It Is Time to Free Ourselves of the False 'Fiasco’ of the 1973 War

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Every year, on the 6th of October, a military parade is held in Cairo, attended by millions of spectators, commemorating the "great October victory." It is followed by popular celebrations which are part of the conception of the Egyptian and Syrian peoples, according to which in the 1973 war their armies beat the Jewish army soundly. In Israel, whose forces at the end of the war were stationed not far from Cairo and Damascus, no parades are held, not even on Independence Day. And justifiably so. The side that in its self-conception is the losing side (or worse: the sinner) has no reason to hold parades. The only ceremonies it can hold are memorials for the fallen. These are accompanied by endless moaning about the sins we have sinned, which led to the disaster of the Yom Kippur War.

In Cairo, despite the current situation, the military junta is rehearsing for the next victory parade. In Damascus as well, whose suburbs were bombarded by IDF cannons at the end of that "October victory," the same great triumph will be commemorated, for there will be no American attack. And in Israel? In the media, in "academic" seminars, in "professional" strategic forums – even in the IDF and the intelligence establishment (intended for "learning purposes" of course) – the repentance continues over the "Yom Kippur fiasco," the outcome of the "blindness" and the "smugness and arrogance following the conquests of the Six-Day War."

Many Israelis, whose outlook has been and is shaped in forums that aggrandize the fiasco narrative and repress the sense of victory, find it hard to accept the fact that within less than three weeks after the combined attack, which threatened, as Moshe Dayan said, the existence of the Third Temple, Egypt and Syria begged for a cease-fire. That is the achievement of those who succeeded in turning the decisive victory on the battlefield into a decisive defeat in the national consciousness. They and their descendants continue to this day to sow despair, disappointment, and depression. Depression and a sense of guilt also settled on the Israelis who negotiated at the 101st kilometer. They, like the political leadership whose morale was broken, behaved as if they had been defeated. By contrast, the Egyptians strutted around like victors and dictated the political outcome of the war: full withdrawal "until the last grain of holy Egyptian ground."

An unprecedented victory, salvation of the state thanks to the bravery of the soldiers and officers – even the impressive resilience of Golda Meir, after recovering from the strategic mistake of avoiding a pre-emptive strike and early mobilization of reserves – is the true narrative of that war. But in practice, a false, manipulative narrative has taken over the Israeli mind – the fiasco narrative.

It is the product of those who control the instruments – not only the media – that steer the national consciousness. They have repressed the meaning of the victory, embarked on an endless persecution, to this very day, of the guilty parties (and there were guilty parties, but what is the point in the obsessive persecution of those no longer with us?), and exaggerated without end the natural human response of mourning.

Bereavement has become the supreme element of the Israeli ethos, and a dominant national trauma. It is to blame for the faintheartedness in the face of the future, the worm of doubt regarding the Zionist enterprise, and as a result, doubt about the ability to sustain a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, and even about the very right of the Jewish state to exist.

After 40 years of self-chastisement, it is time to free ourselves of the shell shock that's been undermining our self-confidence, and even our way of life. We should cast off the false narrative and adopt a balanced, optimistic narrative that believes in the historic destiny of the Jewish people and its inalienable right to self-determination in the Land of Israel.

Israeli tanks rushing up to the northern front with the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War.Credit: GPO
Soldiers evacuating an injured comrade during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.Credit: Nachum Guttman

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