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50 years after Six-Day War, we must move beyond partition

Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze / AFSC

This week marks 50 years since the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan.

Over the past 50 years, Israel's occupation has entrenched a deeply abusive system of inequality and injustice that denies Palestinians their basic rights. More than 40 percent of Palestinian men have been imprisoned over the course of the occupation. Nearly 50,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed since 1967.  Torture, beatings, detention without trial, assassination, displacement, dispossession, movement restrictions, limited access to resources—these are the abuses that have become routine as a result of the occupation. 

The occupation is dehumanizing to both Palestinians and Israelis, and it must end. 

But as we talk about 50 years of occupation and what it means, we must also reflect on the last 24 years of failed negotiations and ensure that when we call for change, we do not simply call for a return to the same processes that have led to a further entrenchment of the occupation. We must understand that to date, all international efforts to end the occupation have placed as their central goal the finalization of the partition process, which was set in motion by the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan. However, the occupation of 50 years ago is itself a product of the failed partition that began 70 years ago—and the injustice that was core to that process. Attempting to bring peace by completing that process fails to acknowledge the fundamental injustice created by partition. 

To move forward now, we must move beyond partition. We must understand that peace will not be achieved through the building of walls, the segregation of people, and the dividing of populations. 

There are Palestinians and Israelis who are struggling to build this peace. These are the people that AFSC supports through our work and whose voices we must lift up. These are the Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists who have come together at various points over the last several years to build Freedom Camps on Palestinian land to resist forced displacement and settlement building. These are the villagers of Bilin, Nilin, Nebi Saleh, and other locations who have nonviolently protested the confiscation of their land for years with support from Israeli and international activists. These are the Palestinians in Gaza who continue to call for freedom while living under a brutal blockade. These are the Palestinian initiators of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions call who have demanded action to end occupation, realize refugee rights, and achieve equality—as well as the growing movement of people who have responded to that call. 

Peace will come when equality is realized, justice is achieved, and all people are free.  These goals—freedom, justice, equality— must be what we seek as we work to realize peace between Palestinians and Israelis.     

About the Author

Mike Merryman-Lotze is the American Friends Service Committee’s Middle East Program Director.  He coordinates AFSC’s Israel and Palestine focused advocacy and policy programming, working closely with AFSC’s offices in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and throughout the US.