Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yom Kippur War Protocols

As Israel commemorates thirty-seven years to the Yom Kippur War, in which Egypt and Syria cleverly but deviously attacked Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish people, previously unreleased protocols from top secret emergency cabinet meetings have been made public.
They reflect how trapped the highest echelons were in the prevailing "concept," the post-Six Days War euphoria of invincibility.

At the cabinet meeting October 7, 1973, the day after the attack, Dayan admitted he had been wrong in his assessment of the enemy's objectives. However, "this is not the time for soul-searching. I underestimated the enemy's strength and miscalculated our forces' ability," he said.

Much soul searching has taken place in Israel since, but there is a constant need for soulful reflection and questioning, both on the Israeli side, the Palestinians, European as well as American leadership.

Politicians may challenge their rivals rather than reflect in depth, but a moment of introspection would probably do them little harm:

Does the present Israeli leadership, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, truly want peace with the Palestinians? If so, what sacrifices are they willing to do to this end? It would, in fact, require of the PM to get rid of the quasi-fascist elements in his government, accept an extension of the settlement freeze, and reach out to form a coalition government with the centrist Kadima party headed by Tzipi Livni.

Do the Palestinians and their respective leaderships (PLO in the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza) recognize Israel's right to exist? To what extent do they, including the West Bank leadership headed by Mahmoud Abbas, still desire Israel's destruction, as one might conclude from the incitement and double-talk in Palestinian media?

To what extent does Europe exculpate itself from its historical guilt by demonizing Israel, where honesty in the media's portrayal of events is an increasingly rare commodity (one rare exception being a recent BBC inquiry - from which the UN so called Human Rights Council may learn - into the Gaza flotilla)?

To what extent do good intentions coupled with inexperience by the American leadership impair rather than encourage negotiations? The settlement freeze required by Israel as a precondition for the renewal of peace talks (while the Arab side rejected similar requests for concessions) delayed the talks for nearly a year, putting the Palestinian President in an unfortunate and untenable position.

The following is an excerpt from The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel (p. 80-81):

Inflated Strength and Denial of Fear
Illusions of safety and self‑sufficiency were the result of excessive reliance on strength with concomitant denial of fear following the Six Day War. President Sadat’s attempt to initiate negotiations in 1971‑72 did not elicit an unambiguous Israeli response, because there was no real feeling of need. The psychological frame of mind was such that no one seemed able to pose a threat to Israel, or even evoke fear. Thus, despite Sadat’s repeated declarations that the coming year would be one of either war or peace, the warnings were foregone and the 1973 Yom Kippur War erupted in complete surprise to the Israelis. As a consequence of such an illusion of self‑sufficiency and invulnerability, Israel’s leadership was unable to correctly interpret the intelligence at hand about imminent attack. Like the entire Israeli collective, the leadership was caught in the dangerous psychological condition of fusion between the individual ego and the extended national or collective self. Personal and collective identities had merged, they were as if inseparable. The individual could (and, in fact, social undercurrents encouraged him to) identify with the national image of strength, omnipotence and fearlessness. Even death was challenged. Nothing could inflict harm or injury. This state of psychological inflation affected the entire nation, including the political leadership, which was unable to differentiate itself from the collective process. The leadership had fallen victim to the collective self-image of invincibility, and was therefore unable to prevent the war. In striking contrast, following the Declaration of Independence, May 14, 1948, when the people rejoiced and danced in the streets, Ben-Gurion was gravely concerned with what lie ahead, contemplating the possibility of the Arab nations’ forthcoming attack. In 1973, however, the process of redemption, of the individual ego merging with the collective self, had attained its tragic peak.
The position of strength, force, and power, disconnected from its opposite pole of loss and fear of annihilation, collapsed following the Yom Kippur War. Since any trace of weakness might have threatened the sense of hubris, and therefore had been denied, the gap between reality and self-perception had reached unhealthy proportions. With devastating clarity, the Yom Kippur War brought to light the weakness that lingered in the shadow behind the persona of strength and self‑sufficiency, by which the collective ego had become possessed. The war brought forth the sense of loss and – again – the deeply rooted fear of ultimate destruction. This, in turn, generated the release of strength and the will to survive. The Yom Kippur War was the tragic outcome of a complex having taken possession of a nation’s collective consciousness.

The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel can presently be purchased from Fisher King Press at a 26% discount, or at  Amazon.

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