Enduring Myths about the Six-Day War and Its Aftermath

Although Israel’s 1967 victory undeniably reshaped both it and the larger Middle East in fundamental ways, Aaron David Miller sees a tendency among Western observers to exaggerate and misconstrue the war’s effects. He identifies five such mistaken lessons: that 1967 was the most important of the Arab-Israeli wars, that there were missed opportunities for peace in its wake, that it was a catastrophe for the Palestinians, that it undermined the chances for peace, and that the time is now ripe for an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty. He writes:

[T]he notion that the proverbial six days of war created a figurative Seventh Day—a kind of dark shadow under which the Arab-Israeli conflict has played out, inexorably and depressingly, these many years—is too simplistic. . . .

On June 19, 1967, the Israeli cabinet secretly decided to exchange Sinai and the Golan for peace agreements with Egypt and Syria; but no consensus was reached on the West Bank, though the cabinet agreed to incorporate Gaza into Israel and to resettle refugees elsewhere in the region. . . . Meanwhile, the Arabs, reeling from defeat, were more focused on keeping their own houses in order and maintaining some measure of unity in the wake of their latest military humiliation. Even if the Israeli offer had been concretized, it would have faced impossible odds. Egypt’s [subsequent] launching of its war of attrition and the public hardening of Arabs’ attitudes seemed to make any serious process impossible. The Arabs’ three no’s at the Khartoum summit of August 1967—no peace; no negotiation; no recognition—seemed to sum up the impasse.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Six-Day War, War of Attrition

The Proper Jewish Response to the Pittsburgh Massacre

Nov. 21 2018

In the Jewish tradition, it is commonplace to add the words zikhronam li-vrakhah (may their memory be for a blessing) after the names of the departed, but when speaking of those who have been murdered because they were Jews, a different phrase is used: Hashem yikom damam—may God avenge their blood. Meir Soloveichik explains:

The saying reflects the fact that when it comes to mass murderers, Jews do not believe that we must love the sinner while hating the sin; in the face of egregious evil, we will not say the words ascribed to Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We believe that a man who shoots up a synagogue knows well what he does; that a murderer who sheds the blood of helpless elderly men and women knows exactly what he does; that one who brings death to those engaged in celebrating new life knows precisely what he does. To forgive in this context is to absolve; and it is, for Jews, morally unthinkable.

But the mantra for murdered Jews that is Hashem yikom damam bears a deeper message. It is a reminder to us to see the slaughter of eleven Jews in Pennsylvania not only as one terrible, tragic moment in time, but as part of the story of our people, who from the very beginning have had enemies that sought our destruction. There exists an eerie parallel between Amalek, the tribe of desert marauders that assaulted Israel immediately after the Exodus, and the Pittsburgh murderer. The Amalekites are singled out by the Bible from among the enemies of ancient Israel because in their hatred for the chosen people, they attacked the weak, the stragglers, the helpless, those who posed no threat to them in any way.

Similarly, many among the dead in Pittsburgh were elderly or disabled; the murderer smote “all that were enfeebled,” and he “feared not God.” Amalek, for Jewish tradition, embodies evil incarnate in the world; we are commanded to remember Amalek, and the Almighty’s enmity for it, because, as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained, the biblical appellation refers not only to one tribe but also to our enemies throughout the ages who will follow the original Amalek’s example. To say “May God avenge their blood” is to remind all who hear us that there is a war against Amalek from generation to generation—and we believe that, in this war, God is not neutral.

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More about: Amalek, Anti-Semitism, Judaism, Religion & Holidays