Michael Freund served as Deputy Communications Director in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office under Binyamin Netanyahu during his first term of office. He is the Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), a Jerusalem-based organization that searches for and assists the Lost Tribes of Israel and other "hidden Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. In addition, Freund is a correspondent and syndicated columnist for the Jerusalem Post, and authors a popular blog on Middle East affairs, Fundamentally Freund. A native New Yorker, Freund is a graduate of Princeton University and holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia. He has lived in Israel for the past 19 years and remains a loyal New York Mets fan....
the core of the Middle East conflict is not the Israeli "occupation" of territory, but the Palestinian "preoccupation" with destroying the Jewish state
It has been 40 years since the 1967 Six-Day War, and the media and the Jewish state's critics would like us to believe that nothing good came from the war.
But as I argue in the column below, that is far from being the case - in nearly every field, the war yielded tremendous benefits for Israel.
And while the critics harp on the "occupation" because they want to pressure Israel into making more concessions - they ignore one fundamental truth: the core of the Middle East conflict is not the Israeli "occupation" of territory, but the Palestinian "preoccupation" with destroying the Jewish state.
By Michael Freund
It's that time of year again. Summer is here, the temperature outside is rising, and Israel's irresponsible critics are busy turning up the heat.
Deploying a potent mix of selective amnesia combined with some good ol' fashioned obfuscation, these "amnesiacs," as I call them, would have us all believe that nothing good ever came from the 1967 Six Day War.
Seizing upon this summer's 40th anniversary of that heroic triumph, they are trying to rewrite the historical narrative, injecting as much gloom and doom as possible in order to push Israel into making still more concessions to the Arabs.
Occupation, occupation, occupation - that is all the "amnesiacs" seem capable of talking about. How bad it is, how damaging it has been, and how we must bring it all to an end.
What a bunch of hogwash.
Harping on Israel's myriad alleged sins, and repeating them ad nauseam, does not make them so, and we cannot allow those who distort history, or who choose to forget it, to cloud our perspective any longer.
The truth of the matter is that the core of the Middle East conflict is not the Israeli "occupation" of territory, but the Palestinian "preoccupation" with destroying the Jewish state.
It is that, and that alone, which has fueled this conflict since the start.
As the late Golda Meir once put it, "When Arab statesmen insist that Israel withdraw to the pre-June 1967 lines, one can only ask: if those lines are so sacred to the Arabs, why was the Six Day War launched to destroy them?"
Israel's survival was a miracle, and the Six Day War was a blessing from Heaven. Its outcome made this country safer, stronger and more secure, and we should be celebrating it effusively with each passing year.
Al Gore may disagree, but I am convinced that if there is global warming in the world today, it is because of all the hot air being released into the atmosphere by the media pundits and left-wing activists who bash the Jewish state with unrelenting ferocity.
Take, for example, Uri Avnery of the far-Left Gush Shalom organization: "40 bad years" is how he summed up in a recent article the intervening period since Israel was saved from annihilation.
With a seemingly endless supply of vitriol at his disposal, Avnery denounces the "rot" that has set in, blaming "the occupation" that resulted from the war for everything from "destroying the Israeli Army" to poisoning the Jewish religion.
Then there is the BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, who posted an article last week on the broadcaster's Web site that could easily have been ghost-written by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas himself. Entitled "How 1967 Defined the Middle East," Bowen's screed asserts the legacy of the war to have been one thing, and one thing only: "Israel became an occupier."
Such third-grade level analysis, of course, ignores the various fruits of the 1967 conflict, many of which Israel continues to enjoy until today. It is not only bad history, but bad journalism, too, to provide such a biased and single-minded interpretation of such a momentous and noteworthy historical event.
Indeed, in just about every field imaginable, from economics to immigration to a national sense of purpose, the Six Day War yielded tremendous benefits for the Jewish state.
In the five years following the conflict, Israel's per capita GDP soared by more than 50 percent, exports nearly tripled, unemployment fell and the economy emerged from the painful recession of the mid-1960s. We surged past our neighbors, and Israel now finds itself on a par economically with various European countries.
The 1967 war also sparked a renewed wave of aliya from both East and West, igniting the Soviet Jewry movement and bringing a massive influx of Russian Jews to Israel.
As former refusenik Natan Sharansky wrote in his autobiography, Fear No Evil, "the Six Day War had made an indelible impression on me as it did on most Soviet Jews, for, in addition to fighting for her life, Israel was defending our dignity." This, he said, sparked Russian Jewry to embrace the "basic, eternal truth" that personal freedom "wasn't something you could achieve through assimilation. It was available only by reclaiming your historical roots."
As a result, over 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union have moved to Israel in the past four decades since the war, jump-starting the economy and fueling unprecedented growth in areas such as computer science and biotechnology.
The war inspired many thousands of Western Jews to make aliya too, with the number of North American migrants soaring from just 739 in 1967 to more than 8,000 in 1971.
Israel's defeat of its foes also brought a renewed sense of pride to Jews everywhere, as they watched the tiny, vulnerable state emerge triumphant against its enemies.
And for the first time in 1,900 years, thanks to the Six Day War, we were once again able to caress the stones of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and bathe them in our tears, as a free and sovereign people in our own land.
If that's not something to celebrate, then what is?
So to those who continue to carp on incessantly about the "disastrous results of the war" and the need to "end the occupation," all I can say is: Spare us your faulty hindsight.
If you really want to end the dispute with our neighbors, then tackle the Palestinian preoccupation with destroying Israel, and peace may just eventually come to pass.
---- from the June 13 Jerusalem Post