Next June will mark the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War. For four decades we have been told that the cause of the anger, violence and terror against Israel is its occupation of the territories seized in that war. End the occupation and the "cycle of violence" ceases.
The problem with this claim was that before Israel came into possession of the West Bank and Gaza in the Six-Day War, every Arab state had rejected Israel's right to exist and declared Israel's pre-1967 borders -- now deemed sacred -- to be nothing more than the armistice lines suspending, and not ending, the 1948-49 war to exterminate Israel.
But you don't have to be a historian to understand the intention of Israel's enemies. You only have to read today's newspapers.
Exhibit A: Gaza. Just last September, Israel evacuated Gaza completely. It declared the border between Israel and Gaza an international frontier, renouncing any claim to the territory. Gaza became the first independent Palestinian territory in history. Yet the Gazans continued the war. They turned Gaza into a base for launching rocket attacks against Israel and for digging tunnels under the border to conduct attacks such as the one that killed two Israeli soldiers on June 25 and yielded a wounded hostage brought back to Gaza. Israeli tanks have now had to return to Gaza to try to rescue the hostage and suppress the rocket fire.
Exhibit B: South Lebanon. Two weeks later, the Lebanese terror organization, Hezbollah, which has representation in the Lebanese parliament and in the cabinet, launched an attack into Israel on Wednesday that resulted in the deaths of eight soldiers and the wounding of two others, who were brought back to Lebanon as hostages.
What's the grievance here? Israel withdrew from Lebanon completely in 2000. It was so scrupulous in making sure that not one square inch of Lebanon was left inadvertently occupied that it asked the United Nations to verify the exact frontier defining Lebanon's southern border and retreated behind it. This "blue line" was approved by the Security Council, which declared that Israel had fully complied with resolutions demanding its withdrawal from Lebanon.
Hezbollah has done to South Lebanon exactly what Hamas has done to Gaza: turned it into a military base and terrorist operations center from which to continue the war against Israel.
Grievance satisfied. Yet what happens? Hezbollah has done to South Lebanon exactly what Hamas has done to Gaza: turned it into a military base and terrorist operations center from which to continue the war against Israel. South Lebanon bristles with Hezbollah's 10,000 Katyusha rockets that put northern Israel under the gun. Fired in the first hours of fighting, just 85 of these killed two Israelis and wounded 120 in Israel's northern towns.
Over the past six years, Hezbollah has launched periodic raids and rocket attacks into Israel. Israeli retaliation has led to the cessation of these provocations -- until the next time convenient for Hezbollah. Wednesday was such a time. One terror base located in fully unoccupied Arab territory (South Lebanon) attacks Israel in support of another terror base in another fully unoccupied Arab territory (Gaza).
Why? Because occupation was a mere excuse to persuade gullible and historically ignorant Westerners to support the Arab cause against Israel. The issue is, and has always been, Israel's existence. That is what is at stake.
It was Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization that convinced the world that the issue was occupation. Yet, through all those years of pretense, Arafat's own group celebrated its annual Fatah Day on the anniversary of its first attack on Israel, the bombing of Israel's National Water Carrier -- on Jan. 1, 1965.
Note: 1965. Two years before the 1967 war. Two years before Gaza and the West Bank fell into Israeli hands. Two years before there were any "occupied territories."
But, again, who needs history? As the Palestinian excuses for continuing their war disappear one by one, the rhetoric is becoming more bold and honest. Just Tuesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, writing in The Post, referred to Israel as "a supposedly 'legitimate' state" ["Aggression Under False Pretenses," op-ed, July 11].
He made clear what he wants done with this bastard entity. "Contrary to popular depictions of the crisis in the American media," he writes, "the dispute is not only about Gaza and the West Bank." It is about "a wider national conflict" that requires the vindication of "Palestinian national rights."
That, of course, means the right to all of Palestine, with no Jewish state. In the end, the fighting is about "the core 1948 issues, rather than the secondary ones from 1967." In 1967 Israel acquired the "occupied territories." In 1948 Israel acquired life. The fighting raging now in 2006 -- between Israel and the "genocidal Islamism" (to quote the writer Yossi Klein Halevi) of Hamas and Hezbollah and Iran behind them -- is about whether that life should and will continue to exist.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Post.