In June of 1967, Israel simultaneously attacked and invaded the West Bank (under Jordanian rule), the Gaza Strip (under Egyptian rule), the Golan Heights (part of Syria), and the Sinai Peninsula (part of Egypt). Its first strike in this Six Day War was on the Egyptian and Jordanian air forces, which completely disabled them and gave Israel free rein to invade.
Israel’s excuse for making a preemptive strike was that Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were supposedly massing troops near their borders with Israel. The Israelis claimed they were going to be attacked by the Arab countries. In 1982, Prime Minister Menachem Begin acknowledged that they didn’t have proof that an attack was imminent; they decided to attack Egypt anyway. This gave Israel the opportunity to push 250,000 more Palestinians into exile. [‘Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict’ by Phyllis Bennis, pp. 159-160]
The final outcome of the Six Day War, a total victory for Israel, was the occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem (the last portions of historical Palestine that were intended for a Palestinian state), which has lasted for 43 years. Israel denies it is occupying East Jerusalem, having unilaterally annexed it as their capital, even though the United Nations declared it a multi-national city when Israel was created. No nation recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. At any rate, military occupation of any area is illegal under the Geneva Conventions.
Although the Fourth Geneva Convention “prohibits an occupying power from transferring any part of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” and “international humanitarian law prohibits any permanent change to an occupied land”, [Bennis, pg. 20], Israel began building Jewish settlements throughout the Palestinian lands immediately following the Six Day War. The goal has been the conquest of Palestinian land through colonization. In 1973, Ariel Sharon told a British journalist, "We'll make a pastrami sandwich of them. We'll insert a strip of Jewish settlement, in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlement, right across the West Bank, so that in 25 years time...nobody will be able to tear it apart."
The control of Palestinian life is absolute. While Israel dismantled its settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005 and withdrew its troops, the military surrounds Gaza and maintains a total vertical occupation: absolute control of movement on the land, under the land, in the air, and by sea. President Jimmy Carter says of Gaza, “They are being strangled since the Israeli ‘withdrawal’, surrounded by a separation barrier that is penetrated only by Israeli-controlled checkpoints, with just a single opening (for personnel only) into Egypt’s Sinai as their access to the outside world. There have been no moves by Israel to permit transportation by sea or by air. Fishermen are not permitted to leave the harbor, workers are prevented from going to outside jobs, the import or export of food and other goods is severely restricted and often cut off completely, and the police, teachers, nurses, and social workers are deprived of salaries…the poverty rate has reached 70 percent…with more than half of all Palestinian families eating one meal a day.” [‘Peace Not Apartheid’ by Jimmy Carter, pp. 175-176]
This absolute control can only be maintained by violence. “Israeli soldiers, checkpoints, tanks, helicopter gunships, and F-16 fighter jets control every aspect of Palestinian lives, and have recently brought social, family, and economic life to a virtual halt.” [Bennis, pg. 2] Rockets are fired into neighborhoods that border Israel on a daily basis, striking civilians, including children, indiscriminately. Palestinian homes are regularly bulldozed by Israeli troops without provocation and without warning. “Israeli-only” roads in the West Bank cut off Palestinian communities and families from one another. The Apartheid Wall that Israel is building completely encircles Palestinian towns, further cutting off Palestinian from Palestinian. The most fertile of the Palestinian lands and the majority of their water rights are taken over and given to Israeli settlers, who use guns and troops to keep Palestinians from tending their own orchards and crops. Palestinians, including women and children, are arrested at will and held indefinitely without charges. Every one of these actions violates international law.
Israel avoids and postpones the peace process in order to further consolidate their hold on Palestinian lands. Jimmy Carter states, “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land. In order to perpetuate the occupation, Israeli forces have deprived their unwilling subjects of basic human rights. No objective person could personally observe existing conditions in the West Bank and dispute these statements.” [Carter, pp. 208-209]
The rest of the world stands by while Israel, one of the strongest military powers on earth, continues to subjugate the nearly powerless Palestinian people. No other country deserves more blame for this than the United States, whose government finances Israel’s military, gives the country $10,000,000 a day in aid, and blocks every attempt by the United Nations to impose penalties on Israel. George H.W. Bush is the only president who succeeded in stopping the Israelis’ settlements; he did so by threatening to withhold funding. However, as soon as the first President Bush left office, the building resumed. The U.S. still has the power, if we can find the will, to insist on a just and lasting peace.