October 6th 2013 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. Forty years ago on that fateful Yom Kippur day, Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated surprise attack on Israel. In the south on the Egyptian front, artillery shells rained down on Israeli positions along the border at an astounding rate of 10,000 per minute. One-hundred thousand Egyptians, armed with the latest Soviet weaponry, then crossed the Suez Canal and overwhelmed the 500 or so Israeli troops unfortunate enough to have been stationed in the area.
In the north on the rocky plateau of the Golan Heights, the situation was no less grim. In tanks alone, the Syrian attackers outnumbered the Israeli defenders by a factor of nearly ten to one. One hundred and seventy-seven Israeli tanks was all that stood between the Syrian army and Galilee. As with all of Israel’s wars, various other Arab countries temporarily set aside their tribal-fed, blood feud differences and sent contingents to join the Jihad against the Kuffars.
The Israeli army quickly mobilized to meet the threat and eighteen days later, when the guns on the field of battle fell silent, the situation appeared markedly different from those first grim and desperate days. In the north, the Syrians were in full retreat. The carcasses of modern Soviet Syrian T-62 and T-55 tanks littered the battlefield and Israeli forces were a mere twenty miles from Damascus. In the south, the situation for the Egyptians was even bleaker. With their Third Army Corps surrounded by Israeli troops and their air defenses shattered, the Egyptians were on the verge of collapse. Egyptian soldiers surrendered in droves preferring captivity in Israel rather than death by bullet or thirst, and the road to Cairo, some 50 miles away, was clear of enemy troops.
The Yom Kippur War was a clear-cut Israeli military victory and is regarded as one of the most stunning military turnarounds in modern military history. As author Abraham Rabinovich insightfully notes in his critically acclaimed book on the subject, “Israel’s recovery from the edge of the abyss was epic.” A surprise attack of such ferocity and magnitude would have brought “stronger nations to their knees” but Israel nonetheless absorbed the first deadly blows, stabilized the front and initiated successful two-front counterattacks that sent the enemy scurrying.
Of course, Egyptians, mired in endless conspiracy theories and delusional fantasy don’t see it that way. To them, the war began and ended with the crossing of the Suez Canal and those first few euphoric days. Everything post-crossing remains a blur. Given their proclivity to indulge in Alice in Wonderland-like fantasy, the Egyptian version of events is certainly unsurprising. What more can we expect from people who believe that man eating, Yarmulke-wearing Mossad sharks prowl the warm waters of the Mediterranean to feast on tasty Egyptians?
The problem, however, becomes more acute when the fantasy emerges not from Egyptian sources that virtually no one takes seriously but rather from putatively respectable Western sources. Consider the case of the BBC’s “Learning Zone” website, an online resource for educators and researchers. In its brief synopsis of the Yom Kippur War, Learning Zone noted the following; “During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Egypt and Syria acted pre-emptively against Israel at the Suez Canal…”
The BBC’s summary is flawed on several levels. First, Syrian forces operated nowhere near the Suez Canal and were engaged in an area that was roughly 390 miles north of the Canal. More importantly, the Arab assault was an unprovoked surprise attack and Israel’s military posture on the eve of battle was anything but threatening. At war’s outbreak, Israel’s frontline positions along the Canal were manned by a paltry 500 soldiers and 3 tanks. Israel’s military prowess is known far and wide but the thought of 500 reservists making a mad dash for Cairo in a “Light Brigade,” Balaclava-like charge is a stretch even for the most imaginative.
To its credit, the BBC, when challenged, partially corrected its erroneous characterization of the war but inexplicably left intact the false claim that Syria attacked Israel on the Suez Canal. Moreover, the BBC directs its readers to Benny Morris, Robert Fisk and Noam Chomsky for further insight on the subject. Morris is a reputable historian with centrist views who takes his job as a historian quite seriously. Chomsky and Fisk, however, are rabid partisans who subscribe to fringe anti-Israel views. Fisk has been accused by colleagues of fabricating facts while Chomsky has been aptly described as a one-note song and a one-trick pony. Their fringe views on Israel make one wonder why the BBC would defer to them for knowledge on the subject matter, unless of course, the BBC subscribes to these views.
Further evidence of fantasy finding its way into the stream of conventional discourse comes from that other British news stalwart, The Economist. In an article addressing Hamas’ growing isolation, The Economist notes the following; “Israelis still loathe Hamas, which carried out scores of suicide-bombings against Israelis in the early 2000s. Hamas, meanwhile, reviles Israel for its assaults on Gaza and its leaders.”
While the former sentence is accurate, the latter is pure drivel. The Hamas charter, which reads like Mein Kampf on steroids and is filled with a combination of hate-filled vitriol and Islamist dogma, was written and adopted by Hamas well before Israel’s “assaults on Gaza and its leaders.” Hamas does not need an excuse to hate Jews. Anti-Semitism is an integral part of their philosophy and ideology.
Glaring “mistakes” of this nature by the BBC and The Economist are just the tip of the iceberg and are indicative of either a poor vetting process or something more nefarious. The danger is not the narrative per se but its adoption by mainstream media. If left unchallenged by those of us who are informed, it becomes part of accepted discourse and that must be prevented at all cost.
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