On the 5th of June 1967, Israel conducts a raid into Jordanian-controlled West Bank, bomb Egyptian airfields and engages the Syrian air force over Syrian territory. The attack on Syrian forces results in clashes on the ground in the Golan Heights. Within six days, Israel wins a decisive land war. Israeli forces take control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. These 6 days shaped modern Israel. Overall, Israel’s territory grew by a factor of three, including about one million Arabs placed under Israel’s direct control in the newly captured territories.
The first news story I remember which sparked my interest in Israel and its neighbors was the 2006 Lebanon War, fought between the 12th of July and 14th of August that year. I was travelling across the US when I started catching news reports on TV whilst waiting for my Greyhound bus connections. It was a 34-day conflict between Hezbollah and the Israeli military. Hezbollah is the Lebanese militant group and political party considered and classified by several countries as a terrorist organization.
The conflict began with Hezbollah firing rockets at Israeli border towns and attacking two Israeli vehicles patrolling the border. The attack on the vehicles resulted in the deaths of three Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah kidnapping two others. Later, five more Israeli soldiers were killed in a failed rescue attempt. Israel responded with airstrikes and artillery fire on targets inside Lebanon along with a ground invasion of southern Lebanon.
I remember thinking how can Israel just roll in and cause serious damage over a terrorist attack – around 1,500 people were killed during the war. I remember watching Beirut as its international airport was bombed and thinking how it was related to militants in the south. I wondered how one country could attack another whilst the world sits back and watches.
The next big story which affected me was the Gaza Flotilla Raid on the 31st of May, 2010. On that day six ships belonging to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla were attacked in international waters by Israeli naval commandos resulting in the deaths of nine activists. The flotilla was attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian aid and construction material. Israel defended itself declaring it was simply enforcing the blockade but the raid drew widespread condemnation. I remember feeling angry that Israel, once again, used excessive force but this time with humanitarian activists.
In 2005 I dabbled in communism and used to attend monthly meetings in Manchester, UK. One guest speaker was from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. It was the first time I’d really heard anything concrete about Gaza and the situation there. I never really thought about getting involved, if I’m honest, but I developed real sympathy for the Palestinian cause. When the attack on the flotilla broke I thought that regular people who had just tried to help, like the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign speaker, had been butchered by Israeli thugs. 8 of the 9 activists killed were from Turkey the ninth was an American.
On Wednesday last week, the 14th of November, Israeli airstrikes inside the Gaza Strip killed a prominent Hamas commander, Ahmad Jabari. Since Wednesday, rockets have been fired at Israeli settlements, bombs have dropped on Gaza and around 75 people have been killed – 72 of them Palestinian. Yet again civilians are caught in the middle and are suffering. Today, the fifth day, 11 Palestinians, all members of one family, were killed by an airstrike. An Israeli military build-up along the Gaza border indicates that Israel is about to expand the campaign into a ground operation. France is the latest to call for a ceasefire.
Will the cycle of excessive force and an international policy to look the other way persist? I am sadly of the opinion it will. The cycle has repeated itself since the 5th of June, 1967.