Jerusalem is mine, yet a stranger to me . . .
People live there, strangers . . .
they are living where they have always lived and I am the stranger.
—Amos Oz, shortly after the Six-Day War
We have returned to the well / the market and the square . . . [and to] the Temple Mount in the Old City,” Naomi Shemer had written. And return they did. The wall in the heart of the city was gone, while the Wall at the base of the Temple Mount was theirs once again. For the first time since the Romans had destroyed the Temple almost two thousand years earlier, Jews traveled en masse to the Western Wall.
They went to touch the stones, to explore the markets, to see with their own eyes the place for which Jews had yearned for millennia, and which for the last nineteen years had been entirely out of reach. “There were women wheeling baby carriages and grandmothers in kerchiefs and kibbutzniks in floppy hats and Orthodox men in prayer shawls and Hasidic fur hats and black fedoras and berets and knitted kippot. . . . Strangers smiled at each other: We are the ones who made it to the end of the story.”1
Yet it was not “the end of the story.” Beyond the celebration, there was also eeriness, a sense that the conquest was more complicated than the euphoria suggested. Yes, the still young state had overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in a war that many thought would spell the end of the country; yes, the nation of Israel had returned to the lands of the Bible, to the places Jews had read about in their most sacred texts for centuries.
Yet those markets about which Naomi Shemer had sung had not been uninhabited. Amos Oz—whose father had promised him on that fateful night in November 1947 that Jewish history had changed forever—now sensed that the tides of history might be shifting once again. He traveled to Jerusalem straight from his military service in the Sinai, wandered the streets, and thought to himself:
Jerusalem is mine, yet a stranger to me. . . . [T]he city is inhabited. People live there, strangers: I do not understand their language, they are living where they have always lived and I am the stranger. . . . Their eyes hate me. They wish me dead. Accursed stranger. . . . [I am] stalking its streets clutching a submachine gun, like a figure from one of my childhood nightmares: an alien man in an alien city.2
“Even unavoidable occupation is corrupting occupation,” he wrote soon after the war in a column for Davar, then the Labor Party newspaper. It was a position he would espouse, along with other Israeli novelists like David Grossman, for decades.*
BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE Western Wall taken prior to the war depict a tight, narrow alley running along the wall, far too small to accommodate even several hundred people, much less the thousands of celebrating citizens that the government anticipated would make their way to Judaism’s holiest place. Just beyond that narrow alley was a squalid encampment called the Mughrabi Quarter. Displaced by the fighting in 1948, some 135 Arab families had sought refuge there and had lived there ever since. On the evening of June 10, with the military’s approval, the families in the Mughrabi Quarter were instructed to leave the area so it could be cleared out to create a wide plaza to accommodate large crowds in front of the Western Wall. Soon thereafter, army bulldozers rolled into the square to level the homes and to enable mass access to the wall. The commander of the Mughrabi Quarter operation would later recall, “The order to evacuate the neighborhood was one of the hardest in my life. . . . When you order ‘Fire!’ [in battle], you’re an automaton. Here you had to give an order knowing you are likely to hurt innocent people.”3
Some scholars see the Mughrabi Quarter* incident as a reflection of a wider phenomenon of quickly cobbled together policies and hastily made decisions, some of which would come to shape Israel for decades to come. The removal of Mughrabi on June 10 unfolded without a national conversation about what to do with the towns and neighborhoods that Israel had just captured. As Israelis would soon learn, decisions they made about the territories captured—and the people who lived there—would create challenges to the Jewish state that were no less existential than the threats that the Six-Day War had sought to end.
ISRAELIS EVERYWHERE HAD PASSIONATE reactions to what was unfolding. To religious Israelis, the mere fact that the Jewish state had averted disaster—and in such a dramatic and decisive fashion—was a sign of nothing less than God’s hand active in human history. Some believed that the war was the herald of the age of the Messiah. It seemed to them that God had heard Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook’s pained cry. Those religious passions were about to fuel a movement that would soon change Israel forever.
For secular Israelis, as well, floodgates of emotion suddenly opened. And once again, it was Israel’s leading poets who gave expression to the sentiments of a nation. Natan Alterman had long marked major Israeli moments with poems that became iconic. He had become the voice of the nation.
Between 1967 and his death in 1970, however, Alterman became a more divisive figure as he took up his pen on behalf of Israel’s hawkish postwar contingent. This movement insisted that in capturing the West Bank, Israel had rightfully regained sovereignty over the biblical Land of Israel. “Israel must give up nothing, particularly not ‘the cradle of this nation,’” he said. “The meaning of this victory is that it erased the difference between the State of Israel and the Land of Israel. . . . The state and the land are henceforth one essence.”4
It was lost on few that Alterman was a secular Jew.5 Though the commitment to keeping the territory that Israel acquired in the Six-Day War would later be associated with the religious community, acquiring land and building on it had been the essence of secular Zionist activity since its beginnings at the end of the nineteenth century. During the earlier aliyot, young socialist Jews had come from Russia, and often with the help of Diaspora-based benefactors, purchased land from Arabs who wished to sell. When Arabs had attacked the Yishuv in 1947 in a war that would last until 1949, Israel had captured more land. Building on that land in the 1950s, too, in the years after the War of Independence, seemed the natural next step of Zionism.
There was another reason that secular Zionists embraced the new land with such zeal. For some time, classic Labor Zionism had grown tired. In the six years before the Six-Day War, a mere ten new moshavim or kibbutzim were established. Collective agricultural settlement had been largely the project of European socialist Jews, and since the vast majority of those Jews had met their ends in Hitler’s gas chambers, there were far fewer potential immigrants. Secular Zionism was ready for an infusion of passion.
The diminished ideological passion of secular Zionism created a vacuum that afforded religious Jews an opportunity to become Zionism’s new leaders, the pioneers of Israel’s third decade. If previous Jewish religious leaders had assailed Zionism because it was overly secular and had sought to create a new Jew, after the war, some religious leaders actually chose to lead a reenergized Zionism. This newfound passion was exemplified by no one better than Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook. Before the war, Rabbi Kook had lamented the fractured state of the Land of Israel; now, after the war, he suddenly sounded like a modern-day biblical prophet, recounting the glory of the Zionist movement:
The rabbi spoke from a lectern draped with an Israeli flag. In covering a lectern that held holy books with the flag of secular Israel, Rabbi Zvi Yehudah was saying: This flag is no less holy than the velvet cloth covering the Torah ark behind me. . . . Voice strong, tone defiant, the rabbi warned the world not to interfere with God’s plan and try to wrench the liberated lands from Israel’s control. Not even the democratically elected government of Israel, he continued, had the right to withdraw from the territories.6
Rabbi Kook’s confidence that he had the right to warn the government about what it did and did not have the right to do was an ominous warning of things to come. Most Israelis missed the signs completely.
Not all religious Jews saw matters that way, however. A notable exception was one of Israel’s most important public intellectuals, an Orthodox Jew, Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz. For Leibowitz, the principal religious obligation that flowed from the victory in June 1967 was for Israel to save its soul. To do that, he insisted, Israel needed to withdraw from the territories it had captured, so Israelis would not be imposing their rule on a foreign population.
Three years after the war, he wrote a letter to an Israeli twelfth-grade student, summarizing what he had been saying from the moment that the shooting had stopped in 1967:
I am in favor of an immediate exit from the territories that are inhabited by one and a quarter million Arabs, for reasons that have nothing to do with peace. I have always spoken about exiting the territories and not returning them, for I have no idea to whom we would “return” them. To Hussein? To Fatah? To Nasser? To the local residents? It is not our business, nor is it our obligation or our right, to be concerned with what the Arabs will do with the territories once we get out of there. We need to entrench ourselves in our Jewish state and to defend it. If we do not get out of there with honor—i.e., by our own free will, as a result of an understanding of the genuine needs of the Jewish people and our state—the Americans and the Russians will force on us a humiliating withdrawal.
Understand this—the problem of the “territories” does not interest me in the least. Rather [what interests me is] the problem of the 1,250,000 Arabs who live there, and not out of concern for the Arabs but out of concern for the Jewish people and our state. Including these Arabs (in addition to the 300,000 who already live in the state) in the area under our control will mean the elimination of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, the destruction of the Jewish people in its entirety, and the ruin of the social edifice we have built in the state.7
MOST RELIGIOUS JEWS DISAGREED with the iconoclast Leibowitz. Among them was Hanan Porat, one of the paratroopers who liberated the Old City and the Temple Mount. As he approached the Western Wall and saw the weathered, sacred stones, he whispered, “We are writing the next chapter of the Bible.”8
Zionism had long been a revolution of the young. Chaim Nachman Bialik wrote his 1892 poem “To the Bird” when he was nineteen years old. Yitzhak Rabin was a mere twenty-six years old when, as commander of the Harel Brigade, he was instrumental in the battle for Jerusalem. Now, armed with nothing more than passion and drive, the twenty-four-year-old Hanan Porat and his generation had launched a movement that would change Israel forever.
Born in 1943 and raised on Kfar Etzion, a newly established religious kibbutz in the Judean Hills outside of Jerusalem, Porat knew exile firsthand. During the War of Independence, Kfar Etzion had been one of the kibbutzim overrun by Arabs just a day before independence, on May 13, 1948; all the men were gathered together and shot or were killed by grenades. He and his friends had survived because the women and children of Kfar Etzion evacuated the kibbutz and took refuge in Jerusalem, while the men had stayed behind to try to defend their homes.
When the kibbutzim in the area fell, the dead included the fathers of Porat’s closest friends (with whom he had been raised on the kibbutz). When Porat said he was going to redeem the “land of his fathers,” he meant it quite literally.
Others did, too. In the weeks after the Six-Day War, Yoel Bin-Nun, an enormously popular Bible teacher, took his students to the places of which they had been reading for years:
Pocket-size Bible in hand, wearing sunglasses and the kibbutzniks’ brimless hat, Yoel led his students through the biblical landscape. They searched for springs, ruins, the topography of biblical accounts that would reveal the sites of ancient battlegrounds. They traced the route where Abraham walked from Hebron to Jerusalem, and the route of the Palmach fighters of 1948 who tried to break the siege on Kfar Etzion—a seamless history as though uninterrupted by twenty centuries of exile.9
Bin-Nun could now make the Bible come alive in a way that had not been possible until his students could walk the hills of which it spoke. In Bin-Nun’s teaching, Porat had a newfound outlet for his religious passion—his drive to resettle the land on which his friends’ fathers had been killed, land that would already have been part of Israel had the kibbutz not fallen.
On September 25, 1967, just over three months after the end of the war, Hanan Porat managed to arrange a meeting with the prime minister, hoping to secure the government’s permission to resettle Kfar Etzion. He recounted the interaction numerous times, for it illustrated the complete misunderstanding the political leadership had of this newfound religious fervor:
“What do you want, kinderlach?” Eshkol asked, using the Yiddish endearment for children. “To go up,” said Hanan. “Nu, kinderlach, if you want to go up, then go.” “Listen,” Hanan pressed, “in ten days it will be Rosh Hashanah,” the Jewish new year. “We very much want to pray in the place where our parents prayed.” “Nu, kinderlach,” said the prime minister, “if you want to pray, then pray.”10
It is not clear from this recounting of the conversation whether the prime minister was being dismissive, encouraging, or merely skeptical. “Eshkol’s comments were retold . . . as everything from warm approval to an absolute no, overcome only by the activists’ defiance.”11 What is fairly clear, however, is that whatever Eshkol thought of Porat, he vastly underestimated Porat’s determination.
The return to Gush Etzion was far more than a general drive to settle the land, or to change Israel’s physical and political landscape. Porat and his friends were going home. They were returning to the land where most of them had been born, the land that their mothers and fathers had cultivated and on which they had built their homes and their community. It was the place their fathers had died trying to defend, where their parents had been massacred. If Zionism writ large was about the Jewish people returning to their ancestral homeland, Porat and his partners wanted to return to their own families’ homes. “For we shall rise, and we will emerge again as before,” Haim Gouri had written when Kfar Etzion and the surrounding Jewish villages fell in May 1948. The sons and daughters of the men who had died there were determined nineteen years later to fulfill the promise that Gouri had made to the nation.
Eshkol’s noncommittal endorsement was all that Porat needed. Within two days, Hanan Porat and his friends (known as “the children of Kfar Etzion”) had begun to resettle Kfar Etzion. In beat-up trucks and buses, they traveled back to the land on which the kibbutz had stood.
When they arrived, they unloaded mattresses and threw them on the floors of the makeshift aluminum structures that they would now call home. They then hung a picture of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook in the men’s dormitory and settled in to sleep for their first night in the first resettlement in the West Bank.
Kfar Etzion, which was widely seen as having fallen in the defense of Jerusalem, occupied a unique place in Israeli collective memory. Its resettlement inspired Israelis of all walks of life. In Tel Aviv, a “dentist about to retire offered to sell his office equipment and donate the proceeds to Kfar Etzion,”12 and the Tel Aviv University rector remarked that “The pioneers of Kfar Etzion are showing the way.”13 A student offered to forgo his higher education if that would enable him to join the kibbutz; a couple put in a request to honeymoon on the kibbutz.
The settler movement picked up steam and never looked back.
By the end of 1973, just six years later, Israelis had established seventeen settlements in the West Bank (most of them in the Jordan Valley), and by May 1977, there were thirty-six. By 1973, seven settlements had been established in the Gaza Strip and in the northwestern corner of the Sinai Peninsula (the Rafa approaches), and by 1977, there were sixteen. In Sinai proper, by 1973, there were three settlements; by 1977, seven.14
In 1974, those Israelis intent on settling the land captured in 1967 formed their first significant political entity, which would become a cornerstone of the religious Zionist movement. Called Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”), it was not only the embodiment of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook’s ideology, but was also in many ways a reinvigoration of an early Zionist ethos. Years later, Ariel Sharon would recall that when someone asked him, “Who are these Gush Emunim people?” he had responded, “They are much like we were in the 1940s, only more serious.”15 Gush Emunim would leave an indelible mark on Israeli society: by 2012, approximately 341,000 Israelis were living in settlements.
Whereas some Israelis were intent on Israel’s retaining the West Bank for religious and ideological reasons, others were motivated not by theology but by security. In 1970, Yigal Allon, a founder of the Palmach then serving as deputy prime minister and minister of immigrant absorption, proposed returning some of the territories Israel had captured in 1967 and retaining others. His suggestion, now known as the Allon Plan (see Map 9), called for Israel to retain control of the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem, and the Etzion bloc as well as Kiryat Arba, a new Jewish neighborhood on the outskirts of Hebron. In these areas, Israel would build civilian settlements, which in addition to providing housing, would serve as early-warning systems to detect attacks from the east. The blocs that Israel would not control would be released to Jordan (in one version of the plan) and would be connected by highways. Allon proposed returning most of the Sinai to Egypt, but retaining a substantial portion of the Golan. Though the plan was controversial in Israel (and although extensively discussed was never formally voted on by the Israeli government), that ended up being moot, for King Hussein of Jordan rejected it out of hand.
A few decades later, it would be clear to most Israelis that some division of the West Bank was inevitable (because of international pressure, among other reasons). But by that time, matters had become infinitely more complex than they had been when Allon proposed his plan. By 2015, hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews were living in the West Bank. Both Israelis and Palestinians had become more entrenched in their (mutually exclusive) demands in negotiations, and the conflict had in many ways morphed from a political one to a religious one in which religious ideologues on both sides claimed that God had assigned the land to them. Allon’s plan came too early, but had it been adopted, the history of the Middle East might have unfolded very differently.
WHAT TO DO WITH the captured territories now became the most contentious issue in Zionism. In the movement’s early years, Herzl had sought a state, while Ahad Ha’am insisted that statehood would be a mistake and that the Jews should build a cultural center—but nothing more—in Palestine. Later there had been the battle between Ben-Gurion and Jabotinsky, between the mainstream Zionists and the Revisionists, about how much to resist the Ottomans and the British to push them out of Palestine. Years later, Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin locked horns over German reparations—and more deeply about the role that Jewish memory ought to play in determining Israel’s policies and political agenda. Now, it was Right versus Left, settlers versus those who thought Israel should relinquish the land it had captured. As with the prior ideological debates, this was no pro-Zionist/anti-Zionist split. It was a deep divide between two camps who loved the Jewish state and who were committed to its flourishing—but who disagreed about what course of action would best protect its soul.
Where Gush Emunim saw virgin territory, biblical lands calling young Jews back to the birthplace of their people, other Israelis saw people, approximately 1.25 million Arabs who now found themselves under Israeli rule. Where Allon saw the possibility for enhanced security, Leibowitz saw a cancer that would consume Israel’s character. Suddenly, the issue of Israel’s borders was no longer simply a question of security and diplomacy; it was a religious matter, and thus infinitely more complex. Israeli society was becoming divided in a way it had never been before; to this day, that chasm has never been bridged.
LIKE HANAN PORAT, Meir Ariel—a shy, curly-haired, artistic paratrooper—was also at the battle for the Old City of Jerusalem. Yet while Porat had stood in wonder when he reached the Western Wall, Meir’s experience was distinctly different. “At ‘[a]ny moment,’ he thought, ‘it’s going to hit me: here I am, a fulfillment of two thousand years of longing.’ But it did not happen. Meir Ariel felt no exultation, no sense that the next chapter of the Bible was now being written. ‘What’s wrong with me?’ he wondered. ‘What kind of Jew am I?’”16 Musical by instinct, he took out his pen and wrote a different version of Naomi Shemer’s song.17
While Shemer had begun her song with “The mountain air is clear as wine, / And the scent of pines is carried on the breeze of twilight,” Ariel opened his version, which he entitled “Jerusalem of Iron,” with the Hebrew word be’machshakayich, “in your darkness.”18 “In your darkness, Jerusalem . . . ,” he wrote, “we came to expand your borders and to evict the enemy.”
Where Naomi Shemer saw the Jewish people reunited with the ancestral lands on which it had been born, Meir Ariel could not see beyond the suffering the war had caused. He ended his song by using the phrase “Jerusalem of gold” but with a very different sentiment. Jerusalem was not only the city of gold, but “of lead and of dreams” as well. And Ariel ended with a prayer:
Forever amidst your walls
May peace dwell.
After the war, Ariel made a low-budget recording of his version of the song, which somehow made its way to Israeli radio, where—suddenly—it was played over and over. The popularity of the painful, quasi-satirical rebuke of Naomi Shemer was no accident. Israel was facing a gathering storm. What should it do with those lands it had captured? Leibowitz and Porat had diametrically opposed views. Shemer and Ariel offered radically different answers. Ariel would go on to become, in the words of Yossi Klein Halevi, the Bob Dylan of Israel. He became the voice of his generation’s sense of disillusionment. It would take another decade for this disillusionment to produce the Peace Now movement; but here, as was often the case in Israeli society, musicians and poets were augurs of movements still to come.
EVEN SOME OF THE IDF BRASS understood that there was an underbelly to the great victory. Yitzhak Rabin later said: “We could have extended the area under our control. There was no Egyptian force capable of halting the IDF had we intended to occupy Cairo. The same held for Amman, and on June 11 it would not have required much effort to take Damascus. But we had not gone to war to acquire territories, and those we already occupied presented enough of a burden.”19
Burden was the instructive word. Many Israelis intuited that occupying the lands that Israel had just captured and ruling over 1.25 million Arabs was going to be complicated. David Ben-Gurion, who in 1948 had refused his generals’ pleas that Israel take the West Bank, spoke up from his retirement. Israel should keep Jerusalem and the Golan, he said, but get rid of everything else. On that matter, he agreed with Yeshayahu Leibowitz: what was at stake was Israel’s soul.
In a dramatic departure from what previously had been considered the appropriate, stiff-upper-lip behavior expected from Israel’s warriors, veterans of the conflict also began to share their misgivings about what they had seen. In a set of interviews with kibbutz members who had fought in the war, published in a book called Soldiers Talk, Israelis heard sentiments they had not heard expressed before. Soldiers spoke about the pain of killing another person, of their anger at having to fight, of the shame they felt when children who were the age of their own children raised their hands in surrender.
The publishers of the interviews expected at best a modicum of interest in their book. To their amazement, it sold a hundred thousand copies—an astronomically high number in a market of Israel’s size. The book sold so well for the same reason that Meir Ariel’s song “Jerusalem of Iron” became so popular. Some Israelis had a sixth sense that they were approaching a reckoning—with a people whose national movement was just beginning and that the Israelis themselves had helped ignite.
WHILE THE SIX-DAY WAR divided Israelis, it united the vanquished Arab Palestinian community. Israel’s victory had dealt a fatal blow to Nasser’s pan-Arabist movement. It was now clear how little Nasser or any of the other Arab leaders had done for the Palestinians (those who had fled the war in 1948 and their descendants) about whom they ostensibly cared so deeply. Nasser had been utterly humiliated, but so too had the Palestinians, even though they were mostly pawns in a much larger battle. Many of the seven hundred thousand Palestinians who had been dispossessed during the fighting in 1948 and had relocated to the West Bank and Gaza now found themselves living under the very people they held responsible for uprooting their families.
The change was dislocating for Palestinians in numerous ways. The erasure of the 1949 armistice line as a meaningful border represented an opportunity to visit the cities and the homes from which they had fled in 1948, nineteen years earlier. But that brought with it complicated emotions. As one historian of the period notes:
[I]n the streets of Qatamon and Baqa—West Jerusalem neighborhoods whose mansions had been abandoned by wealthy Arabs in 1948 and subdivided among Jewish immigrants—packed cars with Jordanian plates rolled slowly by, as families from East Jerusalem and beyond looked at houses left behind. . . . American consul-general Evan Wilson [wrote in a cable:] “Arab owner of grand piano, which has been in living room of our New City residence for 19 years since he entrusted it for safe-keeping to my predecessor . . . in 1948 when leaving in a hurry, has come to claim it back.”20
Some Palestinians, however, suspected that Israelis had more nefarious motives. Ghassan Kanafani, a leading Palestinian author of the period (and a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a violent terrorist organization), described in “Returning to Haifa” (one of his many published short stories) how Palestinians returned to Haifa from the West Bank to see the places that had been home until 1948. The main male character says to his wife as they drive through Israel:
They opened up the border as soon as they completed the occupation, suddenly and immediately. That has never happened in any war in history. You know the terrible thing that happened in April 1948, so now, why this? Just for our sakes alone? No! This is part of the war. They’re saying to us, “Help yourselves, look and see how much better we are than you, how much more developed. You should accept being our servants. You should admire us.”21
There were other dividends. Some West Bank Palestinians found employment in Israel, and their standard of living rose. With time, under Israel’s rule, educational opportunities expanded. Yet the most salient factor for Palestinians was that they were now living not under Jordanian Muslims, but Israeli Jews. They were now occupied, and it would be only a matter of time until ending that occupation became their primary national objective.
IN THE LATE 1950S, Yasser Arafat had founded Fatah, the Palestinian National Liberation Movement.
Arafat was born in Cairo in August 1929. His father had come from Gaza City, while his mother had grown up in Jerusalem. When his mother died, his father sent him to live in Jerusalem’s Old City with his mother’s family. He eventually moved back to Cairo, where he studied civil engineering (though he took time off from school to fight alongside the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1948 war). After the Sinai Campaign, when all the fedayeen were expelled, Arafat moved to Kuwait where he lived among many Palestinian refugees, and in 1959, he founded Fatah.
In 1968, Fatah became part of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization, which had been founded in 1964—before Israel had even occupied the West Bank) and fairly quickly became its dominant element. Arafat’s rise to power affected not only Israel, for the PLO essentially invented international terrorism and thus left the entire world vulnerable.
While in Israel there were voices who advocated relinquishing lands so that the two people might live side by side, the PLO was hardly open to compromise. Its attitude to Zionism was explicit in its charter:
Zionism is a colonialist movement in its inception, aggressive and expansionist in its goals, racist and segregationist in its configurations and fascist in its means and aims. Israel in its capacity as the spearhead of this destructive movement and the pillar for colonialism is a permanent source of tension and turmoil in the Middle East in particular and to the international community in general.22
Now, in 1967, with the Palestinians (and the PLO, which had been associated with the Arab League and Egypt) humiliated, the Arafat-led Fatah was suddenly more appealing to millions of Palestinians than it ever had been. Fatah took over the PLO, and Arafat—now an international figure—became its chairman. Yasser Arafat was for all intents and purposes the political leader of the Palestinians.
The Palestinians were making political moves and, as had been the case with the Zionists, were also finding a literary voice. They did so most notably in the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, a Palestinian born in the western Galilee whose family fled their village of al-Birwa during the War of Independence. Drawing upon both centuries of Arab verse and the homelessness that he and his fellow Palestinians felt, Darwish penned “Identity Card” in 1964 (the year of the PLO’s founding).23 “Write down! / I am an Arab,” he announced to his reader, and then turned to the accusation at the heart of the Palestinian narrative: “You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors, / And the land which I cultivated.” Wherefrom their desperation? “And you left nothing for us, / Except for these rocks.” Then came the threat.
If I become hungry
The usurper’s flesh will be my food.
Of my hunger.
And my anger!
Darwish, like other Palestinian writers and poets, was the voice of a people seeking independence and freedom. The anger of which he warned was undeniably real, and would soon become one of the most significant threats to Israel’s continued flourishing.
ON SEPTEMBER 1, 1967, THE Arab League, which had gathered in Khartoum (the capital of Sudan) three months after the end of the Six-Day War, issued a statement that insisted, in part:
The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June 5. This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.24
“No peace, no recognition, and no negotiations” became a mantra of the Arab world.
Israel had achieved a stunning military victory in six days of June 1967. But that victory had not ended the Jewish state’s conflict with the Arab states that surrounded it. Now, it was clear, the triumph had also awakened a new conflict—with the Palestinians. Both sides reacted to the extraordinary change with ideological passion. On the Israeli side, Gush Emunim emerged, giving new ideological passion to the settlement movement. For the Palestinians, Israel’s victory added energy and fuel to their own nationalism—and to their desire to eradicate the Jewish state.
Ironically, as a result of its victory in 1967, the Jewish state now had a new and increasingly potent enemy that was going to dramatically alter Israel’s future.