Over the years, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict has raised numerous questions about why explosive episodes of violence continue to occur in the Middle East. Scholars argue about the reasons, the people who are at fault and the possibility of preventing such events from reoccurring.
Michael Oren, author of “Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East,” touched upon these topics at a talk in Linsly-Chittenden Hall Tuesday. He opened his speech by discussing a scenario in a region already filled with uneasiness and tension. He posited an Arab leader whom other Arab leaders fear, whom Western leaders hate and who repeatedly expresses his willingness to wage war against Israel with weapons of mass destruction. Oren made connections between 1967 and the present to show that this scenario is one that could be applied to both the present situation in the Middle East and the one leading up to the Six Day War.
“I think it’s safe to say that from a Western standpoint, the Six Day War never really ended, but from an Israeli or Middle Eastern standpoint, it has just begun,” Oren said.
Oren went on to say that much of the conflict in the Middle East is a result of seemingly minor events.
“The Six Day War broke out not as a product of rational decision-making but because of a sequence of misinformation, procrastination and in many ways, just bad luck,” Oren said.
An example of such an error is the procrastination of a United Nations ambassador in delivering a letter from King Hussein of Jordan extending his personal condolences to Israel after three Israeli soldiers were killed patrolling the West Bank, Oren said. The ambassador delivered the letter a day after Israel sent an envoy to Jordan, the first use of force that would lead to the Six Day War.
Diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill, who introduced Oren at the talk, said a number of high-profile politicians — including U.S. President George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Secretary of State George Schulz– have been reading Oren’s book.
Hill said the book is so influential and highly acclaimed by world leaders because it bridges the gap between the present and the past.
“It is both a great work of history and it’s the real thing in real time,” Hill said. “War will never be looked at the same way after this book.”
An Israeli citizen who once served in the Israeli Defense Forces, Oren spoke about the potential for change and how it could only come about if Palestinian leaders begin to recognize the reality of the Israeli presence in the Middle East.
“I do think I speak for most Israelis when I say that I recognize that there is a Palestinian community and that they have suffered many injustices which I would like to see them repaid for,” Oren said. “I know that they have a right to part of the land that I consider part of my religious heritage. But we need an Arab leader who is willing to recognize that the Jewish community in Israel exists as well.”