Israel will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 War with an official ceremony in an illegal West Bank settlement. This news is a week old, but it has gotten no attention in the United States.
Today the Cabinet will approve a decision about the celebrations to mark 50 years since the liberation of Judea, Samaria [biblical names for the West Bank] and the Golan Heights. We will also celebrate the liberation of Jerusalem. The Six Day War was one of the greatest victories in the history of Israel. It brought us back to parts of our homeland and completely changed our strategic situation. We will mark the 50th anniversary with a series of events. The main event will take place at Kfar Etzion and I thank Culture Minister Miri Regev and Minister Naftali Bennett for their cooperation in promoting these celebrations.
Bennett and Regev are far-right members of Netanyahu’s coalition. Kfar Etzion is an illegal settlement south of Jerusalem that was rebuilt in 1967 because it had been a Jewish town before the partition of the land in 1949, and the site of a massacre of Jews. It is today one of a bloc of 17 illegal settlements that include Nokidim (where Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman lives), Gilo (which Jeffrey Goldberg considers part of Jerusalem) and the sprawling militarized suburb of Efrat.
Rightwing Israelis have celebrated the news. From Haaretz’s coverage:
“A nation that is concerned for its future must always look back at its past and know how to continue its dynasty,” Bennett said…
Regev said, “Regardless of the conflict over these parts of the country, every Israeli should know and cherish these places as the cradle of the Jewish people and its culture.”
Meretz chairperson Zehava Galon said the celebration is of a massive human rights violations:
“Israel has controlled millions of people for 50 years, treads on them every day anew and denies them rights and sovereignty. Bennett and Regev want us
to continue living with this reality alongside us without considering the heavy price it extracts from us.”
In an editorial, Haaretz called the celebration an “anti-Zionist” festival, because it will delegitimize Israel by being “held, of all places, in its heart of darkness.” Haaretz insists that the Israeli public is not behind the plans (we’re not so sure of that):
Gush Etzion is the occupied land symbolizing the beginning of the messianic criminality that’s arisen. Choosing this spot for the state’s official stage to mark the Six-Day War’s 50th anniversary is an inseparable part of the deceitful attempt to force the public into a sweeping agreement when in fact there is only sharp division.
Haaretz notes the long endless history of occupation:
[The 1967 war] led to the growth of unbridled national arrogance, which exacted an awful price in blood over the past 50 years and turned the military victory into a moral defeat. In retrospect, it should be called the 50-Year War, not the Six-Day War, and judging by the political situation, its life expectancy appears endless.
It is remarkable that this news has not yet gotten any attention in the United States; it is sure to increase Israel’s international isolation when it does get around. The 50th anniversary of the “commencement of occupation” is bound to stir up a lot of criticism of Israel, and call on Israel’s defenders to offer explanations for that war, Alan Solow, a Jewish leader, warned at J Street in February. But J Street has issued no pronouncement on this news.
Netanyahu is clearly trying to shore up his standing in the polls, and fend off challenges from the farther right. But the celebration is a blunder from an international public relations angle. It takes the focus off a less-controversial war on Israel’s part and the iconic imagery of Jewish soldiers praying at the western wall. No one would argue that Israelis should not have access to holy sites in Jerusalem– a city it illegally annexed after that war– but this celebration will put the focus squarely on the occupation, and the 50-year history of oppression that is one of the greatest sources of instability in the world.
Israel has no plan to end the occupation. This news shows that the government feels that it can do whatever it wants because there won’t be any official consequences. The Polish people were occupied from 1795 to 1918 and they never stopped being Poles, and they’re a nation today. It is a lesson that people can be occupied but they can never be defeated.
Thanks to Scott Roth.