Exactly 50 years ago today, in an attempt to annihilate Israel and to create a “pan-Arabist movement,” Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser closed the Gulf of Aqaba and began amassing thousands of troops into the Sinai Peninsula. The United Nations had withdrawn its emergency forces from Gaza and the Sinai leaving Israel exposed. On May 30th, Nasser signed a mutual defense agreement with King Hussein of Jordan, bringing in an eastern front to attack Jerusalem. President Lyndon Johnson had promised a “Red Sea Regatta,” a flotilla to break the siege on the Straits of Tiran, but ultimately, those words had proven to be hollow.
The fledgling Jewish State was left totally on her own.
Just 25 years after the Holocaust, it seemed that another Holocaust might be inevitable, so soon after our people’s return to its ancient Jewish homeland.
I was a young girl during the Six Day War, and I well remember the almost palpable tension in the air. We kept our television on that Shabbat, something unheard of in our strictly Orthodox Jewish home. We felt like our breaths were held in from newscast to newscast, and every second we learned that Israel remained alive, we felt we could exhale, for a bit.
My family, not at all wealthy by any definition, sent any extra dollars we could muster up to the Israeli Embassy for weapons and traveled down to Washington for a massive rally. The sense of unity of purpose united nearly every Jew, from the most Reform to the most Orthodox.
We felt we were staring into the abyss. How could this happen, historically speaking, within minutes of the Holocaust? I remember thinking whether or not I could continue believing in such a God who could see our people suffer so greatly, see us return to our homeland, only for this. It would be difficult for me to go on living, and put one foot in front of the other, as a Jew.
It is difficult to describe the sheer relief bordering on euphoria, we had felt when, after only six days of fighting, Israel was victorious. A renewed sense of Jewish pride, left dormant through 2,000 years of exile in which my people had experienced the Dhimmi laws, blood libels, pogroms, and culminating in the gas chambers and ovens of the Holocaust, was finally awakened.
Between June 5th and June 10th, Israel had defeated the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria and came to posses the Gaza strip, the entire Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria, and Eastern Jerusalem. After 2,000 years, the Western Wall, the holiest site for the Jewish people, which my grandparents and great grandparents could only dream of praying at, was finally in our hands.
One of the first decisions the Israeli government had made directly after the war was to grant unfettered access to Muslims and Christians to all of their holy sites.
For the very first time my brother went into town proudly wearing his yarmulke, rather than hiding it under a sports cap.
In 1971, when I traveled to Israel for the first time, we journeyed up Khinetra, which is now Syria in the north, to and down to Sharm el Sheikh, which is now part of Egypt in the south. No one would have dared to so much as lift a finger against us.
There was a heady sense of a march of history, going from the complete and utter devastation of much of European Jewry to this seemingly miraculous victory. It seemed like the forces of goodness had triumphed over the forces of evil.
Ever since the 1967 War, Israel had tried to use the territories it had captured in its defensive war of 1967 as barter in exchange for peace.
The first time was the Khartum Conference in August of 1967 with the Arab League, which resulted in the three no’s: no recognition of Israel; no negotiations with Israel; no peace with Israel.
Since then, we have experienced this land for peace equation being played out, over and over again. At Camp David in 2000, Ehud Barak had offered Arafat 94% to 96% of Judea and Samaria, shared sovereignty of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount compound, with the Jews controlling the Western Wall and the Arabs controlling the Haram al –Sharif, or the Temple Mount, and the “right of return” of thousands of Palestinian refugees.
This was followed up by an even more generous offer from Ehud Olmert to Mahmoud Abbas in September of 2008, where Israel agreed to forgo the entire sovereignty of the Western Wall.
All of these generous offers have been met with Palestinian abject refusal, without any counter-offers made. Instead, these Israeli gestures have been met with incitement to hate and to kill and a steady stream of suicide bombings, vehicular attacks, and knifings.
In the Summer of 2005, Israel took the magnanimous step of removing every semblance of Jewish life from Gaza, only to have that territory be used as a launching pad for missiles to rain down on the Jewish State reaching from Sderot to Tel Aviv, which has resulted in two wars.
Rather then actually meet directly with their counterparts and negotiate in good faith with the Israelis, the Palestinian Authority has waged an international public relations campaign against Israel in the United Nations and other international forums, including the media and on college campuses.
Israel might have won on the battlefield, but the Palestinian Authority and the rejectionist Arab world have won the P.R. battle in the court of public opinion. There has been tremendous erosion of support for Israel among the intellectual elite and the left.
On May 28th The Washington Post ran a one-sided screed, entitled “Occupied: Year 50.” Totally absent from the piece was any of this background. Also absent was the fact that the Arab League refused to accept the UN Partition Plan of 1948, or the Peel Commission’s Partition Plan of 1937.
There is a renewed virulent hatred on the left. Women like Linda Sarsour recently proclaimed that one cannot be a feminist and a Zionist, forgetting the female genital mutilation or the killing of daughters if they date someone outside of their faith that occurs throughout the Muslim world.
The hatred that is now in full bloom on college campuses has reached epidemic proportions. Young students are often afraid to cross the quad with a yarmulke on their heads or a Star of David around their necks, without being spat upon or taunted. In a recent video by Ami Horowitz, students from Portland State University pledged money to help Hamas in their suicide operations.
They blame this hatred on “the occupation.” But that begs the question: How can one get rid of a so-called “Occupation” when one of the parties simply refuses to sit down and talk with the other? It seems as though we are trapped in a vicious cycle.
History does not respect moral ambiguity. History favors winners. If we fought World War II with one hand tied behind our backs, I would not be alive, and we would all be speaking German.
The worst thing that has happened to Israel has been Oslo, which gave a sense of the moral ambiguity of the rightness of the Israeli cause. If the Israelis lack moral clarity, and are restrained by the court of public opinion, they will never win.
Oslo has been horrific for the Palestinian people because it has trapped them in the delusion that they will one day conquer all of Israel. That is what their leaders say to them in Arabic, and that the best thing they could do for their people is to martyr themselves in suicide bombings, car-rammings, or knifings. It condemns their children to die in a war that their great grandparents lost in 1948, 1967, and 1973.
Likewise, it has been horrific for the United States, because like it or not, in the eyes of the radical Islamist, America and Israel are webbed at the hip. That means when Israel is restrained from acting with strength, the United States’ image erodes in the Muslim and Arab world. It also rewards terrorists, and therefore sends a mixed signal to the Islamist terrorist that terrorism is an acceptable form of resolving international disputes.
However, a new pathway is finally emerging to get us out of that cycle.
Under the leadership of Daniel Pipes and the Middle East Forum, there is a new movement in Congress entitled, “The Israeli Victory Caucus.” The Congressional leaders of the Caucus are Chairman Ron DeSantis of Florida and Bill Johnson of Ohio. The philosophy of the caucus is that Palestinian rejectionism of the Jewish State has remained in place since before the establishment of the State of Israel. The Oslo experiment has brought Israel 24 years of making concessions to the Palestinians, which is interpreted by the Palestinians as signs of weakness.
As Daniel Pipes argued in the January edition of Commentary, “The Oslo exercise showed the futility of Israeli concessions to Palestinians when the latter fail to live up to their obligations. By signaling Israeli weakness, Oslo made a bad situation worse. What is conventionally called the ‘peace process’ would more accurately be dubbed the ‘war process.’”
Thanks to President Obama, we have a newly enriched, empowered, and emboldened Iran, and there are at least 100,000 missiles on Israel’s North, as Hezbollah and the IRGC, as well as ISIS, have gained a foothold in Syria and Southern Lebanon.
It is finally time to take off the gloves and to rid those who attempt to destroy Israel though deligitimization. There will be no going back, and we should never appease those who attempt to destroy us.
The days of capitulating to the illusions of Israel’s enemies of her destruction, even through more sophisticated tactics such as farcical negotiations and launching attacks from land acquired through Israeli withdrawals, are finally over. We must disabuse Israel’s enemies of the notion that eventually they can destroy the Jewish state.
We should never go back to the dark days of fearing a Holocaust on Israeli soil again.
Sarah N. Stern in Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy shop in Washington, DC.