40 Years since June 5, 1967
This Tuesday, June 5th, marks 40 years since the commencement in 1967 of the Six-Day War, often referred to in the Arab world as an-Naksah (the Setback) and by more non-partisan observers simply as “the Third Arab-Israeli War”.
So much has already been written about the war and its four-decade aftermath that one sometimes begins to feel there is nothing new to say, or write or read. But even if this were actually the case, the Jewish tradition of retelling crucial historical episodes – evidenced most clearly in the Passover haggadah – obliges us to stop, remember and give pause.
This week’s Forward editorial [a must-read!] sagely reminds us that all peace-seekers must continue to press for a territorial compromise based on the pre-war borders of 1967. The alternative, the paper warns, “is chaos that will consume all around it in a whirlwind of destruction, and that is no alternative at all.”
But time for such a compromise might be running out. Jerome Segal (in Hebrew) argues that we now have a two-year window for transforming the Clinton Vision into a peace deal because, after that time, a Hamas candidate might win the Palestinian Authority Presidency and end any hope for true mutual recognition. But, the New York Times reported this week, there are even more acute dangers lurking on the horizon if the stagnant status quo is allowed to continue: Jihadist groups making increasing inroads into the hearts and minds of despairing and disillusioned Palestinian youth.
The dangers of extremism exist not only on the Palestinian side, however. Just this week, former Israeli Chief-of-Staff and up-and-coming political star, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, argued on the Web pages of YNet that the two-state solution is an “irrelevant concept,” and that discussion of the idea must be brought “to a halt”. One wonders what more “relevant concept” Ya’alon will offer the Israeli public as a way out of the current deadly impasse. If the Yesha Council of West Bank settlers has its way, the “solution” will come through a reoccupation of the Gaza Strip –- a massive military assault a la “Operation Defensive Shield” in the West Bank in 2002, followed by a rebuilding of the Gaza Strip settlements that were dismantled in 2005.
But the war in 1967 marked not only the birth of the “Greater Israel” settlement movement: It also began a process of increasing moderation within much of the Arab world, notes Dr. Eli Podeh of Hebrew University. Writing in Haaretz, Dr. Podeh points out that another positive result of the 1967 war was that it created a territorial outline for peace. But the conflict will not resolve itself: The outlines, visions and opportunities need to be acted upon. War is not inevitable, but peace isn’t either.
Dr. Mati Steinberg has recently argued, as well, that the Arab world has made great strides towards peace in recent years. This contrasts with Prof. Shlomo Avineri, a veteran dove, who forcefully argues an alternative view.
Finally: For those interested in comparing the competing historical narratives of the 1967 war, the following Web pages might be of interest:
* The historical chronology offered by the PLO Mission to the UN
* The historical chronology offered by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
* The historical chronology offered by mainstream Israeli news website, YNet
* Also of note in this context is the Web page offering of Americans for Peace Now, “Perspectives on the 40th Anniversary of the Six Day War” – which it describes as a “mosaic of opinions on the meaning of this anniversary”
Gay Rights in Israel
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, and the overwhelming stakes involved, sometimes cause us to lose track of other crucial issues within Israeli society. The question of civil rights for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgendered) community is no exception.
Several weeks ago, the Meretz USA news alert reported the good news that the Israel Police had granted permission for holding the Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem in June 2007. But in politics, as in physics, every action seems to generate an equal and opposite reaction: National Religious Party MK Eliahu Gabbay is promoting legislation that, if passed, would allow the Jerusalem Municipality (now dominated by the ultra-religious) to ban gay pride events if it rules that such events, “disturb public order, offend the public’s sentiments or on religious grounds.” The bill, which has the support of most of Israel’s governing coalition, is slated to come to a vote in the Knesset this coming Wednesday.
YNet reported this week on the formation of a gay party in Israel, named “Magi” (Hebrew acronym for “Israeli Gay Party”), as part of the effort to combat the continuing legitimacy of homophobia in Israel. The head of the Meretz party’s Gay Youth wing, Dror Mizrachi, responded by arguing that Meretz is Israel’s true gay rights party. He noted that, “the members of the Gay Party …. themselves say that Meretz promoted our rights and did things that no one else did.” Indeed, several weeks ago, the Meretz party issued a declaration in honor of the “International Day against Homophobia,” which stressed the party’s “commitment to fight for fully equal rights for the gay/lesbian community.”
Let us hope that, whether united under the Meretz banner or through separate efforts, the LGBT community earns a place of acceptance and true equality in Israel.