Today is the 4th of June, 2011. 44 years ago, on this day, Palestinians in the West Bank stood cheering as Egyptian fighter jets flew overhead, on their way to destroy the Zionist enemy and allow the Palestinians to return after Gamal Abdul Nasser fulfilled his promise to “drive the Jews into the sea”.
What they didn’t know is that the planes they were cheering were actually Israeli – they had just returned from destroying Egypt’s airforce, allowing Israel to defeat the combined armies of Jordan Egypt and Syria, all of which had been amassing for a final drive to wipe-out Israel, and capture the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank of the Jordan river – which included the holy city of Jerusalem. This is definitely one of my all-time favourite stories.
That said, the Israeli soldiers entering Jerusalem, the first Jews permitted to do so for 20 years, found that in the course of their 20-year occupation of the city, the Jordanians had attempted to destroy any evidence of the 3,000-year Jewish history in the city – all Jewish holy sites had been destroyed or vandilised. This is why Israel is now so tentative about dividing Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the Sinai was returned to Egypt in the peace treaty of 1979, which created a lasting, if somewhat cold, cessation of hostilities between the two nations. Gaza was returned to the Palestinians in 2005 unilaterally. The Golan is still under Israeli control and will remain so in all likelihood – they will only ever be returned if there is an assured peace deal with Syria and that does not look likely in the next century at least. However, since 1973 there has been a sustained cessation of overt hostilities and so long as there is peace with Egypt and peace with Jordan, this is likely to continue.
Unfortunately, the Israelis have since built a number of cities, towns and villages throughout the West Bank – making any kind of withdrawal very difficult. Even more unfortunate, however, has been the absolute refusal of its residents to take any action necessary to facilitate an Israeli withdrawal and the pece deal that this would require.
So that’s the thought for the day – the momentous war of 1967 and its current fallout, summarised in a few short paragraphs.