Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Monday 7 October 2013

Diplomacy, Intransigence, & "The Salutary Lesson Of The Yom Kippur War"

Over at BBC Watch Israel-based analyst Hadar Sela, with her customary scholarship and skill, identifies the lamentable and totally inexcusable inaccuracies that the British Broadcasting Corporation (once trusted for the accuracy and integrity of its reportage) has made in its look back at 1973's Yom Kippur War.

Here she points, for instance, to this statement:
“Unable to regain the territory they had lost in 1967 by diplomatic means, Egypt and Syria launched major offensives against Israel on the Jewish festival of the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur.”
And, launching into a suitable demolition job, she reasonably comments:
"That statement of course suggests that Egypt and Syria had tried engagement in diplomacy – i.e. negotiation between the parties involved – and failed. A reasonable reader would also understand from that statement that it was the failure of negotiations which lead those countries to initiate the Yom Kippur war. But is that actually the case?
With regard to Egypt, the statement over-simplifies the issue and ignores multiple additional factors, including domestic ones, but with regard to Syria, it is obviously inaccurate. 
Neither in this entry or in the one preceding it (1967) is any mention made of the Khartoum Declaration of September 1st 1967, according to which the Arab states rejected negotiations with Israel...."
See her other relevant posts here, here, here, and here 

(I'm sure I'm not alone in considering the BBC's description of Yom Kippur as a "Jewish festival" rather inadequate as a backgrounder: surely pointing out that Israel was attacked on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, when the country had all but shut down, would show the mindset of its attackers more clearly.  Ignorance on the BBC's part?  Or unwillingness to paint Israel as a victim?)

I'm sure all of us who were around at the time have vivid memories of where we were when we heard the terrible news of the sneak onslaught against Israel.  I was at the time in London, where I recall long lines of people waiting outside the Marble Arch Synagogue to donate blood for Israeli casualties, and I attended a big Solidarity for Israel rally on a Sunday afternoon in Trafalgar Square. I'll never forget that one of the participants at that rally (I see him now, in my mind's eye, standing tall and erect despite his very advanced years, proudly sharing the dais with Jewish communal leaders), was a right-wing Tory peer, Lord Barnby (1884-1982).  He was an instinctive supporter of Israel, and like not a view MPs in the Conservative Party who crossed the floor of the Commons to vote with Labour despite a three-line whip, he was disgusted with the Conservative Heath government's decision to ban spare parts for British-made Israeli tanks. (Alas, the principal non-Jewish speaker at the rally was a well-known British writer whose stirring speech on Israel's behalf belies the fact that she's now to be counted among Israel's inveterate critics.  Deep sigh.)

Like other Jewish newspapers around the world, the current Australian Jewish News has a series of articles on the Yom Kippur War, including an outstandingly evocative and touching reminiscence by the paper's publisher Robert Magid (the guy whose hard-headed views on so-called "asylum seekers" coming to Australia's shores by queue-jumping has made him something of a hate figure for elements in the Jewish Left as well as a punching bag for others, not on the Left, who should know better), who was at that time living in Herzliya Petuach and who with the outbreak of hostilities went to work as a volunteer at a local hospital.

The paper also includes a typically shrewd opinion piece ("Lessons from Israel's 9/11") from Melbourne academic and communal figure Dr Dvir Abramovich, a sabra, who notes, inter alia:
"...In a way, the Yom Kippur War was to Israel what 9/11 was to the United States, a stealth attack by a determined enemy, hell bent on destruction, whose menace should have been plainly obvious.
Of course, the circumstances and motives for the assault were very different.
Still, the Israelis, just like the Americans, underestimated how hatred fuelled by fanaticism can result in such havoc.
The salutary lesson of the Yom Kippur War is that Israel always needs to be alert and on guard.  A small country, with big problems, it lives in a bad neighbourhood where states use poison gas on their own people and seek nuclear weapons.
So many articles marking this occasion are underwritten by a sense of shame and guilt that one is tempted to forget that Israel's heroic warriors repelled the invading forces and were only kilometres away from the Syrian and Egyptian capitals.
Their mindset of total self-blame chimes with much of the prevailing discourse about Israel today....
.... We need to remember and celebrate the magnitude of Israel's achievements and stunning reversal of fortune.
That the Israeli army was able to turn the tide and bring the war to an end after 19 days is a monumental triumph that should be taught to every student learning about this remarkable chapter.
 One commentator maintains that the Yom Kippur War was the IDF's greatest victory, and one of the most spectacular in the annals of military history....
Tellingly, the Arab states understood that prevailing over Israel in the battlefield was now out of reach.
President Sadat of Egypt recognised the harsh reality that he needed to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
A true two-state solution will only be achieved when the Palestinians and Arab states, like Sadat, accept that Israel is not a passing phenomenon, but an irremovable entity in the Middle East.  Diplomacy is the only route.
The Palestinians have continually rejected all generous offers tabled by successive Israeli prime ministers.
Yet it is Israel that's constantly pressured to capitulate to the irrational demands of the international community...."
At a time when many denizens of academia's ivory towers seem to be seduced by the blandishments of J-Street and the New Israel Fund, it's heartening to be reminded that there are still academic opinion-formers who appreciate the situation for what it actually is and not what wishful thinking imagines it to be.

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