‘Never again’ – forgotten within 22 years
Like other teenagers during May-June 1967, I was bopping to the hits of the time. While The Tremeloes sang “Silence is Golden,” with Sandie Shaw’s “Puppet on a String” in hot pursuit on the official charts, something evil was unfolding—the golden silence of the west as Israel was threatened with annihilation, just 22 years after the Holocaust.
Remember- at that time, there was no “occupation.”
In 1964, the PLO had been formed as part of the plan to annihilate Israel.
Egypt’s President Nasser repeatedly stated that the Arab world’s problem was Israel’s existence. As he thundered in 1965: “We shall enter Palestine with its soil covered in blood…we aim for the total destruction of Israel.”
In 1965, the Mossad became aware of the Arab leaders plans for war on Israel.
The Syrian army regularly shelled Israeli farms and towns.
Israel’s allies yawned.
On 15 May, Egyptian troops massed near the Israeli/Sinai border.
The following day, UN Secretary-General U Thant nonchalantly reneged on UN assurances and removed the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) that had been set up as a buffer between Israel and its Egyptian neighbour, who daily spewed out hate filled blood curdling threats against the Israelis.
Two days later Syria massed troops on the Golan Heights.
On 20 May, Syrian Defence Minister Hafez Assad boasted “…as a military man, I believe the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.”
Today, his son Bashar al Assad, uses poisonous gas against his own people, as he turns his country into a barbaric, ravaged civil war zone, which serves as a warning to Israel.
In May 1967, Israelis were digging trenches in a large city park in anticipation of mass graves.
The world once again saw photos of Jews digging mass graves, just as they had during the Holocaust, when they were forced to prepare for their impending murder.
The ‘Voice of the Arabs’ radio demanded “total war” echoing Goebbels just 24 years before, to the rousing cheers of his fellow Germans.
Once again, the west responded with little more than sympathy, the Holocaust and mass murder of Jews still echoing in their ears from the stilled voices of those killed less than a generation before.
On 22 May, Egypt blocked Israeli shipping access to the Straits of Tiran, cutting off most of its oil supply. Nasser goaded Israel to fight and reiterated Arab determination to destroy Israel.
Arab armies mobilized almost 500,000 troops, 2800 tanks and 800 aircraft.
The noose tightened.
The all too familiar stress, tension and terror was becoming unbearable.
Yet, President Johnson warned Israel not to strike, (just as President HW Bush would demand when Israel came under Iraqi missile attack, 1991).
The State Department announced: ”Our position is neutral in thought, word and deed.”
Neutrality usually favours the perpetrator and the bully.
Incredulously, Johnson joined France in imposing an arms embargo.
The rest is history.
Israel’s lightning victory astounded the world. If that was not enough, the unthinkable happened.
Normally the victors set post-war conditions for the defeated countries, but this time something unique occurred. Israel the victor, pleaded for peace.
The satirist, Ephraim Kishon summed it up with his caustic remark, “so sorry we won, ”directing his words not only at the Arab countries but at the west whose “never again,” slogan proved to be hollow.
Yes, Israel the victor, pleaded for peace, but the defeated countries rejected it! The Khartoum Conference of 1967, attended by eight Arab heads of state, resolved ‘no peace, no recognition, no negotiations with Israel.’ Instead, the oil rich countries would fund the rebuilding of the defeated armies in turmoil.
And so began the contentious occupation. To date, the Palestinians will not agree to recognising Israel as the nation state of the Jews.
To those who choose or profess ignorance about the occupation would do well to educate themselves about the occupation’s origins, but more importantly, why it continues.
UN Security Council Resolution 242 specifically acknowledges that Israel need not return to the pre-June 1967 cease fire lines as they are not defensible. A country with a 13 km waist where some 70% of its population resides, surrounded by genocidal neighbours cannot now return to what arch dove Abba Eban called the “Auschwitz Lines.”
Israelis are therefore in an untenable situation with the “occupation,” being damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
Another hit song in May 1967 was Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s “Something stupid.”
It could well have referred to the mindless mantras on campus and elsewhere.
It’s not about the “occupation.”
Ron Jontof-Hutter is a Fellow at the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism and the author of the satire,”The trombone man: tales of a misogynist.”