I’ve subscribed to Commentary magazine since Norman Podhoretz was young [Podhoretz was editor of the magazine from 1960-1995]. That was quite a while ago. I’ve continued my subscription even though the magazine has changed much and is no longer the intellectual powerhouse it once was under Podhoretz’s guiding light, because it still occasionally has brilliant articles such as this month’s Born On the Fourth Of June by Bret Stephens. It seems some momentous happenings in world history have all occurred on the 4th of June. The subject of Stephens’ article is the 1967 Six-Day War when, on Sunday, June 4, 1967, the entire Arab world it seemed was poised to attack Israel intending to destroy it and push all the Jews into the sea. The war began that day when Israel launched its own preemptive attack. Six days later Israel emerged victorious and has occupied the West Bank of the Jordan river since, an occupation made necessary not by greed for land, which Israel lacks in spite of contrary propaganda, but by its simple need to survive in the toughest neighborhood on earth.
Stephens’ article is polished, brilliant and a good read. Here is a teaser:
What’s in a date? It was surely coincidental that two epochal events took place on the same day. Yet sometimes coincidences can illuminate deeper truths. In these cases, they remind us of the brittleness of tyrannical regimes, but also of their brutality; of their susceptibility to sudden collapse, but also of their capacity for endless slaughter; of their inner weakness, but also of their will to power.
Above all, they remind us that tyranny is a scandal—not a scandal in the sense of Watergate, or of Eliot Spitzer’s socks—but in the sense of being a gigantic lie hiding in plain sight, a lie that seeks to violently compel others to submit to its claims or else participate in them. As with any lie, it is sustained only to the extent that it is believed. And, as with any lie, it is undone the moment one person—whether that’s Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Natan Sharansky or Václav Havel or Liu Xiaobo or Ayaan Hirsi Ali—stands up and says: It is not so.
And so the fourth of June ought to be a date to mark in our calendars. It is a reminder that a core democratic task is to preserve the capacity to be scandalized by tyranny: wise enough to fear it, bold enough to resist it, persistent enough to expose it, and idealistic enough to believe it can be brought down.
Yet there aren’t the only fourths of June from recent history that ought to matter to us. There is also the fourth of June, 1967. It was a Sunday, the day before the Six-Day War broke out between Israel and the Arab countries surrounding it. It was the eve of battle, the moment of decision.