June 6, 2016 marks the 49th anniversary of Israel’s miraculous victory in the Six Day War. This was a war fought against terrible odds, in self-defense of the young nation of Israel. And it is a war whose victory gave birth to an historic opportunity for Israel to have different, better relations with the Palestinians and her other Arab neighbors, by trading lands captured in that war for peace.
All of us at Americans for Peace Now (APN) look forward to a future in which June 6 is a day of true celebration. But tragically, that day has not yet come – and, indeed, seems further away than ever. Because June 6, 1967 also marked the beginning of Israel’s catastrophic policy of open-ended, ever-deepening military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.
Over 49 years, that occupation has grown in the West Bank and East Jerusalem into a complex, far-reaching network of civilian and military modes of domination, control, and usurpation of territory and resources, increasingly interwoven with the economic, political, social, and national-security fabric of Israel proper. Territory that years ago should have served as a bargaining chip in a land-for-peace deal has been transformed into an incubator for malignant ideologies whose adherents rob Israel's citizens of the right to live in peace within recognized borders, with a recognized capital, enjoying international respect. Occupation has likewise robbed millions of Palestinians of their most basic rights.
Throughout these years of occupation, the Israeli Peace Now movement and APN have refused to turn away from the difficult truths of this conflict:
· Israel will never know real security until it has a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians;
· Israel’s survival as a Jewish state and a democracy depends on peace with the Palestinians;
· Israel will never have normal relations with the rest of the Arab world until it ends the occupation and makes peace with the Palestinians;
· Israel’s relations with the rest of the world will continue to become ever-more strained, and movements like the BDS movement will continue to gain support, as occupation and settlements become more entrenched;
· the world will never recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital until there is a peace agreement that recognizes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, too;
· Israel has no future unless it is a two-state future.
Forty-nine years ago, Israel won a battle fought in self-defense; today it is clearer than ever that the war for its survival is not over, and not because of threats from Iran, or Hizballah, or Hamas, or any outside party. Israel can defend itself ably from all such threats. The threat to Israel today comes from inside and is the legacy of the 1967 War – which gave birth to a new status quo defined by an ideological, extremist, anti-democratic settlement project that for 49 years has grown, virtually unchecked, and has been allowed to hijack Israel's future.
Peace Now and Americans for Peace Now will never be resigned to this status quo. We will never allow Israel – its policies, its identity, its future – to be defined by its ultra-nationalists and religious fundamentalists. Just as we stand with Israel’s right to defend itself, as it did in the 1967 War, we stand with those, inside and outside Israel, who refuse to give in to the poisonous status quo that is the legacy of that 1967 war. This occupation can and must end; 49 years is too long, but it is not too late.