Day War and Its Influence on the Political an Social Culture in Israel
The 6-day war has had a significant impact on the lives Israelis. Israelis by and large have shown significant progress to modernize their political, economic and social fabric. Their efforts are second to none, particularly, in the education and technological sector. However, the war-mentality amongst its political elite and its military bureaucracy has overshadowed its achievements in almost all areas. This, for many, has been a source of discomfort. Many argue that the state is going in the wrong direction and needs to review its current policies, not only domestic and foreign policies, but also political, social and economic ones too. Colin (2008; pg 1) writes, "The state of Israel has been squandering, not only the lives of its sons, but also its miracle; that grand and rare opportunity that history bestowed upon it, the opportunity to establish here a state that is efficient, democratic, which abides by Jewish and universal values; a state that would be a national home and haven, also a place that would offer a new meaning to Jewish existence; a state that holds as an integral and essential part of its Jewish identity and its Jewish ethos, the observance of full equality and respect for its non-Jewish citizens."
In the pre-war era, the people of Israel were, more or less, satisfied with their geographical boundaries. One could hardly see any discussion on the expansion of Israeli territory amongst the people (Buber Marin, 1958). The political establishment, on the other hand, had plans for expanding their control over Arab lands since the beginning of their settlements. The 1967 six day war provided the Israeli establishment to redefine their geographical boundaries, this time by force. Initially, the occupied land was used as a bargaining chip; however, with the passage of time, Israelis expanded their settlements on the occupied lands and allowed their citizens to settle into these territories. This resulted in a political-military nexus, which continues to control the decision making in Tel Aviv. The military continues to use brutal force against the Palestinians and defend their actions under the guise of religion and patriotism. The control of the occupied land was inferred as the biblical sign of the return of their long awaited Messiah (Ateek, 1989).
After the 1967 war, the Israelis exploited the cheap Palestinian labor. This exploitation was supported and anchored by religion. Religion not only served by legitimizing the cruelty but in addition was considered to be spiritual. This form of legitimization and spirituality soon found its way into the general policies of the state of Israel. However, the people of Israel, including their intellectual class stood firm against this oppression. This attitude can be seen being developed since the 1970's. Colin Shindler (2008; pg 1) "Despite all its achievements over sixty years, the harshest critics of Israel are often its own citizens. The dream of what could be, what should be, never departs."
Prior to the 1967 war, the Israeli policies towards its neighbors were rarely challenged by its own citizens. However, post-war scenario gradually changed and the Israeli government started to face an increasingly divided opinion on the occupation lands vis-a-vis its policies. On one hand the religious right was reorganizing with their new action plan; on the other hand, moderate Israelis were gradually developing a peace movement. Nonetheless, the moderates have been in far less numbers than the rightwing groups. Meanwhile, all Israeli governments, in the post war era, continued to expand settlements in the occupied territories. Both leftwing as well as rightwing political parties cited security and economic reasons for expansion (Boulding Elise, 1994).
In the pre-war era, the religious ideology was distinctly separate from the ideology of the state. The leftwing parties were inclined towards secular Zionism. However, in the post war era, religion gradually became a central figure in not only the policy making but religious terms were being frequently used in political rhetoric. For instance, those Israelis who settled in the occupied lands were referred to as "true idealists" and/or "real pioneers" of Israel. However, while the religious rightwing block has gradually grown in strength and vision, many scholars have articulated deep-rooted ideological divisions within the rightwing community. Colin Shindler (2008; pg 6) writes, "The Zionist national religious camp (mafdalim) have tended to become more religious while the non-Zionist ultra-orthodox (haredim) have become more nationalistic producing an emerging hybrid, appropriately termed the hardalim. Significantly, the number of pupils in ultra-orthodox primary schools is three times greater than a decade ago. There has been a steady stream of secular Jews leaving Jerusalem for other cities because of its accelerating religiosity. Moreover, 11 per cent of those who do not serve in the army receive exemptions for yeshiva study. This compares with only 2.4 per cent in 1974. Yet the Central Bureau of Statistics in Israel reported that secular Jews and those who define themselves as 'traditional, but not so religious' account for almost three quarters of all Israelis."
In the pre-war era one witnessed both secular and religious identities growing concurrently and steadily in their own individual dimensions. However, in the post war era, the ideological spilt can also be seen in many secular political groups as well. The ideological fragmentation, both religious and secular, has become a reality in the post war Israeli society. This fragmentation, however, has little to no affect on the policies being carried out by the state of Israel. Colin Shindler (2008; pg 6) writes, "Secular Israeli identity is also fragmented. There are those in the national camp who believe that 'a Jewish state' and 'a Jewish majority in the state of Israel' are one and the same. Others see 'Israeliness' in a post-Zionist context, based on normalization, embourgeoisment and materialist individualism. In addition, those who relate to the Zionism of the founders of the state have been empowered in their convictions by the violence of recent years and the withering of the peace process. Ben-Gurion's vision of a homogeneous secular society has given way to a disparate multi-culturalism."
The six-day war has certainly left an ever-lasting mark on the Israeli society as for them hoping of peace is nothing more than a dream. While the Israeli government continued to expand their settlements in the occupied boundaries, resentment from its neighbors could be lucidly seen across Palestine and Syria. Here, it is argued that Israeli neighbors never wanted peace with Israel but instead aimed for the destruction of Israel. While this was partially true, Israel continued to not only exist but also grow and develop as a nation for nearly 2 decades before the war broke out. Today peace is a distant reality, since leaders from both groups are unwilling to even recognize the legitimacy of one another. Colin (2008; pg 2) writres, "The Peace Index for January 2007 indicated that nearly 60 per cent of Israelis believed that peace could not be obtained without evacuating the Palestinian territories, conquered during the Six Day war in 1967. Yet at the same time, nearly 70 per cent believed that the Palestinians would destroy the state of Israel, given the opportunity."
Lack of leadership portraying the view of its people and works towards unifying, instead of dividing the Israelis has compounded the political problems even further. Current leadership represents the views of radical rightwing ideology and is working towards materializing their ambitious plans for the Middle East. It has completely disregarded the voice of reason and moderation emanating within the Israeli society. Dogmatism has replaced liberalism and pluralism, and this, more than any other thing, has dented the peace process. Colin (2008; pg 2) writes, "For many Israelis, this heroic period of state-building has been replaced by an epoch of moral and political stagnation, punctuated by accusations of rape against a former President and corruption against a Prime Minister. In 1997, Israel was listed at tenth position in an 'honesty league' compiled by Transparency International, an anti-corruption group. By 2007, it had fallen to thirty-fourth place. The lack of leadership was felt most keenly in the inability to resolve the Palestinian question."
Peace, therefore, is conditional and Israelis have got to withdraw from the occupied land and make way for the Palestinian people. The question here is whether hard-line Jews will backtrack from their settlements in the occupied land? Whether the extreme rightwing political parties allow such a change to take place? If not, will the Israeli military use force against its own people? Many Middle East political observers think that such a scenario will not take place. They cite ideological reasons for their assumptions. Furthermore, they also cite the many commotions and conflicts within the Israeli society that have been ignored ever since its rebirth. Jews all over the world united under the ideology of Zionism after the persecution European Jews had faced in the Holocaust. Zionistic ideology is considered as a savior for Jews all over the world. It is the ideology that allowed them to reenter their holy…