Friday, 13 September 2013

An anniversary that the BBC will not commemorate

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar starts at sunset tonight.

I remember Yom Kippur 1973, I was but a child and did not stay at synagogue all day with my father. Rather naughtily, I was at home sitting in front of the television when I saw the reports of war in the Middle East. For some reason I didn't say anything to my mum. Shortly thereafter we were all back at synagogue for the Neilah service. The congregation was shocked from its prayer by the phone in the rabbi's office ringing. Someone ran to answer it and admonish the caller for daring to call a synagogue on Yom Kippur. A minute or so later the news was broken to the congregation that Israel had been attacked on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. My claims that I had heard this on the news earlier that day went unbelieved.

The Yom Kippur war was deliberately timed for when the Jewish state would be at its least prepared for an attack, with many soldiers praying rather than on guard. The combined forces of Egypt and Syria totalled the same number of men as NATO had in Western Europe. On the Golan Heights alone, 150 Israeli tanks faced 1,400 Syria tanks and in the Suez region just 500 Israeli soldiers faced 80,000 Egyptian soldiers. There are many places you can read a history of this war, including the run up to it. But what must be borne in mind at all times is that the Israeli armed forces and nation had to work to one simple equation: if they lost, the state of Israel would cease to exist. Thus, for Israel, it was a fight to the finish as to lose would mean death. Contrastingly, if the various Arab nations lost, they could survive for another day. I find the Israeli tactics pre the war interesting, this passage from Wikipedia gives you a flavour:

'The Israeli strategy was, for the most part, based on the precept that if war was imminent, Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike. It was assumed that Israel's intelligence services would give, in the worst case, about 48 hours notice prior to an Arab attack. Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, and General David Elazar met at 8:05 am the morning of Yom Kippur, six hours before the war began. Dayan opened the meeting by arguing that war was not a certainty. Elazar then presented his argument in favor of a pre-emptive attack against Syrian airfields at noon, Syrian missiles at 3:00 pm, and Syrian ground forces at 5:00 pm "When the presentations were done, the prime minister hemmed uncertainly for a few moments but then came to a clear decision. There would be no preemptive strike. Israel might be needing American assistance soon and it was imperative that it would not be blamed for starting the war. 'If we strike first, we won't get help from anybody', she said." Other developed nations, being more dependent on OPEC oil, took more seriously the threat of an Arab oil embargo and trade boycott, and had stopped supplying Israel with munitions. As a result, Israel was totally dependent on the United States for military resupply, and particularly sensitive to anything that might endanger that relationship. After Meir made her decision, at 10:15 am she met with US ambassador Kenneth Keating in order to inform the United States that Israel did not intend to preemptively start a war, and asked that US efforts be directed at preventing war. An electronic telegram with Keating's report on the meeting was sent to the US at 16:33 GMT (6:33 pm local time). A message arrived later from United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger saying, "Don't preempt." At the same time, Kissinger also urged the Soviets to use their influence to prevent war, contacted Egypt with Israel's message of non-preemption, and sent messages to other Arab governments to enlist their help on the side of moderation. These late efforts were futile. According to Henry Kissinger, had Israel struck first, it would not have received "so much as a nail."'

It is fascinating that even in 1973 Israel had to wait to be attacked for fear of losing American support.

In 1973 the United Nations kept very quiet when the Arabs armies, supported by the Soviet Union invaded Israel. In fact the UN kept quiet right up until when Israel turned the war around, pushed Syria & Egypt back and had isolated the Egyptian Third Army and were in a position to advance on Damascus and maybe even Cairo. Then the UN called for a ceasefire.

You may find it interesting that October 6 is a national holiday in Egypt called Armed Forces Day, it is a national holiday in Syria as well. There is also a 6th October Bridge in Cairo and the cities 6th of October City and 10th of Ramadan City.

There is not a word about the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war on the BBC news website, maybe they will commemorate it with some more anti-Israel articles on 6 October. 

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