Six Must-Read Articles About The Six Day War

NEW YORK (JTA) — If you’ve been reading the opinion pages of America’s major newspapers recently, you probably know the Six-Day War broke out 50 years ago this week.

The war’s broad, profound and lasting effects have been rehashed time and again: Israel decisively defeated its Arab enemies, vastly expanded its territory, gained control of Judaism’s holiest sites and began its ongoing occupation of the West Bank. More than a few articles have noted that the purportedly brief war has, in some senses, lasted five decades.

There has been no shortage of op-eds byfamiliarnames that largely repeat the traditional talking points of the Palestinians, the pro-Israel left or the pro-Israel right — unabashedly condemning the war or celebrating Israel’s victory; mourning the occupation, denying its existence or absolving Israel for its persistence; providing a blueprint for a better future.

Here are six pieces that challenge those narratives, or that highlight fresh aspects of the war and its influence. Most of them are also from voices that tend to be heard less often in public discussions of foreign policy in the U.S. — women, younger writers and Palestinians.

The settlements are normal now

Discussions of the West Bank settlements tend to depict them as geographically and even culturally distinct from Israel proper. But as it turns out, most Israelis don’t know where the settlements end and Israel’s pre-1967 borders begin. In this fascinating dive in the Washington Post into what life today is like in the West Bank, reporter Dan Ephron shows how, 50 years after Israel took control of the West Bank, many settlements are more like middle-class suburbs than rugged outposts.

Have Palestinians become more religious since the war?

How did Israel’s conquest of the West Bank and Gaza change Palestinian religious life? Maysoon Zayid, a Palestinian-American comedian and writer, says some Palestinians have opposed Israel with more assertive displays of faith, while others remain secular. In Gaza, she writes, Hamas’ Islamist regime has constrained Palestinians’ religious freedom, while the West Bank is more religiously diverse.

Zayid’s essay is one of several in this Atlantic feature on how the war changed the three major monotheistic religions.

Before the war, these American Jews were leftists — now, they’re Israeli settlers

American Jews are disproportionately represented in Israel’s settler population. While American immigrants comprise just five percent of Israelis overall, they make up 15 percent of settlers. In “City on a Hilltop,” a new book on Americans in the settlement movement, Oxford professor Sara Yael Hirschhorn describes how many American settlers began as 1960s left-wing activists.

This recent interview with Hirschhorn is part of 50 Voices 50 Years, a project that gathers 50 different perspectives on the war.

How the Six-Day War led to the Arab Spring

Part of the reason the war’s anniversary is getting so much attention is that its effects reverberated far beyond Israel’s tiny slice of land. The war shook the countries that lost, destabilizing their governments and shifting alliances in the region. In this essay, also part of 50 Voices, Brookings Institution fellow Tamara Cofman Wittes posits that the war allowed the United States to become the dominant force in the Middle East. Decades later, popular discontent led to a backlash against the dictators who benefited from their alliances with the U.S.

Since the war, Israelis have swung to the left …

One trope that colors coverage of Israel today is that the country is shifting to the right. And while that may be true in certain respects, on the question of territorial concessions Israelis have shifted left since the war. This analysis in the Forward by Israel Democracy Institute President Yohanan Plesner shows that Israelis are today much more willing to entertain ceding the West Bank than they were in 1967.

… and Palestinians have felt abandoned, but emboldened 

Palestinians traditionally refer to the Six-Day War as the “Naksa,” or setback. In this piece, University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami, an Arab Israeli, says the war both galvanized the Palestinian national movement and led to a decline in Arab states’ support for the Palestinians. Understanding that they would be unable to defeat Israel, Arab countries, Telhami says, grew accustomed to the status quo, leading Palestinians to take responsibility for their national aspirations.

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Six Must-Read Articles About The Six Day War

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