Commemorating 50 years since the Six Day War

On Monday, June 5, Palestinians and their supporters marked 50 years since the 1967 Six Day War, when Israeli forces occupied the remaining 22 percent of historic Palestine left over from the War of 1948.  During this military assault, Israeli forces displaced another 350,000 Palestinians from their homes, and turned many 1948 refugees into refugees again.

How long must Palestinians wait to return to their homeland? How long until the international community exercises its political will to force Israel to comply with international law? How long until the UK and other western countries, explicitly or tacitly, end the double standard in its foreign policy and unconditional support for Israeli policies that contravene international law and deprive Palestinians of their basic human rights?

The international community is gradually losing patience with Israel’s occupation. U.N Security Council Resolution 2334 in December 2016, which refers to Israel as an “occupying power”, condemns “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”, and condemns, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians.  The Resolution furthermore states in the clearest terms that the UN Security Council “will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.”

Citing the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and an advisory opinion of 2004 in the International Court of Justice, the Resolution also notes the international consensus that Israel cannot continue to violate its obligations as an “occupying power” and that it cannot continue to misbehave with impunity.

By overlooking Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, successive US administrations have enabled the Israeli occupation and its violations of international and American laws. Statements about moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or that the U.S no longer insists on a two-state solution, which has been the official U.S policy for 50 years, are detrimental to the stability in the region and to America’s international standing and credibility. There is a glimmer of hope that President Trump, in his desperation for a foreign policy success, might try and force Israel to end the Occupation and make a deal that respects the rights of all.  But his apparent antipathy towards Muslims, who make up the majority of Palestinians, may override his yearning for the deal of all deals.
The international community is growing impatient with Israeli impunity, and it is for this reason that civil society, particularly in the European Union, is turning to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to pressure Israel to comply with international law.  Meanwhile, the European Union is increasingly questioning the legitimacy of trade with illegal settlements.

As it now seems increasingly possible that there will be a large ‘progressive contingent’ in the House of Commons after June 8th, Labour’s manifesto commitment to immediately recognise the State of Palestine is very welcome. This was voted for by 274 to 12 in the House of Commons in 2014 and supported by most Lib Dem and SNP MP’s at the time but ignored by the Tory government.  It’s long overdue for implementation and Lib Dems should get behind it.  Certainly the UK shouldn’t wait to see what if anything Donald Trump manages to achieve.

Comments on this post will be pre-moderated

* John Kelly is Secretary of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and active in Warwick District Lib Dems.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • A Social Liberal 6th Jun '17 - 6:18pm

    Such revisionism John

    You deem it unneccesary to mention that the 22% you speak of (I take it you WERE referring to the West Bank) had by 1967 been an annexation of Jordan for nearly twenty years, that at the time that Israel took the West Bank the armies of five arab nations were sat at start lines all along the Sinai, on the hills of the West Bank and on the Golan Heights – all of them there with the express aim of annihilating Israel. At the same time as you fail to mention the above, you also forget that the Sinai was handed back to Egypt (several times actually) and that the Gaza was given back – also several times, first to a Palestinian government in the 1950s (who had it taken from them by the Egyptians) and then to the Palestinian Authority.

    Building settlements on the West Bank is wrong and may well be a war crime for which Netanyahu may well pay. But deliberately misleading LDV readers will do nothing to further your cause. We can all hope for a two state solution but you are doing nothing to further it by not telling the truth.

  • The refugee question was complicated by the fact that the Arab governments made their Jewish citizens refugees.

  • A Social Liberal

    I think you are missing the point completely. It is not just that the settlements are wrong – the whole occupation is wrong. The Geneva Convention referred to adopted after the horrors of World War II with the express aim of preventing countries from seizing land by war and incorporating it into their territory. None of the issues that you raise, even if true, can justify the great wrong that has been done to the Palestinians – in part by the British mandate authority and in part by Israel.

    Wrongs have been done on both sides and Jewish citizens of other countries should not have been forced to leave, but the ongoing wrong is principally against the Palestinians.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Jun '17 - 11:02pm

    Social Liberal

    I do not understand why the friends of Israel do not write on here, the John Kelly articles are completely one sided.

    The party does contain an excellent group, which I joined early, in its as yet, fairly recent, start , a year or so, it really is the one for balanced and truly Liberal and Democratic thinking, started by Leon Duveen, who has written here, called Liberal Democrats for peace in the middle east, can recommend them.

  • Philip Knowles 7th Jun '17 - 8:25am

    John Kelly implied that it was an unprovoked attack by Israel when it wasn’t.
    The 6 Day War started because President Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and mobilised his forces. The Israelis had said that if Egypt closed the Straits it would be a declaration of war. Nasser got his nose bloodied and it helped bring some stability into the area.
    There is wrong on both sides in the current situation. Israel does controversial things but the rocket attacks from Palestine rarely get reported whereas the Israeli response is (but without mentioning the original attack).
    Peace will never happen unless the rights and wrongs on both sides are acknowledged. To constantly attack Israel will only encourage them to hunker down because that is the only option they have.

  • Lorenzo Cherin
    “.the John Kelly articles are completely one sided.”

    In a sense you are right. I speak from a liberal democratic point of view that is inevitably hostile to detention without trial, to detention of minors without parental access, to flouting of international law in so many ways.

    If you you can’t quite believe the sheer awfulness of what the Israeli government is doing, then please consult the same Israeli sources that I use.
    I especially commend the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz – . Its brave journalists and the equally brave people of Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem – are the true liberal democrats of Israel and they are clearly pro-Israel but far more critical of their own country than I am.

  • Dave Orbison 7th Jun '17 - 8:39am

    Philip knowles – so when there is a restriction of movement and trade on Israel it’s provocation that justified a war? Whereas when the Israel Government enforces a complete blockade on Gaza causing a humanitarian crisis lasting years its OK?

  • Miranda Pinch 7th Jun '17 - 12:17pm

    Those who accuse criticism of Israeli policies as being one-sided are, as John Kelly says, right in that where human rights and equality are concerned, there is no other side. What Lib Dem Friends of Palestine want is for equality and human rights for all. That means Israeli Jews as well as Palestinians. In that respect we are not one-sided at all. Where we are totally one-sided is in criticism of Israel who deny Palestinians not just equality, but the most fundamental human rights. History is a pointless argument at this stage. The many Palestinian children who have known nothing but occupation and oppression at the hands of Israel should be enough in themselves to make us all sit up and take notice and stop the impunity with which Israel continues in its policies against them on every level.

    As for Gaza and comments above. Of the 1.8 million Palestinians trapped there, yes trapped, because the majority have no way of getting out due to the blockade, the majority are under 18. Whatever you may think of Hamas, it was a product of the occupation, not the cause of it. Trapping all those young people in what is now an almost unlivable in hell hole encourages radicalisation, it certainly does not diminish it. The idea that those in Gaza have any kind of autonomy is laughable, when Israel controls everything about it from the land, air and sea including the registry of who is there and frequently kills or maims those just trying to make a living from farming or fishing within the borders imposed on them by Israel, a country that chooses not to have fixed borders of its own.

    Arguing history is futile because there is no such thing as objective history. The facts on the ground right now should speak for themselves. However you may choose to describe these people, they are innocent victims of Israeli policies that amount to little short of land and resources grab based on racial identity. You can choose what ever semantics you like, but that is the result that we see today and it has to stop. Britain played a major role in creating this tragedy, it is about time that Britain accepted responsibility and took real action to support human rights and equality for all in that land area.

  • Jonathan Coulter 7th Jun '17 - 2:59pm

    In their statements about the Six-Day War of 1967 two of the above contributors present Israel simply as a victim of aggression. A “Social Liberal” says “the armies of five Arab nations were sat at start lines – – – with the express aim of annihilating Israel”, while Philip Knowles says that “the 6 Day War started because President Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and mobilised his forces”. I think these statements are so devoid of context as to be misleading.

    If you look back as far as Theodor Herzl, who died in 1904, the leadership of the Zionist movement had always intended to establish a Jewish state in the whole of Palestine, not part of it; indeed many adherents coveted lands further afield, as far as Mesapotamia and the Nile. At the same time, I would suggest reading Chapter 6 of “Ten Myths about Israel”, by the Israeli historian Illan Pappe. He shows that there was a powerful Israeli lobby led by war heroes Moshe Dayan and Yigal Alon, that sought to rectify the “missed opportunity” of 1948, and take over the West Bank. There were several historical junctures in which they almost did this, only to draw back at the very last moment, but the 1967 War provided the ideal opportunity to realise this dream, due to absence of more cautious and restraining elements within the Israeli cabinet of that time. In the event the war started with Israel making pre-emptive strikes against four Arab air-forces.

    Pappe’s account also challenges the idea that the Arab countries were simply seeking to annihilate Israel, but refer to a range of other motives, including responding to numerous Israeli provocations, fear of an attack by Israel on Syria, and wanting to get a better deal for the Palestinians.

  • A Social Liberal 7th Jun '17 - 11:53pm

    It appears that revisionism is not in short supply by the Friends of Palestine, nor indeed by Pappe.

    The reason for taking the West Bank (by Israel that is – not Trans Jordan who had taken it from the Palestinians in 1948) was because of Jordans nasty little habit of siting artillery on the hills overlooking Israel and bombarding any parts of the country in range. The speeches by the arab dignatories of the time are full of the annhiliation of Israel.

    As for Arabs wanting to help the Palestinians – that is very funny. As I have already stated, the Jordanians annexed the West Bank (which had been given to the Palestinians) and then kicked out most of the Palestinians from Jordan. Egypt took the Gaza from the Palestinaisn after Israel had handed it over to a fledgling Palestinian governtment in 1951. The Lebanon would not allow Palestinians out of refugee camps from their inception to the present day and when the PLO were driven out of the Lebanon not one of the Arab countries in the Middle East would allow them entry – in the end the terrorist organisation had to move to Tunisia.

    In closing, I would like to ask – if the Gaza is blockaded, who is doing the blockading? Abbas supported the blockading of Gaza (when there was a blockade), objected to the opening of the Rafah crossing and supported Egypts flooding of the smuggling tunnels into the Gaza. Of course, the EU were the ones who monitored the passage of goods (see what I mean about the blockade) and in latter years the Egyptions took over from them.

  • Jonathan Coulter 8th Jun '17 - 9:21am

    The following article, written by an Israeli, and quoting key Israeli players (Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Matityahu Peled and Ezer Weizman) and the then US Secretary of Defence, explains the events of 1967 better than I could hope to. I invite you all to read it carefully. I rest my case.

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