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Yom Kippurs Past and Present

 

I’m not Jewish, but I remember Yom Kippur in 1973 only too well. It was my freshman year in college and I was attending Fordham University in the Bronx at the time. Things were going pretty well, although I was getting tired of Rheingold beer-the favorite beer of most poor college students in New York at the time. My new friends and I spent a lot of time watching the Watergate proceedings on the television and listening to the Allman Brothers and (thanks to the four or five Puerto Ricans in our dorm) Eddie Palmieri. I had recently attended my first Attica Brigades meeting because I was pissed about the September CIA coup in Chile.

Yom Kippur fell on a Saturday that year. I was watching some forgotten show on the TV, when it was interrupted by a special news bulletin. These little interruptions had become quite frequent over the past year because of Watergate and I truly expected this one to be related to that criminal drama. The next one regarding that would have to wait until later in the month, however, when Richard Nixon fired the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, and abolished the office. Cox’s departure was quickly followed by the resignations of the Attorney General and his deputy.

No, this particular special news bulletin announced much more disturbing and deadly news. The Egyptians, Syrians and Israelis were at war. Egyptian and Syrian forces had attacked the Israelis across the Suez Canal. The Israeli forces had been taken by surprise and were at the moment overwhelmed. US and Soviet forces were moving into the region, in support of the Israelis and Arab countries, respectively. World War Three seemed a very real likelihood. One of the primary political reasons given for the attack by Egypt and Syria was the recovery of lands taken and occupied by the Israelis in the 1967 war between those countries.

Over the course of the next few days, Syria took back much of the territory it had lost in 1967. Israel launched a counterattack that failed and then, reserve General Ariel Sharon launched another against orders. The United States began a major airlift of 200 tons per day of arms to Israel (in addition to the arms it already sent) and the Soviets continued their shipments to the Arab countries. Israel attacked Syria from its positions on the Golan Heights. In response, the Soviet Union declared its intentions that Soviet airborne forces were on the alert to defend Damascus. Kissinger warned the Kremlin that if the Soviet forces sent troops to the Middle East, the United States would as well. In what turned out to be a rare display of Arab unity, Saudi Arabia began an oil embargo on the United States in support of Egypt and Syria. After a series of battles and ceasefire agreements that were ignored by the Israeli forces under war hero Sharon, a truce was finally established on October 28, 1973. This happened only because the Soviet Union threatened to move nuclear weapons into the region unless Kissinger convinced Israel to accept the UN-brokered ceasefire agreement. By the war’s end, Israel had regained much of the territory it had occupied in 1967 and then lost in the first days of the war.

Yom Kippur 2003 has had its own ominous beginning. After another murderous suicide attack on an Israeli city, the Israeli military launched its own series of attacks. No longer is it possible for the casual news observer to remember which force is responding to which-as if it matters-but Israel’s response to this attack has moved the situation up to a more dangerous level. For the first time since 1973, the Israeli military attacked a target deep inside Syria. Taking its cue from Washington, Sharon ‘s government has not only expanded its war against those who oppose the US-Israeli axis, it has increased the terror level throughout the world. Of course, Tel Aviv insists that they were only acting in self-defense. In Ariel Sharon’s mind, self-defense is an excuse for any military action, whether it’s bulldozing to death solidarity activists in the Gaza Strip, shooting missiles at cars in the West Bank, or dropping bombs on Syria. He has an enabler to this thought process in Washington, DC. The ongoing verbal attacks on Syria from the U.S. have only encouraged Israel in its aggressive policies toward Syria and other noncompliant Middle Eastern governments. Indeed, one can reasonably fear that the recent military attack by Israel is merely a prelude to those already in the planning stages at the Pentagon, despite whatever calls for Israeli restraint are emanating from the White House. If Israel continues these attacks (like they have stated they might), Syrian defenses would be suitably “softened up” for any future US assault on that country-an assault that Washington has been threatening since the moment US forces pulled down the Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad last April.

Those governments who are not tied to the Israeli expansion project can see the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories for what it is: an attempt by Israel to move into lands beyond its internationally granted and recognized boundaries and to occupy those lands by force. In so doing, they are denying that lands’ inhabitants their self-determination and, in a very fundamental way, their right to a peaceful and fulfilling life. This recognition in no way indicates support for the current campaign of suicide attacks conducted by some of the forces resisting the Israeli occupation. It does acknowledge, however, that Israel’s campaign of oppression, occupation, economic strangulation, and murder (under the guise of military self-defense) will never achieve any type of peace amongst the region’s peoples. Indeed, most of the world is convinced that the Israeli policy only makes the situation worse by the week.

So what lies ahead? With John Negroponte serving as the president of the United Nations’ Security Council for October, it is very unlikely that the United Nations will do anything about the spiraling situation. Negroponte is one of those in the US government who might as well be a foreign agent for the Sharon government. In other words, Israel not only can do no wrong, but the United States should work closer than it already does in Ariel Sharon’s pursuit of a greater Israel. Of course, even if Negroponte were not the Security Council president this month, it is unlikely that this body would do much anyhow. After all, the US could veto any resolution with language condemning Israel’s attack and, even if a weak resolution passed, history tells us that Israel would just ignore it anyway-an action that the US would support, by deeds if not in word.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground.

He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu

 

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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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