DAMASCUS — In Damascus and many other areas of Syria this weekend, citizens will celebrate the accomplishments of the 19-day war launched on October 6, 1973 by Syrian and Egyptian armies to regain Arab land illegally occupied since 1967.
Syrians will honor the 6,000 of their own who died during battle. Many events are planned including special television broadcasts which will revisit the conflict; also numerous art exhibits, plays, films, concerts, rallies, and wreath-laying ceremonies. Public and government officials will appear at the monument, located atop Qasioun Mountain in Damascus, mindful of the many sacrifices being made today. In Egypt, October 6 is Armed Forces Day, commemorating the Egyptians’ role in that October War.
For both peoples, breaking Israel’s sense of invincibility after its 1967 aggression was victory enough. The results of the battle were mixed as history records, but the political and military effects are still indelible, as Zionist leaders exhibit a certain bi-polarization. Many analysts and pro-Zionist “think tanks” are holding seminars on the subject in occupied Palestine and some in the US as well, with many attendees still gnashing their teeth over what went wrong forty years ago. For many Israelis, the surprise battle that killed nearly 3,000 Israeli soldiers threatened to destroy the so-called ‘Third Temple’, thus eliminating the last 19th century colonial enterprise. “Academic” seminars, in “professional” strategic forums—even IDF and intelligence fora—are planned just as they have been organized every year since 1973.
Many Israelis are still condemning their political leaders at the time, particularly then Prime Minister Golda Meir and military ‘heroes’ from the 1967 aggression as incompetents derelict in their military duties including lack of preparedness. The adulation for General Moshi Dayan resulting from 1967 turned ugly in October of 1973 as many families picketed and chanted “murderer” for the killing of their sons and daughters. The repentance appears to intensify each year over the “Yom Kippur fiasco,” the outcome of the “blindness” and the “smugness and arrogance following the conquests of the Six-Day War,” as many claim.
The Israeli military has never denied that General Dayan urged the use of chemical weapons during the October war. But chemical weapons are not all that Dayan wanted permission to use. Writing in the October 3, 2013 issue of the New York Times, Avner Cohen, a professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and a senior fellow at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies discusses an interview he had in 2008 with Mr. Arnan Azaryahu, who was a senior political insider and trusted aide and confidant to Yisrael Galili, a minister without portfolio and Golda Meir’s closest political ally. Writes Cohen: “Mr. Azaryahu was privy to some of Israel’s most fateful decisions. In the early afternoon of Oct. 7, as a fierce battle with Syrian forces raged and the Israeli Army appeared to be losing its grasp on the Golan Heights.” Mr. Azaryahu further reported that Dayan sought from Golda Meir, during the cabinet meeting which Mr. Azaryahu attended, “an immediate authorization of preparatory steps for a nuclear blast that he claimed would save precious time and allow the order to detonate a bomb to be executed rapidly should the need arise.”
Cohen continues, “Siding with her two senior ministers, the prime minister told Mr. Dayan to “forget it.” He responded by saying that he remained unconvinced but that he respected the prime minister’s decision.” Dayan sought but was refused authority to use either chemical or nuclear weapons.
One of the lessons from that October war still being discussed is that the hubris from the 1967 aggression concerning the “invincible Israeli army” was simple propaganda for domestic consumption—as were the many battles in South Lebanon during 22 years of occupation and the 33-day 2006 war illustrate. That war clearly established beyond peradventure that the Israeli army cannot defend the Zionist colony unless it has massive American military supplies and blank check funding. During the Tishri battle, the American government, without input from Pentagon or public, provided the Israeli military with planeloads of weaponry, including nine types of US cluster bombs that were taken from supplies at Subic Bay, Philippines, causing the local US commander to resign claiming that “emptying those warehouses put thousands of US troops in Vietnam at risk.” Yet, President Nixon caved to pressure from PM Golda Meir so that many hundreds of those old cluster bombs, thirty years past their shelf life were used as recently as during the July 2006 war in Lebanon.
The Nixon administration also provided Israel with something far more important: intelligence. Documents relating to the American spy-plane, the ‘SR-71 Blackbird’, show that the Israelis knew where major concentrations of Arab forces were as they were supplied with this information as a result of SR-71 overflights of that war zone. With such knowledge, Israelis knew where to deploy their forces for maximum effect. Whatever dreams of self-sufficiency in weapon development and production entertained in Israel before the war were abandoned. Tel Aviv learned that it needs close support, strategic weapons, and funding from Washington to survive.
Following the October war, the Arab oil boycott turned Israel into a pariah; fewer countries had diplomatic relations with the Jewish state than with the PLO, which didn’t pretend to seek anything but Palestine’s liberation and the full right of Return. The UN General Assembly gave a standing ovation to Yasser Arafat and shortly thereafter the UN passed the Zionism is Racism resolution. Last month’s embarrassing Netanyahu spectacle at the UN General Assembly, where he presented himself as some sort of sociopathic racist, led reportedly to one European delegate saying that if a snap vote was held on the 1975 Zionism is Racism Resolution (General Assembly Resolution 3379), it would pass again, but by a larger margin than the vote of 72 to 35 on November 10, 1975.
Ehud Barak, Israel’s former defense minister claims at pep rallies and AIPAC type gatherings that “states much larger than ours and supposedly much stronger collapsed within weeks under surprise attack and we were totally victorious in 1973.”
Think tanks, such as the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and the Begin-Sadat Center (BESA) for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, have become bolder participants in the national security debates and have offered alternatives to Netanyahu-Lieberman governmental policies. Gen. Isaac Ben Israel, a specialist on strategic affairs, wrote recently in the small right-wing publication Ha-Umma that “Israel’s achievement was great for revealing to its enemies their inability to overwhelm Israel’s Defense Forces” even in the most favorable circumstances.
Both gentlemen delude themselves and fail to understand the growing global resistance to the occupation of Palestine and opposition to confiscation of Jerusalem by misstating what happened forty years ago this month. More realistic is the statement made last week by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon at a meeting with top defense officials: “One of the causes of our failure at the beginning of the conflict came from a feeling of superiority that we held after the 1967 victory.” Israel had “too much confidence, arrogance and lack of caution.”
Every October, bereavement becomes a major element of the Israeli ethos, and a dominant national display of trauma. It is to blame, some claim, for Zionist doubts about facing the future of their enterprise in Palestine. And even among many Israelis awareness about the very right of the Apartheid Jewish state to exist. Israel once again feels vulnerable to surprise attack.
The shock of the October War left deep scars on the national psyche that affect Israelis even today. Foremost among them, according to the Jaffee Center, is a gnawing anxiety that the national leadership is so locked into a “conceptzia” — a shared strategic concept that determines the leaders’ worldview — that they may be misreading reality and ignoring opportunities for peace.
Commenting on the report’s claim that Israel is now better off strategically than at any time in its history, the military analyst for the Ma’ariv newspaper, Amir Rapaport, observed wryly that “the last time we boasted that things were never better was in the autumn of 1973.”