On this memorable day of commemoration, let me recommend two interviews:
- With journalist Jeffrey Goldberg on “On the Media” – broadcast on NPR during the weekend of June 2-3, 2007.
- And with Meretz USA executive director, Charney Bromberg, reflecting on the continuing relevance of and challenges to the peace camp, transcribed on the “Swords and Ploughshares” Web site.
Finally, the following is J. Zel Lurie’s column written for publication in the Jewish Journal of South Florida, June 5:
Today is the 40th anniversary of the first day of the Six Day War. June 5, 1967 was a day of anguish followed by euphoria for Jews all over the world.
I was awakened at 6 AM by a call from my daughter in Israel. It was 1 PM in Israel. The Egyptian air force had been destroyed, but my daughter did not know it. Neither did the rest of the world. King Hussein in Jordan believed the Egyptian radio’s false boasts of victory and was about to enter the fray.
I was worried sick for my family and for Israel. I rushed to the UN, which I was covering for the Jerusalem Post. I found the Russian Ambassador was delaying an emergency meeting of the Security Council. He had not received the news. Neither had the Israeli delegation. At least they weren’t talking.
At lunch time, the atmosphere changed. Abba Eban’s deputy told me: “The war must be going well. The Russian Ambassador is now hollering for an emergency meeting of the Security Council.”
But I still had no real news. The BBC editors in London were sitting on a scoop from their stringer in Jerusalem who had wandered into the Knesset and found the delegates surprisingly celebrating. He learned why and cabled it. The BBC editors refused to broadcast the news of the destruction of the Egyptian air force without a confirmation.
It was still a scoop when it was finally broadcast five hours later and picked up by the news wires: “BBC reports that…” My anxiety and that of all Jews was finally relieved.
The Israeli air force had followed a carefully planned program which had been rehearsed for almost a year. The first wave bombed the runways so no planes could take off. Then wave after wave destroyed the planes.
It was a gamble. Less than a dozen planes were left behind to defend the country from a surprise attack by Syria or any other enemy.
The gamble paid off. On the fourth or fifth day, Syria was attacked and conquered. In six days all of Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights were occupied by Israel.
The 40th anniversary of this stunning victory will be celebrated all over the world. It is also the 40th anniversary of the occupation and its many evils which has been the subject of many of my columns. But not this week.
It was a stunning victory that will never be repeated. The enemy is no longer a state with an army and air force. The enemy is suicide bombers. The enemy is guerillas firing home-made rockets and then disappearing.
Last week, the Israel air force used one of its sophisticated and costly bombs to zero in on a car carrying three Gaza Hamasniks and a home-made rocket to a launching site. But 20 others got through and about 15 landed in Israel. A house was hit in Sderot while Prime Minister Olmert was visiting in another section of the town.
American leftists and Palestinian students have seized on the Israel army’s preparation for war to call the Six Day War a war of aggression. They forget that in mid-May the Egyptian dictator, Gamel Abdel Nasser, had demanded that the UN withdraw its peace-keeping force from Gaza. A week later Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran preventing tankers from delivering Iranian oil to Eilat. At that time Israel was getting a third of its oil supply from Iran.
These were acts of war. The Israeli Defense Forces could reply and did so on June 5, 1967.
This is no longer possible. The IDF can destroy Hamas installations but they can’t defeat
it. They thought that they could knock out Hezbolla and its rockets last summer. This was a costly mistake. Bombing Iran and its potential nuclear weapons is impossible. So what to do.
Israel can try diplomacy, beginning with Syria. I don’t know, and neither does Israel. whether Bashir Assad is any more interested in peace than his father before him. But he is certainly interested in starting the peace process. Israel and the United States have been hemming and hawing about responding to Bashir’s peace overtures.
The United States wants Syria to stop funneling into Iraq suicide bombers from all over the Moslem world. Israel would like Syria to kick out the leaders of Hamas and Islam Jihad who are holed up in Damascus, and stop supporting these terrorist organizations. Israel also wants Syria to divorce Hezbolla, to stop sending them Syrian arms and Iranian rockets and money.
They are not going to achieve these worthwhile objectives unless they talk to Bashir Assad and break his current isolation as a sponsor of terrorism.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met for the first time recently at a conference in Egypt with the Syrian Foreign Minister. The State Department announced that it was only to say hello. I doubt that but in any event it was a significant hello.
It was a signal to Prime Minister Olmert to consider responding to Assad’s signals. The New York Times on May 27 published a 3-column photo of an Israeli peace demonstration. Large Hebrew signs “ledaber im Surya,” talk to Syria, dominated the photo. The story quoted Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich who negotiated in vain with Syria in the 90s. He said:
“I can’t imagine a quick negotiation or an easy fix with Syria. But if an Arab leader says he wants to make peace, any Israeli leader must take advantage of the opportunity.”
It’s too early for my friends in a Golan Heights kibbbutz to begin worrying about losing their homes. But peace with Syria is in the air.