Jewish renaissance in Israel. Accordingly, they teach that Jews were so evil in every country they inhabited for thousands of years that the nations of the world were forced to persecute and often expel them – as acts of self-defense. According to the PA libel, the repeated persecutions and expulsions of Jews are proof that the world agrees about the evil nature of Jews. Britain and Europe were suffering last century from their Jews in their countries, and therefore created Zionism in order to be rid of their Jewish “burden.” The Land of Israel was chosen by the Europeans, in this scenario, as the place to send the Jews in order to control and steal the “natural resources” of the Middle East.

Last February, Omar Himi Al-Ghoul, a columnist with the official Palestinian daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote an article in which he outlined what he described as the 10 obstacles to Arab democracy. Here is how he describes one of them:

The colonialist State of Israel which expels [the local inhabitants] and settles [Jews in their place] was created at the heart of the Arab world on the ruins of the Palestinian people’s nakba (i.e,’the catastrophe”, the Palestinian term for the creation of the State of Israel). This state is a time bomb exploding incessantly in colonial wars. The purpose of its creation was to consume the Arab peoples’ potential to develop, to thwart and neutralize every option of development in every country of the Arab world, to damage the project of complete liberation from subordination to colonialism in its old and new forms, to prevent the pan-Arab revival project from achieving its goals – unity, freedom, justice, and sustainable development – and to act to deepen the process of fragmentation in Arab countries.”

Last weekend Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas revealed his own rabid anti-Jewish sentiments in a speech to the European Parliament

…Just a week ago some rabbis rose up in Israel and explicitly announced and demanded of their government that it poison the water in order to kill the Palestinians. Is this not clear incitement? Is this not clear incitement, whose goal is to carry out the mass murder of Palestinians. We are against incitement.

In the past, Abbas and officials of the PA have accused Israel of stealing body parts from Palestinian terrorists have been killed; doing medical experiments on Palestinian prisoners; and, intentionally spreading drugs among Palestinian youth. There is no reason that the leaders of the PA would stop spreading such libels if they get control of a state on all of the West Bank. It is not realistic to expect that a Palestinian regime — whether it is formally a state or not –will not continue to teach its young to hate Israel and Jews — without that indoctrination eventually spilling over into significant Palestinian-initiated violence. If that violence is launched from a Palestinian state that rules over all of the West Bank, casualties are likely to reach record level. Geographically, the West Bank cuts into the center of Israel. A Palestinian state that encompassed all of the land up to the old pre-1967 Green Line would be adjacent to almost all of Israel’s population centers, closer to virtually all of its cities than any of the land that Israel ever turned over to the Palestinians. That means that aspiring terrorists from Palestinian-controlled territories would have a shorter trip to potential targets in Israel. More Israelis would live and work within the range of missiles and other weapons that could be fired from territories ruled by the Palestinians. Therefore, the existence of a Palestinian state is likely to make attacks on Israel more successful and to generate more casualties than today when Israel’s armed forces are able to have some control over what happens in the territories. Moreover, Israel would be forced — in order to defend itself — to launch military action against a Palestinian state in response to any upsurge of violence originating from that state. Unavoidably, innocent Palestinians would be killed in any Israeli retaliation. In light of all of this, the occupation probably decreases rather than increases Arab terrorism, thereby leading to less bloodshed among both Israelis and Palestinians. Yet, many Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora are so obsessed with their guilt over the occupation that they are willing to throw away the obvious security benefits that Israel gained from the Six Day War.

This year, for the first  time, I sensed that Israelis were expressing regret over Israel’s unification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War. Prominent Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy argues that Yom Yerushalayim, the Hebrew calendar’s anniversary of Israel’s capture of Jerusalem should be transformed from a day of celebration into a day of mourning

One day Jerusalem day will become a national day of mourning. … The 28th of Iyar will enter Israel’s mourning day calendar, sandwiched between the Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Tisha B’Av —  a  day to commemorate the destruction of the dream that falls before the day commemorating the destruction of the Temple. …

This holiday was and remains the religious chauvinists’ holiday, celebrated by a bullying and screeching minority, who mark it in their characteristic manner. They celebrate Jerusalem’s only joy — gloating at other’s misfortunes.

It’s clear, that had Levy been the leader of Israel, he would have kept the country out of the Battle of Jerusalem, But how would an Israel led be Levi — or Mayor Huldai for that matter — have handled the May 1967 crisis sparked by the blockade of Israeli shipping in the Straits of Tiran and the massing of hostile armies along Israel borders? Would they have let the blockade stay in place indefinitely? Would they not have launched preventive strikes against  the armies encircling Israel, and refrained from sending Israel’s military into combat until the armies actually attacked Israel? Moreover, if in defending against these attacks, Israel would have driven these hostile armies backwards, would they have immediately surrendered any territories captured in the process after hostilities ceased — in order to avoid the allegedly practical and moral pitfalls that are inevitably associated with “occupation”? Or, would everything have worked out better if Israel would have not have won the war and let the situation on the ground return to the supposed state of bliss that existed before the Six Day War?

Israel’s enemies in the Middle East have been conducting a violent hundred year campaign not only against the existence of a Jewish State but to keep Jews out of pre-Israel Palestine. Left-wing critics like Levy and Huldai overlook this and I believe that this oversight is deliberate. Thus, those who criticize Israel for blocking the implementation of a “two-state solution” conveniently ignore that neither Mahmoud Abbas or any other prominent Palestinian Arab has ever acknowledged that Jews have any special spiritual or historical connection to the place where the Jewish State is located. The Palestinian campaign against Israel is also rooted – in no small part- in the Muslim conviction that Jews are infidels who have no right to their own state. Thus, even the establishment of a Palestinian State will almost certainly not mollify the Palestinians and they would continue their efforts to destroy Israel and kill Jews.

It is against this background of  unceasing Palestinian hatred of Jews that the Jewish joy over the Israeli capture of formerly Jordanian-occupied Jerusalem is best understood. The motivation for the joy was the Jordanians denying access to the Temple Mount.  Levy’s assertion that Israel’s celebration of its capture of Jerusalem is a product of religious chauvinism is absurd. What we were celebrating was our our newly-restored ability, for the first time in two thousand years, to have control over the holiest place in our religion. If Levy mourns the return of East Jerusalem to Jewish control, let him explain how “social justice” or “pluralism” were furthered by preventing my grandmother from visiting what she considered the most sacred site on earth for almost all of the two decades that she lived in Jerusalem? Where were all these self-proclaimed champions of civil and human rights when — for a nineteen-year interval between the creation of Israel and the Six Day War — Jordan barred all Jews from the sections of Jerusalem that it controlled?

Such questions have more than historical interest. They have contemporary significance. For decades, the minds of Palestinian Arabs have been corrupted by the dictatorial regimes that ruled over them. Through their media outlets and their school curricula they have indoctrinated many generations of their subjects into the hatred of Jews and Israel. Therefore, it can been predicted with almost perfect certainty that no Jews will be allowed to live or tread  on any land over which the Palestinians exercise complete sovereignty. Furthermore, based on past behavior, it can also be safely foreseen, that the rest of the world will not much be bothered by such blatant anti-Jewish discrimination.

In today’s Middle East, it is only Israel that has and will continue to guarantee free access, to the adherents of all religions, to the sites in Jerusalem to that they hold sacred. This alone should provide sufficient reason for the whole international community to celebrate  the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli rule.

About the Author
Martin Krossel is a freelance political journalist living in New York
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