Forty years after the Six-Day War there is no reason to celebrate in Israel

Forty years of the horrors of the repression of the Palestinians, the many other barbaric wars Israel has launched since then, and the defeat of the Israeli war machine in the last war in Lebanon have changed the image of Israel that has been fostered since 1967. Read also Yossi Schwartz on Israel: The 1967 War.

Forty years ago on June 5, the Israel ruling class launched one of the most well-known wars in modern history - The Six-Day War. As a matter of fact the Israeli ruling class won the war within the first four hours of the first day of conflict, when the Israeli air force destroyed the Egyptian air force on the ground. The rest of the war was devoted to the expansion of Israeli borders. It was in fact the continuation of the 1948 War. On the eve of the war the Israeli propaganda machine, with the help of the imperialist propaganda machine, was able to convince many that the Jews in Israel were facing a real threat to their existence.

Last week one of the most well-known Israeli historians, Tom Segev, wrote:

"Six months prior to the Six-Day War, the heads of the Mossad, Military Intelligence and the Foreign Ministry explored the possibility of Israel occupying the West Bank. Various scenarios that might lead to such an outcome were discussed, such as the fall of King Hussein's regime in Jordan, an Iraqi invasion of Jordan or a Palestinian uprising. At the end of the deliberations, all were in accord that the occupation of the West Bank would be contrary to Israel's national interest. They concluded that Israel would reap nothing good from ruling over the Palestinians, only bad - including an erosion of the country's Jewish majority and a violent uprising against the occupation... But what was dictated by sound thinking six months prior to the war was quickly forgotten that morning".

The war had nothing to do with the claims of the Israeli ruling class that they were fighting for the survival of the Jews and had every thing to do with their drive to destroy the relatively progressive regime of Nasser, the economic crisis in Israeli, as well as her drive to become the "strategic asset of the West" in the Middle East.

Forty years later very few people around the world believe the Israeli myth of 1967. Forty years of the horrors of the repression of the Palestinians, the many other barbaric wars Israel has launched since then, and the defeat of the Israeli war machine in the last war in Lebanon have changed the image of Israel. Now most people compare it to the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

The view among the Arab peoples

Danny Rubinstein, an Israeli journalist for Haaretz, in a recent article titled A 40-year journey to a low point writes about the understanding of the average person in the Arab countries:

"For more than a week now, the most popular Arabic television station, Al Jazeera, has been broadcasting man-in-the-street interviews in various places around the Arab world to mark the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War. People say the Arab defeat was caused by the impotence of the Arab rulers. They speak in generalizations, without mentioning the name of any particular ruler. For most of the speakers the war is associated with the president of Egypt at the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Interviewees in Cairo say the problem was that Nasser was surrounded by unreliable people, including the Arab rulers, his partners in the war."

According to the reports, Palestinians tend to deny the definition of "war" for the events of June 1967. "On the very first day at 10am everything was over. Is that a war?" asked one shopkeeper in Gaza. Then he gave an example: "Suppose the Israeli government decides today for the tanks of the Israel Defense Forces to retreat immediately from their positions in the West Bank, and they start moving toward Israel. How much time will that take them? At least two weeks. So how is it possible that they occupied the whole West Bank in three or four days?"

And the journalist concludes: "The conclusion: There was a conspiracy. Traitorous Arab leaders collaborated with Israel and helped it gain control of the territories. Many of the Palestinians who say this are referring to King Hussein of Jordan. They don't explicitly mention his name, but they hint that the Jordanian regime was and remains a secret ally of Israel, and it conspires with Israel."

The article continues and explains that Israel is now losing the war in Gaza:

"A number of Palestinian commentators have analyzed the 40 years of the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation... These analyses serve as a suitable context for describing the change in Hamas' position, which has been very evident in recent days. In Hamas they understand very well that the air force bombardments in the Gaza Strip and the arrests of leaders in the West Bank attest to Israel's impotence in dealing with the firing of rockets and missiles. They expect an escalation in the violence and demand that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas immediately stop meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

" ‘Israel is exploiting the meetings as a cover for its increasing aggression,' Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuheiri said over the weekend. A journalist from East Jerusalem has told of the great anger aroused by a newspaper photograph two days ago showing Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian parliament shaking hands with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni at a conference in Vienna. ‘This is a disgrace,' he said. ‘Tzipi Livni is lending a hand to the arrest of Ashrawi's colleagues in the Palestinian parliament, and Ashrawi is embracing her'."

New wars being prepared

Forty years after the 1967 War, the preparations for a new war against Syria and Iran are clear. Israel's Prime Minister may want to make a deal with Syria in order to isolate Iran, but under Bush's orders he cannot move in this direction.

As Haaretz wrote last week:

"Some of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's advisors are concerned that an initiative to renew peace talks with Syria might undermine Israel's relations with the United States.

"The Bush administration is not keen on reviving the Syrian track, as it considers Bashar Assad's regime problematic and harmful to regional stability.

"A government source said on Monday that resuming negotiations with Syria is not on the agenda for a scheduled meeting between Olmert and U.S. President George Bush in Washington in two weeks.

"Rather, the two are expected to discuss the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, the Arab Peace Initiative and ways of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons...

"The Bush administration has made it clear to Israel that it is determined to establish an international tribunal in the near future to try those responsible for the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri."

The fact the Syrian denies they were involved in this murder and it was contrary to Syrian interests is irrelevant for Bush who wants to destroy the existing regime. If Syria refuses to participate in this frame up, it could be the excuse for war. This would, in effect, be a second front in the imperialist war against the masses in Iraq.

Last week we were informed by Aluf Benn and Amos Harel, two Haaretz correspondents that:

"The majority view in Military Intelligence holds that Assad is well placed to carry out a surprise attack on the Golan Heights, but is unlikely to initiate a war.

"The Military Intelligence assessments that will be presented to the security cabinet on Wednesday show that the Syrian army is deployed along the Golan Heights with strengthened forces, having moved units of large-caliber rockets, similar to the ones Hezbollah launched against Haifa during the Second Lebanon War, up to the front.

Intelligence reports also note that the Syrian army has improved its fortifications and has received modern, Russian-made anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

"The Israel Defense Forces, meanwhile, continued its preparations on Tuesday with an attack on, and occupation of, a ‘Syrian' village during a major exercise in the Negev. Observing the exercise were Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. Similar exercises in recent years had involved the occupation of ‘Palestinian' villages.

"The structure of the village was similar to the ghost towns on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, which Military Intelligence maintain are being used by the Syrian army as defensive positions against the possibility of an Israeli attack.

" ‘We are preparing for the possibility of deterioration both on the Palestinian front and also, if we have to take action, on the northern front,' Ashkenazi said after the exercise."

The Israeli ruling class may have dreams that they will be able to repeat the victory in 1967 War, but this time a war against Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas will end very differently. The ruling class of Israel cannot rely on the pro-imperialist Arab regimes such as Egypt, Jordan and the Saudis to help them in the coming war. The opposition of the masses is too strong. It cannot rely on the US imperialists who are involved - up to their necks - in Iraq. It cannot rely on the European imperialists to fight on their side as in 1956.

The rulers of Israel cannot make a deal with Syria not only because of Bush, but also because of the Jewish settlers in the Golan Heights. They will go to a war because they cannot do any thing else. This is the logic of this system, which has functioned as a war machine for many years, in order to ensure the exploitation of the region by the imperialists. The Israeli ruling class acting in the interests of American imperialism is very dangerous to the survival of the Israelis themselves.

The scenario is one where whatever the Israeli ruling class does will be wrong - that is, from their class point of view. Considering this impasse it is useful to remind ourselves of what Marxists have said and written about the Jewish question in the past. The creation of Israel did not solve the Jewish question at all. It merely added a new and terrible dimension to it.

Trotsky on the Jewish Question

After he was expelled under Stalinist pressure from Europe, Trotsky granted several interviews to the press on his arrival in Mexico in January 1937. In one of these he expressed his views on Jewish problems. It was granted to the Jewish Daily Forward, a New York Social Democratic daily on January 18, 1937.

This is what Trotsky had to say on the Jewish question:

"On the Jewish question, first of all, I can say that it cannot be resolved within the framework of the capitalist system, nor can it be resolved by Zionism. At one time I thought that the Jews would assimilate into the peoples and cultures they lived among. This was the case in Germany and even in America, and for this reason it was possible to make such a prediction. But now it is impossible to say this. Recent history has taught us something about this. The fate of the Jews has been posed as a burning question particularly in Germany, and the Jews who had forgotten their ancestry were clearly reminded of it. I foresee a similar situation developing in France, where there are already signs of strong anti-Semitic currents, not to mention the sharp manner in which the Jewish question has been handled in the Eastern European capitalist countries in the last few years.

"If capitalism continues to survive for a long time, the Jewish question will be posed in the same sharp way in all the countries where Jews live, including the USA.

"I cannot say what will become of the Jews in a few hundred years, just as I do not know what will become of the Mexicans. I do know, however, that the Jewish question will only be resolved by the socialist revolution. I am talking about the Jewish question in general terms, because I know little about the internal problems of Jewish life. I can say, however, that under the socialist order, the Jews, too, can and should lead their own lives as a people, with their own culture, which has under gone a profound development in recent years. The territorial question is pertinent because it is easier for people to carry out an economic and cultural plan when it lives in a compact mass. Under socialism that question will arise, and with the consent of those Jews who desire it, there might be a free mass emigration, which no one would be forced to join, just as in general there will be no rule of force in the socialist state. For if a group of Jews maintain that they wish to live under socialism in the Jewish culture, which makes it possible for them t live in accordance with their own way and their own spirit, then why shouldn't they be able to do this?

"Concentration in a compact place is necessary for cultural development, because this makes it easier to extend cultural influence to broad masses through a strong mass-circulation press, theatre, etc. If Jews desire this, socialism will have no right to deny it to them. I want to underline that I am not saying that Jews must have a territory, because under socialism the Jews, like other peoples, will be free and secure to live wherever they reside.

"The Jewish question in all its ramifications can, however, only be resolved by the proletarian revolution. For this reason, the Jewish working masses should work with and fight alongside the workers of all countries for the accomplishment of this goal."

Trotsky recognised that with Hitler's rise to power in Germany, things had altered considerably for European Jews, but as we can see he rejected the idea that the Jewish question could be solved within the framework of the capitalist system or by the founding of a capitalist Zionist state. Trotsky stressed the point that under socialism those Jews who would like to live in a common territory would be able to do so, however he rejected the Zionist concept as one that would turn out to be a death trap for those who followed the Zionists.

In another interview Trotsky added:

"Socialism will open the possibility of great migrations on the basis of the most developed technique and culture. It goes without saying that what is here involved is not compulsory displacements, that is, the creation of new ghettos for certain nationalities, but displacements freely consented to, or rather demanded, by certain nationalities or parts of nationalities. The dispersed Jews who would want to be reassembled in the same community will find a sufficiently extensive and rich spot under the sun."

The problem was that with the degeneration of Russia into a terribly deformed and bureaucratic regime, not only did it lose its ability to lead workers towards genuine socialism, but within the Soviet Union the old anti-Semitic prejudices were actually revived by the Stalinists. The perspective of a struggle for genuine socialism was delayed for many decades.

In these conditions the Zionists were able to finally realize their project of building a Jewish state in Palestine. This meant that the Israeli nation was created on land already occupied by another people. Thus Israel came into being as a nation oppressing another nation - the Palestinians.

This has been the source of more than 60 years of conflict, of wars, terrorism and oppression. It has created barbaric conditions for the Palestinians, as we can see today quite clearly in Gaza and the West Bank and it has in no way provided a "safe haven" for Jews. It has become a tool of imperialism, in particular of US imperialism, within the Middle East.

Thus, Trotsky' perspective is as correct now as it was back in 1937.The only way forward for the Israeli masses is to overthrow the capitalist system and participate in the socialist transformation of the whole of the Middle East and the establishment of a Socialist Federation - only then will they be able to find "a spot under the sun."