INTO THE FRAY Palestine: What if the Six-Day War never took place?

IDF paratroopers a Western Wall Western Wall shortly after its capture.in June 1967 (Credit: IDF website)

By MARTIN SHERMAN

If the “West Bank” was part of the “Hashemite Kingdom” up to 1967, how did it suddenly become the Palestinians’ long-yearned-for homeland which, up until then, they were submissively willing to cede to an alien potentate?

Not since the time of Dr. Goebels [Head of the Nazi Propaganda Machine] has there ever been a case in which continual repetition of a lie has born such great fruits…Of all the Palestinian lies, there is no lie greater or more crushing than that which calls for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank… — From “Palestinian Lies” in Ha’aretz, 30–7–76, by former far-Left Meretz Education Minister, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein.

As the new elections approach, the “Palestinian problem” is once again likely to dominate much of the inter-(and intra-) party debate. In many ways this debate is entirely superfluous. After all, a simple mental experiment will suffice to strip away the veil of mendacity shrouding the Palestinian grievances against Israel.

Imagine for a moment…

To demonstrate this, imagine for a moment that the 1967 Six Day War, in which several Arab armies marshalled their forces with the undisguised intention to annihilate Israel, never took place. Imagine that Israel had not been compelled to launch a preemptive strike in self-defense to thwart the Arabs’ openly proclaimed aim of total genocide that resulted in it taking over Judea-Samaria (a.k.a. the “West Bank”) — which the Palestinians now contend is their long-yearned for homeland.

Then ask yourself: If that war had not occurred, where would “Palestine” be?

After all, but for this war, the “West Bank” would not have fallen under Israeli administration. Surely then, the Palestinians would have no grievances against the Jewish state and there would be no charges of Israel “occupying Palestinian lands” and dispossessing the “Palestinians” from their “homeland”.

Sadly, this is not the case. Charges of “occupation” of Palestinian land and dispossession of the Palestinians were widespread long before Israel had control of a square inch of the “West Bank.”

“We shall enter Palestine with its soil …saturated in blood”

Egyptian President Abdul Gamal Nasser

Indeed, as early as March 8, 1965, over two years before the Six-Day War, Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt, proclaimed his bloodcurdling intent: “We shall not enter Palestine with its soil covered in sand, we shall enter it with its soil saturated in blood”.

But what “Palestine” was he referring to? It certainly was not the “West Bank” and Gaza, which were under Jordanian and Egyptian rule respectively. It could only be the territory within the pre-1967 borders of Israel — the very borders to which Israel is being pressured to return in order to ensure…peace.

Similarly savage sentiments were expressed by Ahmad Shukeiri, Yasser Arafat’s predecessor as chairman of the PLO. Indeed, only days prior to the outbreak of the Six-Day War, in a somewhat premature flush of triumph, he crowed: “D Day is approaching. The Arabs have waited 19 years for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation…

Ominously, he threatened: “This is a fight for the homeland–it is either us or the Israelis. There is no middle road … We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants and as for the survivors — if there are any — the boats are ready to deport them.”

An ephemeral “homeland

Ahmad Shukeiri, Yasser Arafat’s predecessor

Here again, Shukeiri’s use of the words “liberation” and “homeland” is revealing…and damning for current Palestinian claims.

After all, they clearly did not apply to the “West Bank” or the Gaza Strip, since both were under Arab rule and certainly not considered the “homeland” towards which Palestinian “liberation” efforts were directed.

The true significance of these terms emerges with stark clarity from the text of the original version of the Palestinian National Charter — formulated in 1964, a full three years before the “West Bank” fell under Israeli administration.

In it, Article 16 states: “The liberation of Palestine… [is] necessitated by the demands of self-defense” and “the Palestinian people look forward to [international] support… in restoring the legitimate situation to Palestine… and enabling its people to exercise national sovereignty and freedom.”

But Article 24 stipulates precisely what was not included in the “homeland” of “Palestine” and where sovereignty was not sought to be exercised. Indeed, it unequivocally forswears Palestinian claims to “any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Gaza.”

It is difficult to imagine a more authoritative source for exposing as bogus the Palestinian claim that the “West Bank” and Gaza comprise their “ancient homeland.”

An anomalous “nation”?

This, of course, creates the remarkably anomalous situation we have today.

On the one hand, the Palestinians profess that they are willing to forego all the territory they claimed as their pre-1967 “homeland”, but on the other, obdurately demand for their post-1967 “homeland” a completely different territory, which they explicitly excluded from their previous homeland demands.

It would be difficult to find any historical precedent of such a dramatic metamorphosis of an envisioned “homeland”, in which there is not an overlap of a single square inch between the territory originally claimed and that claimed only a few years later.

This is not a trivial matter. For a sense of Nationalism is driven by a sense of belonging, inextricably associated with geographical sites in the homeland, where great events took place that generated a distinct national historical memory and consequent coherent national identity.

But if such nation-generating sites were located in pre-1967 Palestine, what such sites could there possibly be in post-1967 Palestine that could generate a sense of nationhood — since the Palestinians themselves conceded that, up to 1967, it did not constitute part of their homeland? Indeed, if the “West Bank” was part of the “Hashemite Kingdom” up to 1967, how did it suddenly become the Palestinians long-yeaned-for homeland which, up until then, they were so willing to cede submissively to an alien potentate.

“Liberation of the homeland” means “annihilation of Israel”

Clearly then, the aspirations of the Palestinians have nothing to do with their attachment to the land, but everything to do with the detachment of Jews from the land — i.e. driving the Jews from any portion of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Indeed, even within the pre-1967 lines, long before today’s alleged “root causes of the conflict” (.i.e. “occupation” and “settlements”) were part of the discourse, much less facts on the ground, Israel was condemned as a colonial, fascist, expansionist power.

According to Article 19: “Zionism is a colonialist movement in its inception, aggressive and expansionist in its goal, racist in its configurations, and fascist in its means and aims. Israel, in its capacity as the spearhead of this destructive movement and as the pillar of colonialism, is a permanent source of tension and turmoil in the Middle East.”

The pre-1967 implication is clear. To remove enduring “tension and turmoil” in the region, their “source” — Israel — must be removed.

Clearly then, the only conceivable “plain-English” translation for the “liberation of the homeland” must be the “annihilation of Israel.”

Denying all ties between Jews & “Palestine”

The 1964 Palestinian National Covenant was replaced by a 1968 version, which, in the guise of “the liberation of Palestine,” continued to advocate the destruction of Israel as a necessary precursor for Mideast peace — in blatantly explicit terms.

Article 22 states that the “liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.”

Any thoughts that this reference was to the post-1967 “occupied territories” is quickly dispelled by Article 19, which declares: “The partition of Palestine in 1947, and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time…

Article 20 delves even further back into history — to 1917 — to deny the validity of Jewish statehood in any portion of the Holy Land: “The Balfour Declaration, the Palestine Mandate System, and all that has been based on them are considered null and void. The claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine are not in agreement with the facts of history and the conception of what constitutes statehood.”

“Palestine” is where the Jews are

So, going back to our mental experiment and the original question it posed: If the 1967 Six-Day War had never taken place and the “West Bank” had remained under the rule of the Hashemite Kingdom, where would “Palestine” be?

The inevitable answer would be: Wherever the Jews are …

Is it too much to hope that simple truths will determine attitudes in the next election?

Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.