Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Forty Years of Occupation

Forty Years ago today was the start of the 1967 Six Day War.  Arab nations were threatening an attack on Israel designed to end the country’s existence.  Israel launched a preemptive strike and in 6 days completely reversed the course of events: capturing the Golan Heights, all of Jerusalem,  the West Bank of the Jordan, and the Gaza Strip.  The Golan Heights were mostly returned to Egypt after the signing of the Israeli-Egypt Peace Treaty in 1977, except for a small portion. Syria and Lebanon dispute ownership of that small portion of the Golan Heights and, until that legal claim is settled, Israel cannot return it.[Correction: As 2 have noticed, my memory is getting spotty. The Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt.  The Golan Heights remain occupied.]

I am a pacifist, but the best one can hope that secular governments do is to live up to the standards of Just War Theory as codified in international law.  So, I do not fault Israel’s actions in the Six Day War.   A preemptive strike is allowed if there is threat of immanent attack, as there was in this case.  There is little doubt that Israel owes her existence to the brilliant actions of her military leaders forty years ago this week.  Further, international law recognizes the temporary occupation of enemy lands as “buffer zones” until one can negotiate return under conditions that guarantee security, as happened in ’77 with the Golan Heights.

But forty years is enough. It is time to negotiate the return of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem to the Palestinian people.  The Israeli occupation is something Palestinians call “the Catastrophe” and anyone paying attention knows why.  While I do not condemn Israel for occupying these lands in 1967, I do condemn (as do several UN Security Council resolutions and every U.S. presidential administration–Republican and Democratic–until THIS ONE) Israel’s building of permanent settlements in the Occupied Territories. Every such settlement is a nail in the coffin of peace.  So, is the Wall eating up more Palestinian land and cutting off people from their crops and orchards and walling off cities and villages (like giant open air prisons) from hospitals and each other.

The time is long overdue for a Two-State settlement with Israel within her pre-June 1967 borders, with a shared Jerusalem, a tearing down of all walls–and an end to all violence whether Palestinian or Israeli.  The Arab League has proposed full recognition of Israel and full diplomatic relations if Israel agrees to such a peace deal.  She should take it. Right now, only Egypt and Jordan recognize Israel. The Arab League deal would make peace with all of the Arab neighbors of Israel. Separate peace deals could quickly be made with her non-Arabic neighbors, Turkey and Iran.  The U.S. should push Israel to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians based on the Arab League proposal–and foolish “End Times” scenarios cherished by the lunatic fringe of American evangelicalism should not stop us.

UPDATE:  A recent poll of both Arab-Americans and Jewish-Americans show that both groups overwhelmingly support a just peace and a two-state solution.  News media to the contrary, both communities in the U.S. appear to agree on much else in the Middle East, too.  Can this agreement be harnassed to influence U.S. foreign policy or to influence Israeli and Palestinian politicians?  One step is for this broad agreement to become more widely known.

June 5, 2007 - Posted by | Israel-Palestine


  1. “The Golan Heights were mostly returned to Egypt after the signing of the Israeli-Egypt Peace Treaty in 1977 …”

    That bit might be in need of a little editorial correction. 🙂

    Comment by Gerrit | June 6, 2007

  2. Yes! I totally agree (though Egypt got back Sinai not the Golan Heights). It’s time to stop the settlements and put both parties on notice to make peace.

    Unfortunately, from what I’ve heard from candidates from both parties there’s little will to do so.

    Comment by Bob Cornwall | June 6, 2007

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