Scientists believe history began 13.7 billion years ago. Proprietors of the newly opened Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., believe history began 6,000 years ago. Apologists for Arab terrorism and tyranny believe history began a short 40 years ago.
That was when Israel, evading the noose being tightened around its neck by Soviet-supported Arab enemies, launched a pre-emptive attack on the military forces arrayed against it. In May 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser had expelled U.N. peacekeeping forces from the Sinai Peninsula, sent 100,000 troops across the Suez Canal, remilitarized the border with Israel and blockaded the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.
With diplomatic efforts to halt Nasser's march to war in tatters, Israel struck first on June 5. Like so many chauvinistic dictators who came before and after him, Nasser fabulously misrepresented the success of his military in the early stages of the conflict. Believing victory against the Zionist enemy was finally at hand, the Baathist leaders of Syria and King Hussein of Jordan blundered into battle on two more fronts.
After six days, it was over. Israel had once again inflicted a stinging defeat on Arab armies. Israeli forces controlled the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and the West Bank of the Jordan River. And for people of a certain persuasion, history began.
No one had ever heard of the "occupied" Gaza Strip or the "occupied" West Bank before June 10, 1967. Not because there hadn't been occupations in both places. Of course, Egypt had occupied Gaza and Jordan had occupied the West Bank since 1948. And if there had been any inclination on the part of the Arab world to create even the rudiments of a Palestinian state, it might have occurred at any time in the preceding 19 years.
But as with so much else, you have to ignore history and the facts to buy into the belief system that constitutes the mythology of anti-Zionism. Attributing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the Israeli occupation, pretending that no other occupation came before it, is far easier than explaining the unanimous Arab rejection of the 1947 U.N. partition plan and the failure of Arab leaders to pay more than lip service to Palestinian statehood.
You simply can't reconcile the explicit repudiation of a two-state solution and the jubilant calls in 1947 and again in the days leading up to the Six Day War in 1967 for the annihilation of the Jews with any notion of Arabs and Jews living together in peace.
You can't claim Islamic extremism is a reaction to Israeli occupation if you know that the Muslim Brotherhood the ideological grandfather of all jihadist groups started in Egypt two decades before the founding of the modern state of Israel or that Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab made a pact with Muhammad ibn Saud two centuries earlier that entrenched a radical interpretation of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula.
And you can't possibly blame Israeli policies for fueling violence in the Middle East if you know about the dozens of regional conflicts that have inflicted tens of millions of casualties on the Muslim world and have nothing to do with Palestinian self-determination in Algeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Yemen and Afghanistan; between Morocco and Algeria, Egypt and Libya, Libya and Chad, Syria and Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait, Iran and Iraq.
But a fair reading of history isn't kind to anti-Israeli fabulists. So to make the mythology believable by the gullible and the willfully ignorant, history must begin in 1967 and the Israeli occupation must be the root of all Middle East evil. But the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the tragic degeneration of Palestinian society that followed has rendered this fantasy ultimately obsolete.
For those of us who seek an honest reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians and peace between Jews and Arabs and, not least, among Arabs and Muslims hope must triumph over experience. That hope is predicated first and foremost on an honest reading of history, a mutual recognition of humanity and a calendar that begins before June 5, 1967.