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Red Rag column: Forty years since the Yom Kippur War
By: Gideon Spiro
12 September 2013 (English translation 18 September 2013)

Forty years since Yom Kippur

On Yom Kippur Israel will commemorate 40 years (by the Jewish calendar) since
the Yom Kippur War. Most of the media are focusing on the sentimental side of
the war, like veterans’ reunions after many years and stories of heroism; but
there is very little soul-searching, which is supposedly one of the main
points of Yom Kippur. What will not be said in the mainstream media I will say
here: the Yom Kippur War was unnecessary. The three thousand who fell and
double that number who were wounded could have been spared if not for Israel`s
rejection of peace. The Golda Meir-Dayan government was an arrogant, boastful,
haughty and racist government. In the years 1971-2-3 President Sadat offered
Israel full peace for full withdrawal. Israel responded with a blend of scorn,
inflexibility and avarice. “Who are these Arabs? They have no military option,
because they will be defeated. Let them take on Samson the hero again like
they did in 1967.” That was the thinking of the typical Israeli during the
period of euphoria that swept Israel after the victory. I remember a quip that
is attributed to Dayan, though it was probably said by some other general,
that all we have to do is ring bells and the Arabs will run away like scared

The contempt, fed by the enduring image of the defeated Egyptian army in June
1967, for the ability of Arabs to learn lessons from their failure and land a
hard and painful blow on Israel led to the widespread view that Israel was now
set up for the next thousand years. We had the Sinai with its coastlines, we
had oil wells; we were on Olympus. The arrogance and the racism between the
wars of 1967 and 1973 also fed the complacency.

I was not a military intelligence officer but a student who edited a student
newspaper called Post Mortem. I received no daily reports from the army
and the Mossad, but nevertheless, I and others like me who were not caught up
in the collective drunkenness that afflicted Israel saw the situation
correctly. We expected the worst, not because we were wiser or had higher than
average IQs, but because we were equipped with a compass that did not lead us
astray, a balanced outlook and a healthy intellect which combined to produce a
political analysis of the situation free of illusions. To me it was clear that
Israeli rejectionism would lead to a war that would not be like the six-day
stroll in the park of June 1967. My condemnations of the Occupation and my
calls for President Sadat’s peace proposals to be accepted won me excoriation.
Dr. Herzl Rozenblum, at the time the editor of Yedioth Ahronoth, the
most-read newspaper in Israel, devoted an editorial to me and my comrades
under the headline “The enemy at home.”

I looked through yellowing issues of Post Mortem and found the
following article I wrote, which was published on 15 December 1971. I quote it
at length.

In an interview President Sadat gave to The Times of
London, he stated explicitly that he was willing to make peace with Israel. He
was honest enough to emphasize that it would be hard for him to have normal
relations with Israel, as if the war and defeat had never happened, but the
moment the agreement was signed, he would honour his signature and it would be
binding on him and his country. And yet no wave of joy swept over Israel. In
my innocence I had assumed that a state the leaders of which routinely declare
their “longing” for peace would not pass up such an opportunity. And then upon
additional reflection, I recalled an interesting phenomenon: whenever the
president of Egypt or one of his ministers or generals make warlike statements
against Israel, a disciplined chorus of ministers, journalists, pundits,
Knesset Members and others is heard warning “this people”,* that the Egyptian
threat to launch a war must be taken seriously. On the other hand, whenever
the president of Egypt or any of his ministers declare that Egypt is willing
to make peace with Israel, that same disciplined chorus pipes up to warn “this
people”: don’t take Egyptian declarations of peace seriously; they are merely
cover for aggressive intentions, intended to mislead public opinion.

And then I remembered that the Egyptian peace declarations always emphasize
that there can be no peace without Israel’s withdrawal from the Occupied
Territories. And this question torments me: is there no correlation between
the lack of seriousness with which we (the government) take Egyptian
declarations of peaceful intent, and the excessive seriousness with which we
take the Occupied Territories?

I wrote the above nearly two years before the terrible war the government of
Israel forced on Egypt. It was only after Israel was struck with the ten
plagues of Egypt that it withdrew to the last centimetre. That, as I had
pointed out, could have been achieved without war. It was the same in Lebanon:
only after Hizbollah hammered Israel in a classic guerrilla war did a bruised
and battered Israel withdraw after being mired in the Lebanese mud for 20
years, an unnecessary war in which Israel committed war crimes such as bombing
civilians, bombing hospitals, the use of cluster bombs and torture. It reminds
me in some respects of the current crimes of Assad and the opposition in
Syria. From Gaza too, Israel withdrew only after it was forced to do so by the
Palestinian guerrilla war.

The main lesson of the Yom Kippur War – that it is better to return
territories without war than after war – has not been learned. In that regard
my 1971 article is still relevant. The importance Israel attributes to the
Occupied Territories reaches the level of messianic mysticism. We’re willing
to risk war with Syria, just to keep the Golan Heights. The Golan will be
returned, presumably after Israel sustains another painful blow. It is the
same with the West Bank: for the sake of holding onto it we are willing to
risk a third intifada, and a fourth. But even if there really is no partner,
as the government of Israel says, it is better to withdraw without peace,
because the continuation of the Occupation is consuming Israel from within.

The Palestinians must be permitted to build their state on their terms, with
complete equality with Israel, with an air force and missiles and atom bombs
and hydrogen bombs and chemical and biological weapons, just like Israel.
Unlike the hackneyed line that “Israel is faces the threat of destruction”;
another holocaust is indeed at the door, but for the Palestinians. They are
being destroyed every day, and they need the means to defend themselves
against the ravenous Israeli appetite that comes from attaching excessive
importance to territory. Whoever does not want to see a Palestine with nuclear
weapons must join those who are struggling for a Middle East free of weapons
of mass destruction that will include an Israel divested of those weapons and
the dismantling of the nuclear facility at Dimona.

Deep sorrow

When President Barack Obama announced that he was suspending his request to
Congress to approve war against Syria and giving diplomacy a chance, with
praise for the Russian proposal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons,
the government of Israel gathered in mourning and expressed its deep sorrow at
the loss of the war. The prime minister and several ministers eulogized the
war, may it rest in peace, the tragic demise of which was so untimely, and
expressed the hope that President Obama will recover from the peace virus that
suddenly afflicted him, return to his full vigour and give the order to

* An expression that to the best of my recollection Golda Meir used to refer
to the people of Israel. Hence the quotation-marks.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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