Gerald Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive doctoral work in Middle East studies, has lectured on numerous university and other platforms. He has debated many of the best Arab and pro-Arab academics in public debates and on television. Mr. Honigman is widely published in academic journals, magazines, newspapers and other publications.
Sat Sep 01, 2012 7:09 pm Morsi, War, and Yom Kippur
Morsi, War, and Yom Kippur...
by Gerald A. Honigman
Egypt's new Muslim Brotherhood Islamist leader, President Mohamed Morsi, recently rejected an invitation to visit Israel in an attempt to stabilize the cold peace his military predecessors brought about which has existed between the two countries for over three decades now.
Returning to hostile pre-treaty language, it was announced that he would reject setting foot in the Zionist entity. He did this soon after Egypt, under the guise of combating Sinai-based terrorists, injected tanks, other armored vehicles, and anti-aircraft batteries close to the lines which have demarcated the border with Israel since the treaty was signed in 1979…with the help of billions of dollars of modern equipment America itself has supplied Egypt with. There was no prior consultation with Israel in ignoring the heavy weapon demilitarized terms of the treaty, and the introduction of sophisticated anti-aircraft batteries can have only one target in mind--and it isn't Arabic in origin. The temporary and mutually-agreed upon reintroduction of tanks could perhaps be explained…but why the anti-aircraft apparatus?
One after another, harsh, despotic, largely secular Arab regimes are falling to harsh, intolerant, despotic Islamist ones instead--all allegedly in the name of "democracy."
While many wish otherwise, the sad reality is that such Islamist "democracy" will only translate into the tyranny of the majority. The model to look at is the non-Arab (yet Arabized) Iran of Ahmadinejad and the mullahs.
Time marches on.
No, I'm not going to next sing Tevye's Sunrise, Sunset, but it is, nevertheless, a profound reality which forever humbles mortal man.
In several weeks, Jews will once again--as they have done for millennia--face G_d in trepidation over their human failings on the most sacred day on the lunar Hebrew calendar, Yom Kippur (pronounced " Yome Keepoor "). It is the last day of the Ten Days of Awe which begin with Rosh Hashanah.
Occurring on the tenth day of the seventh ecclesiastical month of Tishri, Yom Kippur is translated from Hebrew as "Day of Atonement." It is a time for individuals to attempt to reconcile with G_d and their fellow man by turning away from evil and sin. While it is referred to several times in the Hebrew Bible, it makes its debut in Leviticus 16:29-34 where the Children of Israel afflict their souls while the priest makes atonement for the sins that they have committed.
Scholars have long noted the huge impact Jews and their religion made on the Muslim Prophet, Muhammad (and the new religion he founded), after he fled his enemies in Mecca in the seventh century C.E. and was granted refuge in the Jewish date palm oasis of Medina.
Along these lines, much evidence exists which ties the important Islamic holiday of Ashura with Yom Kippur. Below are just a few of other important Muslim Hadiths related to this...
Allah's Apostle ordered (the Muslims) to fast on the day of 'Ashura', and when fasting in the month of Ramadan was prescribed, it became optional for one to fast on that day (Ashura) or not (Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith, Hadith 3.219, narrated by Aisha)
It appears that only after Muhammad did not succeed in getting the Jews of Medina to accept him as the "Seal of the Prophets," Messenger of G_d, and chief political honcho that he changed the day of fasting from the 10th of the Islamic month of Muharram (Ashura)--the Yom Kippur holiday of the Jews--to the month of Ramadan instead.
And one other…
The Prophet came to Medina and saw the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura.
He asked them about that. They replied, "This is a good day, the day on which Allah rescued Bani Israel from their enemy. So, Moses fasted this day." The Prophet said, "We have more claim over Moses than you " (Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith, Hadith 3.222, narrated by Ibn Abbas).
Furthermore, that same connection goes all the way up to the Jews' original, millennia earlier, utter refusal to deify their great leaders, repulsion of idols, and central profession of faith in the sacred Oneness of G_d to how a pre-Muhammad, pagan, idol-worshipping Arabia subsequently dealt with these same core tenets of faith after Muhammad's crucial sojourn with his Jewish hosts--hosts whom he later decapitated or enslaved upon their refusal to accept his leadership.
Okay--enough of ancient history and religious studies…
Yom Kippur, unfortunately, brings with it much more recent memories.
In June 1967, after being blockaded at the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba (a casus belli), having the United Nations peacekeeping force expelled by Nasser, over one hundred thousand Egyptian troops, tanks, and so forth amassed right up to its '49 armistice line, and other overtly hostile acts, a minuscule Israel was forced to go to war against Egypt and masses of other Arab militaries which swore daily to its destruction. Previous promises which had been made to Israel by the international community--including America--proved to be worthless. Israel was--at least in the human realm--on its own.
But, in six days it was over…at least temporarily.
Among other territories Israel found itself in as result of that renewed Arab attempt on its life was the Sinai Peninsula.
Almost immediately, and unlike other nations (including the United States--whose borders continuously expanded hundreds or thousands of miles away from home as a result of hostilities and other national interests), Israel offered to give back virtually all of the land it had repeatedly been attacked from in return for real treaties of peace. The Arabs quickly responded with their infamous Three "Nos" Of Khartoum (http://www.sixdaywar.org/content/khartoum.asp).
The Sinai was nothing if not the best tank trap Israel ever could ask for. And, just as in the wake of the '56 hostilities (started due to constant Arab attacks from the Sinai and adjacent Gaza Strip and an earlier Egyptian blockade of Israel as well), in June 1967 Israel was forced to take possession of it yet again. Still, as in '56, it offered to give it all up for the sake of peace.
Since the Arabs refused, Israel had no choice but to remain--otherwise there was nothing stopping a return to the same scenario which not only caused recent wars but which had been going on since the days of the Pharaohs. On a relatively positive note, as a result of the understanding David Ben-Gurion secured prior to Israel's retreat under pressure in '56, any future Arab blockade would be recognized as a legitimate casus belli so Israel itself could not be legally accused of aggression when forced to act against Arab aggressors. That scenario indeed came into play in spring 1967.
Faced with Khartoum's Arab rejectionist response to peace, Israel thus dug into Sinai's sands--and in the process, developed oil fields which made it largely self-sufficient in energy as well. It also constructed some of the most advanced air bases anywhere in the world, while keeping Arab air craft and armored divisions much farther away from home.
Regardless, especially for a nation as tiny as Israel, this scenario was far from ideal.
Israel constructed its Bar-Lev Line of defense, but that--like other historically famous allegedly "impenetrable" barriers--only begged to be breached. Sure enough, after a costly war of attrition in the interim years, Israel's defensive line was overrun on Yom Kippur in October 1973.
Israel's commanders had long understood that their tiny nation could not sustain long, defensive wars, and when they had to fight took it quickly into their opponents' territory. Having a great air force does little good if you have to bomb your own nation to smithereens to rid it of invaders with genocide on their minds.
Israel came close to total destruction on Yom Kippur thirty-nine years ago.
Thousands of its men, hundreds of its tanks and aircraft, and so forth were slaughtered and destroyed on the holiest day on the Hebrew calendar. In human losses, Israel suffered the proportional equivalent of about 130,000 American dead--let alone maimed and wounded.
Even worse, there is evidence which shows that Israel knew what was coming but felt pressured not to strike the first blow. If this sounds dangerously familiar in terms of current, contemporary events, it is…
After the first harrowing days following the Yom Kippur attack, Israel finally reversed the tide--largely due to its daring tank commander and later political leader, General Ariel (Arik) Sharon. He crossed the Suez Canal and Israeli troops were now in Africa. By the end of hostilities, Israeli forces were a mere sixty miles outside of Cairo.
In the process, Egypt's entire Third Army was surrounded and, without outside intervention, faced certain defeat if not annihilation. That outside intervention indeed came, however…for good or for bad. The verdict of history is still not in on this matter. Sometimes it takes real defeat and real victory before true peace can emerge. Think Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden as just some costly, tragic examples…
Disturbing reports also subsequently revealed that Secretary of State Kissinger deliberately withheld sorely need rearmament of Israel's badly battered forces for almost two weeks in order to make the Jews more pliable in terms of any future peace deal. It took President Nixon's Chief of Staff, the late great General Alexander Haig, to override the "Jewish" Secretary of State's influence and perfidy. How many Jewish lives were lost due to this is anyone's guess. According to credible sources, Henry was quoted as saying that wanted them to bleed more this time around.
After Sharon surrounded the Egyptian Third Army, Kissinger and other assorted duplicitous power brokers--who stood by and watched Israel repeatedly attacked in one war after another and did nothing-- then demanded (ostensibly to keep the Russians from making things even worse) that Israel allow a resupply line to be established to its surrounded enemies whom, without a doubt, would have slaughtered the Jews had the tables been reversed (http://www.eretzisraelforever......=941970583)
Bottom line…Jews are not allowed to win wars. Who else in history fights a war for its very survival and then is demanded by others to supply its enemies and not completely defeat them?
Taking a cue from the international manhandling of their intended Jewish victim, yet more typical Arab chutzpah followed. Thus, despite the Arabs' proverbial chestnuts being pulled out of the fire by others--especially in the West--they soon launched their oil embargo as a thank you…I remember Mobil Oil Company's full page ads in newspapers crying out for "even-handedness" and such--and the huge lines of cars waiting for gasoline as well.
While other events followed, the most telling came about six years after the Yom Kippur War. I'm talking, of course, about President Anwar al-Sadat's amazing flight to Jerusalem in 1977 and his speech before the Israel Knesset…
While Sadat had no love of Israel, after Egypt and others had given war their best shot in 1973 (and had to be saved from humiliation anyway by others), he came to see the cost of bringing about the Jewish State's destruction as the ultimate Pyrrhic victory. His reception in Israel further assured him that G_d shined on his decision.
After the visit, the pace towards reconciliation slowed. In return for his flight into the land of the Jews--where Pharaohs recorded their victories over them over 3,000 years earlier (http://www.biblicalarchaeology.....of-israel/)--Sadat expected Israel to basically cave in to all of his demands.
Having been a specialist consultant focusing on interfaith and Middle Eastern issues while trying to finish doctoral studies, I was honored during this time period to have been chosen by one of the most prestigious newspapers in the Midwest, the Akron Beacon Journal, to write the half-page counterpoint op-ed to go along with President Sadat's own half page "Open Letter" dealing with the stalled peace process. If I recall correctly, the editor had been present at one of my many programs on various university campuses, and that led to my invitation.
Unfortunately, what I wrote came to fruition--and I sorely wish that I had been mistaken.
Among other things which I had pointed out was the fact that Sadat, after all, was still a dictator, and that Egypt had no traditions to peacefully back up his unilateral decision to make peace. What the benevolent despot could give could also vanish with one bullet…and meanwhile the Jews were expected to give away the store in return for such a deal. No compromise over borders, the abandonment of UNSC Resolution 242's promises, and so forth.
Sure enough, a few years after the peace treaty was signed in 1979, earlier compatriots of President Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Sadat (http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/1882/muslim-brotherhood-reality). While his successor, Hosni Mubarak, honored the treaty, relations never took off as they promised to do had Sadat lived. The peace remained frigid as anti-Semitism--let alone anti-Zionism--freely flowed throughout Egyptian society at all levels.
So, here we are today…
On a positive note, Morsi's visit to Iran did not work out quite as the latter had planned. It had been puzzling anyway, and I had written of the peculiarity of Twelver Shi'a Iranians cozying up to Arab Sunni Islamists…Yet, miracle of miracles, despite them blowing each other apart in places like Iraq, there still appeared to be receptivity between the two.
Morsi's endorsement in Iran of his Sunni Islamist brethren in Syria (Assad and the Shi'a Alawis main opponents, with Iran as their main backers) was thus welcome news. even though such a victory would likely yield nothing more tolerant in the long run than what it aims to replace. Nevertheless, it may still be a move in the plus column if some other events are allowed to unfold--like the inclusion of more diverse opposition forces in the plans to reshape a post-Assad Syria…millions of Kurds and other members of the Syrian Democratic Coalition, for example.
Returning to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and Israel, it is obvious--via recent actions as well as words--that the Ikhwan's long-stated hatred of Jews and their state will have them try to erode the 1979 treaty as far as possible and as far as America's annual gift of some $2 billion per year since 1979 will permit.
Israel must be ultra-firm on this issue.
The whole idea and precedent of land for peace goes up in smoke if their best example simply vanishes at the other side's whim…like what I warned in my Akron Beacon Journal op-ed and before and afterwards as well. What does this say about any further compromises (not unilateral concessions a la Gaza) that Israel will be expected to make if the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty becomes nothing more than a meaningless piece of paper?
The very hard news that no one wants to hear is that Israel better be seriously preparing for war on the Egyptian front. It will be the most costly war yet, no doubt, thanks to vast amounts of sophisticated American training and armaments now in Egyptian arsenals. Keep that in mind the next time you speak of American gifts to the Jews…Add in the vast, top-of-the-line American (and other) arsenals in other Arab states, and the thought becomes a nightmare indeed.
But a phony peace with folks who truly aim at your eradication--and the Jihadis of the Muslim Brotherhood have been a determined, bloody group for well over a half century now--will only lead to Israel's virtual self-destruction.
Yes, any new conflict with a mightier Egypt will likely bring about mass numbers of Israeli deaths. Yes, hopefully that can be avoided…but not at the expense of simply a prolonged demise.
The message Israel must quietly convey to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Jihadis is that it will not have its hands tied by anyone--including an American secretary of state or president--in the next conflict and that, at long last, it will fight to truly win and defeat its enemies…utter destruction of their armies and infrastructure as well if need be.
The time to act on this extremely sensitive issue is already overdue.
Israel must demand--yes, demand--that the terms of the 1979 treaty be enforced to a tee and not go begging to have this done.
It must issue an ultimatum, if need be, that those prohibited forces Egypt unilaterally placed in Sinai will be incinerated if not removed by a certain date--especially the anti-aircraft batteries.
Think about what America did when Soviet missiles were about to based in Cuba 90 miles away from the United States.
If a mutually-agreed upon solution to tackle Sinai-based al-Qaida types, whom are even too extreme for the Ikhwan, can be agreed upon, then that becomes another story.
The message about war and peace to Mohamed Morsi and his fellow Islamists, however, with the approach of this Yom Kippur must be as unambiguous as possible. And they must be shown, in no uncertain terms, that Israel is indeed the Zionist entity…and be proud of it.