It’s strange how history tends to judge similar events inconsistently.
In 1948, Israel was at war with Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Syria, conquered territory that it had not been assigned under the 1947 UN Partition Plan, and the war resulted in approximately 360,000 Palestinian refugees.
In 1967, Israel was at war with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, conquered territory that it did not control under the 1949 Armistice Agreements, and the war resulted in approximately 200,000 Palestinian refugees.
The territory Israel gained in the War of Independence is considered legitimate; the territory gained in the Six Day War is taboo.
British Ambassador to Israel, Tom Phillips, recently echoed the view accepted by almost everyone in the world: “There are aspects of the occupation that distress me, having gone around the territories and looked at it, that I find hard to justify. I cannot justify the amount of settlement activity that is going on…I think this is a major obstacle to peace.”
There are different views explaining who caused the Six Day War. The fact is however, that Phillips and co. couldn’t care less about who or what caused the war. The way they see things, Israel began occupying Palestine in 1967 and continues to do so to this day. The Palestinian problem (as well as a host of other Middle Eastern and international problems) will only be resolved when the occupation is ended.
Israel marks Yom Yerushlayim this week – 40 years since Jerusalem was reunited, 40 years of Jews being able to pray at their holiest place on Earth. It is also 40 years of occupation. The dream of a Greater Israel, a return to all of Israel’s holy sites and a more secure Israel, has not played out as some might have hoped. Yom Yerushlayim carries with it forty years of baggage, making it difficult for many Israelis to celebrate.
As I personally struggle with this question, I remind myself that we’re not celebrating 1967 Day or Six Day War Day – it’s Jerusalem Day. A day for us to stand in awe of our capital city with its beautiful Old City and buzzing kanyon. To wander up Emek Refaim, see the packed hotels and witness the state of the art Light Railway come to fruition. Day to day, we Jerusalemites complain a fair amount about our city and all its problems. But for one day, we will see the bigger picture. Now that’s surely worth celebrating.