By 1967 the US was losing its long and bitter war in Vietnam with the Viet Cong, the peasant-based guerrilla national liberation movement. It was terrified by the prospect of the anti?imperialist movement spreading to the Middle East.
When Israel went to war with Egypt, the US had no doubt about which side it was on. Its support helped steer Israel to victory. As a US state department document frankly admitted:
“Israel has probably done more in the Middle East in relation to money and effort invested than any of our so-called allies elsewhere around the world since the end of the Second World War.
“In the Far East we get almost nobody to help us in Vietnam.
“Here the Israelis won the war single handedly, have taken us off the hook, and have served our interests as well as theirs.”
In the next four years, Israel was rewarded with stupendous amounts of military aid – including the latest supersonic Phantom fighter planes – worth ten times the amount of aid it had received from the US in all the years following Israel’s foundation in 1948.
The US rewarded Israel in another way too. It turned a blind eye to Israel’s seizure of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and parts of the Sinai desert.
In fact, it has been directly complicit in the Israeli land grab. It has usually vetoed all attempts at the United Nations to force an Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories.
Yet Israel’s victory, in June 1967, far from halting the anti-imperialist movement in the Middle East, stimulated a far more menacing enemy – the armed guerrilla based “fedayeen”.
This was rooted in the Palestinian refugee camps throughout the Arab world, led by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
This was followed in the late 1980s, and at the turn of the century, by the intifadas, the mass based Palestinian uprisings in the Occupied Territories.
True, the leaderships of these movements have been unable to develop the strategy needed to dislodge the Israelis. Yet Palestine
has become a global cause.
The Palestinian flag, a potent international symbol of unity against oppression and imperialism, has been seen on the great worldwide anti-war demonstrations of recent years.
The Lebanese Hizbollah guerilla army’s stunning defeat of Israel last summer was a forceful harbinger of what a winning strategy might look like – one that begins to involve the mass of the population in the wider Arab and Islamic world.
The real lesson on the 40th anniversary of the Israel Arab war in June 1967 is this. Unless the West forces Israel to start making real concessions and to dismantle the Zionist structure of its state that is at the root of Palestinian oppression, then a third intifada, or its equivalent, will erupt.
It will spread both inside Israel from the West Bank and Gaza and beyond their borders into the pro-US regimes of Egypt and Jordan.
This borderless intifada will dwarf all earlier efforts. It will give new meaning, and progressive expression, to the rage and frustration now so obviously at boiling point right across the Middle East and beyond.
It will put all of Israel, and its Western backers, on notice. Either accept the Palestinians and all Arab and Muslim peoples as equals, or else leave our lands.