The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is tragic, not just because of the Israeli side of the equation and not just because of the Palestinian side of the equation. The situation is mutually tragic.
We were desperate, victims of the greatest crime in history – the Holocaust. About six million of us were killed from 1933 to 1945, some in camps, others taken from their homes and shot. Nations of the world closed their doors to us.
And we resolved to, finally and forever, end our victimhood. We said “never again” and by the boatload we headed for our historic homeland, Palestine, in pursuit of Theodor Herzl’s dream.
We bulked up the Jewish population that was already there and got to work. We irrigated, planted and dropped the seeds for a new start-up nation. We brought stable democracy to the Middle East. From America, we filled rectangular blue cans with coins, planted trees, baked brownies for a hospital named Hadassah and sang “Hatikva.”
It was our Israel as much is it was theirs.
Through hard work and ingenuity, like a circus performer who somehow wrestles a dangerous animal into submission, we tamed the untamable.
After 2,000 years, our people had come home. After the pogroms, the Spanish Inquisition, centuries of second-class citizenship, we were finally empowered to stand up for ourselves, to fight back and win.
The Six Day War is when the rubber met the road, when we proved that this was true. It was a terrible, amazing moment in Jewish history.
Little more than two decades after the Holocaust, it seemed the entire Arab world was gathering to wipe out the tiny Jewish state.
Israel did not quite have the reputation it has today, of being a serious regional power. Greatly outnumbered, the Israelis quickly defeated the opposing armies only by outmaneuvering and out-planning them. Much of the opposing air forces were destroyed by Israel on the ground in a surprise attack, after the Jewish state realized it would soon come under fire.
Escaping death and ruin by way of sheer willpower and ingenuity – that’s amazing.
But that’s not all of the amazingness of the Six Day War. Look through our review of Chronicle articles from 50 years ago in this edition and you’ll feel the commitment to Israel, the unity of purpose. There was no BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement in those days, no moral confusion.
Today, the territory lost to Israel by the powers that would have destroyed the Jewish state has become an anvil, chained taxingly to the Jewish people. Palestinians who live there have labeled the loss of Arab control over Palestine in 1948 a catastrophe, a “nakba” in Arabic.
Yes, their nakba is our redemption. It’s a reality we must face if we are ever to achieve a peaceful resolution to the on-and-off Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Make no mistake, the nakba does not excuse the murder of innocent Israelis.
But we must hear the other side, for if we never hear the Palestinians, they will never hear us, or accept our troubled history into their hearts. If we could just hear one another, we might someday negotiate an end to enduring grievances and pain for all of us.
Rob Golub is editor of the Chronicle.