How does one commemorate the semi-centennial of a political cataclysm? What does one feel when one ponders the fact that four out of every 5 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were born, grew up under, and knew nothing in their political culture other than, military occupation by a foreign ruler who controls every facet of their daily life?
Today, June 5, marks the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, for Arabs an inter-state conflict between three of their countries and the settler entity in Palestine called Israel. Revisionist historians, including Israel’s own valiant New Historians, have long since recast the traditional narrative of that war, namely that it was not a David and Goliath confrontation – a weak Israel threatened with another holocaust , forced into a preemptive attack against its enemies.
As Gal Beckerman, reviewing Guy Laron’s book, The Six Day War: The Breaking Point, wrote in the Book Review section of the New York Times last Sunday, it was the total opposite. “In Israel, since the birth of the state, the military embraced an ‘offensive doctrine’ that looked for opportunities to alter Israel’s borders, giving it more strategic depth than the thin lines it achieved at the armistice of the 1948 war,” said Beckerman.
“David Ben- Gurion had described those borders as ‘unbearable.’ And although in public he presented Israel as a ‘small state under siege by powerful neighbors,’ Laron writes, behind closed doors , Ben-Gurion saw the Middle East as an open vista, beckoning Israel to use its military superiority to expand its borders.”
Because of its colonially doctrinaire rigidity, and its unrestrained hubris, Israel will in time find itself facing a day of reckoning, when the imperatives of history will begin to assert themselvesFawaz Turki
Continuation of the Nakbi
For those other Arabs we know as Palestinians, however, however, the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War is a mere continuation of the Nakbi, that calamitous event exactly seven decades earlier that resulted in the dismemberment of Palestine, and the land alienation, exile and pauperization of its people.
And that is what is triggered in the collective consciousness of Palestinian Arabs as the Arab world, and along with it the rest of the world, commemorates the semi-centennial of the Six Day War. For them it is a time when one continues to uncompromisingly assert one’s national identity, to pay tribute to one’s history, remind one’s self that a people do not die whose name is spoken, that they do not die if they continue to inhabit – and in turn be inhabited by – the heart of the country they left behind.
Meanwhile, in a move emblematic of the archetypal essence of Palestine’s culture, they pass the keys to their homes in Haifa and Jaffa, Lydda and Ramleh, Acre and Galilee, to their children.
Sadly, the outlook for the near future is bleak. Yet the outlook for the far future, as historical imperatives begin to implacably impress their domain in Palestine, is bright indeed.
What the Palestinians face today, exactly 50 years after the fact, is a seemingly endless occupation of their home and homeland and a relentless colonization as the same game is still ongoing since the last fifty years, an Israeli game whose only rule is this: do little and play for time, presenting the Palestinian cause as a non-issue, and putting Palestinians in a perpetual limbo and a future Palestinian state in certain doubt – leaving violence the only card these tormented folks could play. And, yes, violence must stop before peace talks are held. Right? Right. And so the nightmare goes.
No one with clout has ever confronted Israel over this. The only country that could’ve made a difference was the US, but the White House has shown itself, all the way from William Rogers in 1969 to John Kerry in 2014, to be spineless in this regard. In like manner, politicians in Congress, knowing that the domestic cost of standing up to Israel is too high, have shown themselves to be equally spineless.
What seems to be passing largely unnoticed, however, is the fact – a fact that has become increasingly obvious to the outside world – that by playing the game of zealous colonizer and brute occupier, Israel has projected itself as a racist state defined by a system of apartheid. And history attests to the fact that institutionalized racial discrimination and apartheid are implosive forces that carry within them the seed of their own destruction.
Because of all that, because of its colonially doctrinaire rigidity, and because of its unrestrained hubris, Israel will in time find itself facing a day of reckoning, when the imperatives of history will begin to assert themselves. Sure, you can sign a pact with the Devil, who will give you all the aid you need in your colonial enterprise, but then you will encounter that Devil again, lurking around the corner, asking for his fee to be paid.
As Ehud Olmert, then Israel’s Prime Minister, declared in 2007: “If the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished. In short, Israel must put up or be shuttered. It has, in effect, opted for the latter. Pity the brute.
Fawaz Turki is a Palestinian-American journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington, DC.