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Asher Ben-Natan
photo by Rhonda Spivak.


Amnon Rubinstein
photo by Rhonda Spivak

 
Fourty Fifth Anniversary of Six Day War-Revisiting 1967 : Thousands of Germans Wanted to Serve in the Israeli Army

Prof Amnon Rubinstein: The Mistakes after the Victory

by Rhonda Spivak,posted May 26, 2011

[Editor's note: This article was written  five years ago on the 40th anniversary of  the Six Day War when in I I met  Dr. Ben Natan, at a conference devoted to revisiting the Six-Day War which took place in Herzlia.  Ben-Natan, who at the time was 86 years old  was Israel's Ambassador to Germany during the  Six-Day-War.

Germany has said last month it will not be supporting the bid by the Palestinians to have the UN  declaration  a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines, without Israel's agreement.

It seems especially fitting to reprint this article now. I am also reprinting an analysis by Former Minister of Education Amnon Rubinstein on the mistakes he believes were made after Israel's victory and insights by others. ]

RE-VISITING 1967: THOUSANDS OF GERMANS WANTED TO JOIN THE ISRAELI ARMY

by Rhonda Spivak, written June 2007

“In May 1967 [leading up to the six-day war]..there was a real fear in Germany that we would see another Holocaust …It was a subject that Germans couldn’t live with,” recalls  Dr. H.C. Asher Ben-Natan, who was Israel’s Ambassador to Germany during the six-day war.

Ben-Natan became Israel’s first Ambassador to Germany with the commencement of diplomatic ties between Germany and Israel in 1965. A former member of the Israeli Defense Ministry Ben -Natan had been involved in weapons deals with West Germany and France before his appointment as Ambassador to Germany, a post that he held until 1970.

Prior to the outbreak of the six-day war, “...there were thousands of Germans who wanted to serve in the Israeli army… and thousands of German children sent money from Germany to Israel”, says Ben-Natan, who spoke before an audience that attended the international conference marking the 40th Anniversary of the Six-Day War at the Interdisciplinary centre in Herzylia. 

Ben-Natan, who is now 86, recalls that “The German government condemned [Egypt’s] closure of the Straits of Tiran, and condemned the Arab threats.  Germany declared neutrality, but it was not a neutrality of the heart…  There was really a great support [for Israel]…Every time they [the Germans] read of the Israeli victory, there was great enthusiasm,” says Ben-Natan.

Ben-Natan remembers that on behalf of Israel he approached the Germans  to ask for 20,000 gas masks from Germany, and the request was officially refused.  “But they [the Germans] did supply 20,000 gas masks to Israel from civilian warehouses in Germany”, Ben-Natan notes.  “At the time, the [German] Minister of Transportation told me that the airport in Frankfurt was available for any Israeli shipments,” he added.

“After the war, the P.L.O. was active in Germany and the extreme left had criticisms of the occupation and…continued with venomous anti-Semitic rhetoric”, Ben-Natan said.  In Ben-Natan’s view, although after the war Germany went back to its policy of neutrality “the events of May 1967 improved the relationship between Germany and Israel.”

Ralf Fuecks, of the German Heinrich Boll Foundation, one of the organizers of the conference, said the six day war appeared as a “turning point for the attitude in large parts of the West-German political left from being pro-Israel to becoming anti-Israel-and this in most cases in a very short time.”

“On the other side…many conservatives [in Germany] like the media-tycoon axel Springer supported Israel and identified very much with its military power in the war.  That however came partly with the price that many people thought that with this kind of a Pro-Israel-attitude they did not have to deal anymore with the painful questions, which the Shoah had left for German society-to identify with Israel’s military force was a way to be on the right side this time, some kind of political reparation.”
 
PRIOR TO 1967 PALESTINIANS DIDN"T SAY THEY WERE OCCUPIED BY JORDAN

Israel Harel, one of the relatively few speakers at the conference who is right- of-centre, took issue with the use of the word “occupation” by the German and Israeli organizers of the conference.

“A nation does not conquer its own land.  I am ready for the purpose of peace to give up parts of my land, but I will never accept that it is occupied land,” said Harel, who founded the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which he headed, first as Secretary General and later as Chairman.

In Harel’s view, the six-day war gave birth to the Palestinian nation.  “The land [Judea and Samaria] was under Jordanian rule for years [between 1948-1967] and no one called it occupation.  Palestinians didn’t call it occupation by Jordan.  They didn’t see themselves as Palestinians but as Jordanians…so we are the main factor contributing to Palestinian identity,” said Harel, who lives in the settlement of Ofra, and writes a weekly column for Ha’aretz.

Harel recalls that in1967 “in all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza there was not one university.  BeirZeit [University] was a seminary for teachers.  Today there are 11 universities.  This all happened under [what you call] occupation.”

Adel Manna, the director of the Institute for Israeli Arab Studies at the Van Leer Institute of Jerusalem , and a Research Fellow at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem said that following the six-day-war, the conquered Palestinians believed that the occupation would be temporary.  “As soon as the Palestinians began to understand after 5-10 years that the occupation isn’t temporary, then things began to change.”

Manna, who has a PhD. in Islamic history,  responded to Harel’s claims, by saying that “The Palestinian National Council [that created the P.L.O.] had its founding meeting in  [what was then]the Intercontinental Hotel [on the Mount of Olives] in 1964.  Those in attendance had already identified themselves as Palestinians.  Its is propaganda [to say that] that the Palestinian nation was born in 1967…Since 1967, there have been 37 universities that have opened in Jordan, but you don’t make that comparison.”

While it was fascinating to see Harel and Manna debate each other, I’m not so sure that we’ll ever be able to agree on how many universities should or should not have arisen over the last 40 years in the lands captured by Israel in the six-day-war.  What seems to be of more critical importance is what is taught at those universities today and in the future.   Will they be institutions that promote terrorism and deny Israel’s right to exist, or will they be institutions that promote a genuine two-state solution, and cessation of terrorism?

The example of Yahya Ayyash, a Palestinian graduate of BeirZeit University, in Ramallah comes to mind.  He received a bachelor of science in electrical engineering in 1992, and then went on to become the infamous Hamas bomb maker (known as ‘The Engineer”).  Ayyash will be remembered as being responsible for advanc

 
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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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