Monday, June 04, 2007

In the Days of War

In a few days, the world will mark the 40th anniversary of the 'Six-Day War.' To say that the Middle East is still dealing with the consequences of this conflict would be an understatement of Biblical proportions. Over the next few days I'm going to be (finally) updating my blog with thoughts and links on the war and its lasting effects.

It goes without saying, a number of groups around Vancouver will be marking the occasion in various ways. On Friday, June 1, Jews for a Just Peace screened BC filmmaker Jack Silberman's documentary, Raised to be a Hero.

Silberman's film may reflect a genuine opinion within Israel that the continued military presence in the disputed territories has been detrimental to both Jews and Arabs, but to suggest that the 'Refuseniks' represent a growing revolution, as some have done, is misleading at best. It may be true that 1,600 reservists have refused duty in Judea and Samaria (also known as the "West Bank" since Jordan's illegal annexation of the territory in the late '40's) and Gaza, but this number is a mere fraction of Israel's army. Almost all Israeli men do three years of mandatory military service. A mere 1,600 out of a standing army of around 445,000 - less than 1/3 of 1 percent - isn't much of a revolution. Contrast this with Russia, where an estimated 15 percent of those called up for military service illegally dodge the draft. If there's an ideological revolution worth mentioning, it's the realization that last year's disengagement from Gaza was a strategic and political mistake. In fact, far more 'refuseniks' refused to remove Jews from Gaza than have ever refused service in the territories. In an attempt (which failed) to forestall the evacuation of Gaza's Jewish residents, 10,000 soldiers signed a petition that declared "Jews don't deport Jews." The West Bank is even more complicated. There had been a perpetual Jewish presence there since Biblical times until the Jordanian occupation in 1948. Jordan expelled Jews from the West Bank and prohibited them from visiting religious sites. Since 1967, Jews have been able to return to the area. The settlements, regardless of their legal status, are problematic; but it has been Palestinian violence, since Yassir Arafat rejected peace negotiations and initiated the second intifada, that has demanded checkpoints, targeted killings and nighttime arrests. Indeed, as rockets continue to fly out of Gaza, one must wonder if disengagement from the West Bank, ostensibly the political demand of the 'refuseniks,' would really further the peace process. But, as I said, it's a complex issue. With any luck, the film will initiate dialogue but without due respect to the facts, constructive debate will be drowned by the rhetoric that tends to prevail.

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