Israeli leaders were not only contemplating ethnic cleansing, but also Genocide, according to declassified governmental minutes from 1967. Labor politicians were obsessed with the fear that the 1.4 million Palestinians in the territories they had seized would overwhelm the state’s Jewish majority one day. And these liberal Zionists encouraged the settlements, too.
The commemoration of the Six-Day War that resulted in the fifty-year occupation is a solemn moment to reflect on the magnitude of the dispossession of the Palestinian people, the multitude of daily indignities of life under occupation, and the relentless violence of Israel’s military against a defenseless imprisoned people. But to some liberal Zionists, like Israeli historian Gershom Gorenberg, the focus only seems to be about how “the occupation” hurts Israel.
Memoirs by American Jews reveal that the 1967 war revolutionized Jewish life: even leftwingers like Joel Kovel were initially swept up in the fear for Israel and excitement over its victory, but those fears helped produce the most powerful force in American Jewish life since: the neoconservatives who, inflamed by memories of the Holocaust, vowed to support Israel in the face of an indifferent world.
Khalid Saifi was only ten years old when the 1967 war happened. Much of his memories come in bits and pieces, but some moments will stick with him for the rest of his life. Khalid’s father, a refugee who fled from al-Walaja village in 1948, refused to flee yet again, however Khalid’s mother was adamant she get her two youngest children, Khalid and his little sister, out of harm’s way. “My mother decided to stay longer at the crossroads with me and my little sister, so we stood there in the middle of the intersection and watched my two sisters and their husbands walking away in opposite directions for a long while,” Khalid remembers. “My mother stood there watching them. I remember that image so clearly — her standing there watching my sisters walk and walk off into the distance.”
The Six Day War, 50 years ago, was a walkover, Norman Finkelstein relates. It lasted closer to six minutes than six days. But it had a stunning effect on American Jewish identity. Jews went from nebbishes to martial heroes.
Haifa Khalidi remembers the destruction of the Mughrabi Quarter in Jerusalem, June 11-12, 1967. “Two days and two night. I remember the noise, the dust, the screams, the tears. The residents had two hours to collect their belongings and leave their houses forever.”
“In the summer of 1967 I cast my fate to the wind and hitchhiked from Paris to Jerusalem hoping to live on an Israeli kibbutz, but a caprice of fate found me welcomed and married into a Palestinian family within weeks of my arrival in East Jerusalem, Jordan.” — Iris Keltz reflects on the 48th anniversary of the 1967 war in an excerpt from her forthcoming book, ‘Unexpected Bride in the Promised Land.’
New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren writes about a new Israeli film, Censored Voices, directed by Mor Loushy. The film deals with Israeli war crimes committed during the 1967 war which Rudoren describes as one in which Israel “started out fighting … for its very survival,” and Loushy is quoted as saying that “This is the story of men who went out to war feeling like they had to defend their life, and they were right, of course.” But they were not right, and nor are Rudoren or Loushy.