On its 50th anniversary, this special issue of Fathom maps the causes, courses and consequences of a watershed event in Middle East History: the Six-Day War of June 1967.
Michael Walzer, one of America’s foremost political thinkers, wrote his seminal book Just and Unjust Wars in 1977. He recalls that the book was born a decade earlier when, as an anti-Vietnam war activist, he found himself defending Israel’s pre-emptive strike against Egypt. “I had to explain the politics of distinction” he remembers, and make clear that “wars are just and unjust”.
Einat Wilf asks why the occupation is 50 years old. Her answer is that a simple counting of years fails to take account of the Arab and Muslim countdown until what they hope will be the end of the Zionism and the State of Israel. That countdown reflects the prevailing Muslim, Arab and Palestinian view that Zionism is a historical aberration that will not – and must not – last. Wilf shows that every Israeli effort to end the military occupation in a manner that would bring it peace and security, has run up against that Muslim, Arab and Palestinian refusal to grant legitimacy to the State of Israel and accept its permanence.
1967 marked a key moment in the story of how the Left fell out of love with Israel. Jeffrey Herf examines the response to Israel’s victory from the West German Left and the Communist regime in East Germany. Both, he writes, displayed “a kind of obliviousness to the similarities between older antisemitic stereotypes of evil and powerful Jews and the attacks on Zionism and Israel as inherently aggressive, racist and even exterminatory”.