A lie told often enough becomes the truth. In the case of Israel, the lie is that the sole impediment to peace is the “occupation” — Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria — and that if Israel just withdrew from these territories, there would be peace.
If that were true, it would mean that before Israel captured these territories in the 1967 Six-Day War, there was no impediment to peace. We all know that that isn’t true — because there wasn’t peace.
Those of us who support Israel can debunk the myth that the occupation is the problem, by reminding people of what the situation was like before 1967.
In 1964, there was a World’s Fair in New York City. The theme of the fair, ironically, was: “Peace through Understanding.” Israel had a pavilion at the fair, which was sponsored by the American Jewish Community (the government of Israel did not sponsor the pavilion for financial reasons). The Kingdom of Jordan had a pavilion, as well.
The brochure for the Jordan Pavilion referred to the Hashemite Kingdom as “The Holy Land.” Among the features of the Jordan Pavilion was a photographic survey of the “Holy Places of Jordan,” which included pictures of sites in the Old City of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
When King Hussein opened the exhibit, he said, “In our pavilion, the Ten Commandments shall echo…In our pavilion, the oldest Torah; the Church of the Nativity, and the Mosque of the Dome of the Rock, shall stand symbols of righteousness, tolerance, peace and brotherhood.”
Also in the Jordan Pavilion was the “Mural of a Refugee,” which was not a symbol of righteousness, tolerance, peace or brotherhood. The mural essentially asked fair-goers to spare a minute “to hear a word on Palestine, and perhaps help us right a wrong.” It said that the inhabitants of Palestine lived in peaceful harmony “until strangers from abroad, professing one thing but underneath, another, began buying up land and stirring up the people.”
Referring to the centuries of prejudice that the Jews endured, the mural said, “The strangers, once thought terror’s victims, became terror’s fierce practitioners.” And then the punch line:
Today, there are a million of us,
Some like us, but many like my mother,
Wasting their lives in exiled mystery
Waiting to go home
Remember, this was in 1964. Israel did not possess the West Bank. This was pre-occupation, so the home that “a million of us” were hoping to return to was the sliver of Israel inside the pre-1967 borders.
The mural stated that the Jewish inhabitants were behaving “as if the land was theirs.” The land on which this behavior was taking place was in pre-1967 Israel.
Of course, there is a host of issues that must be resolved between Israel and the Palestinians. There is no shortage of grievances that run in multiple directions. However, it does a disservice to all parties, and primarily to the cause of peace, to say that the solution can be achieved simply by Israel’s “ending of the occupation.” Indeed, as this small example from the 1964 World’s Fair indicates, the impediments to peace existed well before 1967.