web analytics
April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Van Dusen’

Revising The Six-Day War

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Every few years at around this time the Monitor reflects on how perceptions have changed so drastically regarding Israel’s massive victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.

   Revisionists whose initial attempts at recasting Israel’s image from David to Goliath were focused on events surrounding Israel’s creation began, in the early 1980s, to characterize the Six-Day War – which for the first decade or so after its occurrence was widely seen as a case of Israel’s justified response to Arab threats and mobilization of forces – as an act of premeditated Israeli aggression.
   Not that there weren’t critics of Israel ready to pounce on the Jewish state even in the immediate aftermath of the war. On July 7, 1967, the executive committee of the liberal National Council of Churches released a statement lambasting Israel for the “unilateral retention of lands she has occupied since June 5.”
   Also on July 7, 1967, a remarkable letter in The New York Times made the equation between Israelis and Nazis that in later years would become all too familiar:
   “All persons who seek to view the Middle East problem with honesty and objectivity will stand aghast at Israel’s onslaught, the most violent, ruthless (and successful) aggression since Hitler’s blitzkrieg across Western Europe in the summer of 1940, aiming not at victory but at annihilation,” wrote Dr. Henry P. Van Dusen, a former president of Union Theological Seminary, the academic centerpiece of liberal Protestantism in America.
By and large, however, most Americans – and Europeans, for that matter – cheered Israel’s triumph in the Six-Day War. But as Israel over the years came to lose favor among liberal and leftist academics and journalists, there was a significant shift in the way the war was portrayed.
Post-Zionist Israeli academics played no small role in the recasting of Israeli officials as opportunistic warmongers who used the supposedly empty threats of bellicose Arab leaders as an excuse to gobble up vast expanses of Arab territory.
By the late 1980s this remarkably dishonest narrative had become the accepted wisdom in liberal academic and media precincts and has remained so ever since. When the English translation of Israeli journalist (and pioneering post-Zionist) Tom Segev’s book on the Six-Day War was published in 2007, reviewers in liberal newspapers and magazines fell all over themselves in praising the book’s Israel-as-aggressor theme.
Every now and then, however, an article or a column will appear – invariably from a conservative writer – reminding readers about what really happened in 1967. The military historian and New York Post columnist Ralph Peters wrote just such a piece in 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the war.
Reading the revisionists, he wrote, one would think that “prior to June 1967, Israelis had lived in an Age of Aquarius, eating lotus blossoms amid friendly Bedouin neighbors who tucked them in at night. The critics also imply that, by some unexplained magic, Israel might have avoided war and its consequences.”
Contrary to the doomsayers, “June 1967 announced Israel as a regional great power – less than 20 years after the state’s desperate founding . In the real world, outcomes aren’t perfect. There are no wars to end all wars. The proper question is, ‘Are you better off than before the shooting started?’ Judged by that common-sense standard, Israel is vastly better off than it was on the eve of the Six-Day War. Thanks to the heroes of June 1967, Israel survived. Miracle enough.”
Peters’s words echoed the spirit of a column written two decades earlier by George F. Will.
“It has been 20 years since those six days that shook the world,” Will wrote. “Because of what happened then, a united Jerusalem is capital of Israel, and Israel never again will be 12 miles wide at the waist. Because of the war the West Bank, which Jordan seized militarily and held for 19 years, is rightfully Israel’s to dispose of as it deems prudent.

“And, because of the echoing thunderclap from Israel 20 Junes ago, the security of Israel and hence the spiritual well-being of world Jewry have been enhanced. The Holocaust ended in 1945, but the Holocaust as aspiration was not destroyed until June 1967, when Israel smashed encircling armies that had the inescapably genocidal mission of obliterating the national gathering of Jews.”

 

 

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

The Times’s Middle East Religion

Wednesday, October 15th, 2003

In its determined insistence that both the origin and solution to the war between the Arabs and Israel somehow revolve around settlements and ‘occupied territory,’ The New York Times echoes a line first popularized immediately after the Six Day War by a gaggle of liberal Christian clerics.

There is a widespread impression that prior to June 1967 Israel was beloved by American liberals who turned lukewarm only when the Jewish state lost its underdog status. While it’s true that most mainstream liberal politicians at the time were, for a variety of reasons, pro-Israel, the same could not be said for liberals in academia and in an often overlooked but influential source of elite opinion – the major Protestant denominations, which by the mid-1960′s were almost uniformly leftist in their political orientation.

Indeed, it was hardly a coincidence that some of the most hard core anti-Israel sentiment in the 1960′s could be found among liberal churchmen and old State Department hands; the symbiotic relationship between liberal Protestantism and the American foreign service is a story masterfully told by Robert Kaplan in “The Arabists” (Free Press, 1993).

And so it was that on July 7, 1967, not a month after the end of the Six Day War, the executive committee of the liberal National Council of Churches released a statement lambasting Israel for the ‘unilateral retention of lands she has occupied since June 5.’

Also on July 7, 1967, a remarkable letter in The New York Times made the equation between Israelis and Nazis that in later years would become all too familiar:

“All persons who seek to view the Middle East problem with honesty and objectivity will stand aghast at Israel’s onslaught, the most violent, ruthless (and successful) aggression since Hitler’s blitzkrieg across Western Europe in the summer of 1940, aiming not at victory but at annihilation,” wrote Dr. Henry P. Van Dusen, a former president of Union Theological Seminary, the academic centerpiece of liberal Protestantism in America. (Van Dusen and his
wife jointly committed suicide in 1975.)

Dr. J.A. Sanders, one of Union Theological Seminary’s more prominent professors, proved himself Van Dusen’s equal in obtuse ness by offering the following observation in an article in the liberal journal Christian Century:

“Let us imagine that the United Nations decided that, to compensate for the crime of genocide against the American Indian, the state of New Jersey should be given to the remaining Indians in the United States….And that the present inhabitants of New Jersey who did not wish to live under an Indian government in the newly created state of ‘Algonkin’ could live in tents and camps in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware. A wildly impossible event, of course, but a not altogether unjust analogy.”

To which Howard Singer, in his luminescent book “Bring Forth the Mighty Men” (Funk & Wagnalls, 1969) responded, “Well, no. It is a hideous analogy….Palestine was not ‘given’ to the Jews by the United Nations; they did not have it to give. The United Nations did not create anything new; it merely ‘legitimatized’ what already existed. The United Nations did not defend what it had legitimatized; it could not, it had no troops of its own, it was as much a debating society then as now. The Jewish community in Palestine proved its reality by soundly defeating the armies of the neighboring Arab states. What difference, then, did United Nations ‘legitimatization’ make? None, actually. The United States still clamped an embargo on arms to
Israel, even though the United States had recognized it as a nation.”

Regarding the refugees Singer added: “Nobody seems to ask why there were Arab refugees in the first place, even before the [Six Day War]. The answer, of course, is that back in 1948 there was another war. And who started that one? If Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq had not invaded Palestine in 1948 there would have been no war and no refugees….”

It’s unlikely that anyone on the Times editorial board has ever read “Bring Forth the Mighty Men,” but even if a copy of that long-out-of-print work were to fall into the hands of every board member, it still wouldn’t help. When it comes to the Middle East, the otherwise
adamantly secular editorialists at the Times write not from a vantage point of cold reason but from one of religious faith – the faith of liberal churchmen like the late, unlamented Henry Van
Dusen.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/the-timess-middle-east-religion/2003/10/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: