Fifty years ago this month, Israel launched a war against its neighbours and took control of the parts of Palestine which it had failed to capture during its 1948 “War of Independence”.
What: The Palestinian Naksa (“Setback”)
When: 5 June 1967
On 5 June 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Syria. After knocking out the air defences of these countries, it occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Thus, it had taken control of the final 22 per cent of historic Palestine that it wasn’t able to occupy in 1948.
Nearly 400,000 Palestinians were added to the hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced in 1948 and their homes and villages were razed to the ground by the Israelis. Around half were being displaced for the second time in less than 20 years. Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine was ongoing (as it is to this day).
The number of Palestinian refugees in the camps operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon grew.
The Naksa commemorates this tragic setback in the Palestinian struggle for freedom and self-determination.
What Happened Next?
The outcome of the war launched by Israel was, for many of its citizens and supporters, the fulfilment of God’s promise. Adding 44 per cent of the territory allocated by the 1947 UN Partition Plan for a Palestinian state, to the 56 per cent set aside for a Jewish state, marked a new beginning for both Israel and stateless Palestinians.
Within 20 years of being recognised as an independent state, Israel began an occupation that would become the longest in modern history, at 50 years and counting. Palestinians in the “occupied Palestinian territories” were subjected to a brutal Israeli military occupation as well as the activities of armed, right-wing Jewish settlers, for whom Israel’s victory was God’s handiwork and a licence to colonise the land which they believed was promised to them and them alone.
More than 1 million Palestinians were displaced in 1948
Relive the journey of Nakba refugees
Israel’s already repressive military rule over Palestinians living within its undeclared borders was transferred to the West Bank and Gaza. Very soon, a matrix of control and domination, that included checkpoints, permits and home demolitions, was imposed on the lives of millions of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
For the Palestinians, the combination of the Arab defeat during the “Six-Day War”, the repeated failure of the international community to protect their human rights, and Israel’s total colonisation of Palestine, prompted a serious re-evaluation of their situation. Having witnessed the futility of relying on others to end the indignity from which they had suffered for decades, they began to organise politically in an attempt to reverse the losses of 1948 and end their misery and statelessness.
In the years following the Naksa, Palestinian communities in the refugee camps and diaspora began to organise themselves politically and socially. A number of setbacks against the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) did not deter them. Such civil society activities led to the formation of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in the late eighties; the popular uprising now known as the First Intifada; and the PLO under the control of the secular Fatah movement gaining recognition by Israel and its allies as the “sole representative of the Palestinian people”. This phase of the political process ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1994, providing the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with “interim self-governing arrangements”.