Achan's Legacy and the Yom Kippur War

It is 30 years since the Labor Party debacle of the Yom Kippur War. Ever since that horrid day in 1973, I have been unable to get through a Yom Kippur without thinking of those traumas. And ever since 1973, I have associated the Yom Kippur War with the Biblical character of Achan.

Prof. Steven Plaut,

It is 30 years since the Labor Party debacle of the Yom Kippur War. Ever since that horrid day in 1973, I have been unable to get through a Yom Kippur without thinking of those traumas. And ever since 1973, I have associated the Yom Kippur War with the Biblical character of Achan.

Let me explain. Achan is not a well known character in the Bible and his entire role consists of a few sentences in the Book of Joshua. The Israelite tribes had invaded their promised land, had swiftly defeated Jericho. The Canaanite pagans were shaking in their sandals, and had been in a state of panic ever since the word had reached them of the parting of the Red Sea. They knew their time was up, their goose cooked.

The Israelites had received a Divine commitment that they would conquer and defeat the Canaanites. They enjoyed unprecedented strategic advantage. The entire world knew that God was in a strategic alliance with them. Their deterrence was legendary. Their military prowess feared. They could overcome pagan opposition effortlessly, on the basis of their fearful reputation.

Until Achan came along.

The Divine military commitment was contingent on the Israelites obeying Divine commands regarding what would be done with booty from the vanquished. It belonged ?to God?, which was to say to the priests and the Tabernacle staffs, for public use. Achan however had helped himself to some of the loot after the conquest of Jericho. His act undermined the entire strategic position of Israel and the deterrence of the Israelite tribes.

Because of Achan?s act, the next battle went badly. When the Israelites attacked Ai, the next town after Jericho, they lost the first battle. While a mere 36 Israelite fighters were killed by the pagans, the very fact that a battle had been lost changed the entire strategic situation irreversibly. It was a development that changed history. To the astonishment of the world, it became evident that the Jews were not invincible, that they actually could be defeated in battle. The effect on Jewish morale was no less earth-shaking.

Achan?s folly had changed the map of the Middle East, raising existential questions about the military capacities of the Jews and ultimately about their survivability and chances of victory. It raised hopes among the pagans that the Almighty just might not be protecting the Israelite military flanks after all. It pumped new energy into the enemies of the Jews, feeding their campaign through demonstration of Jewish vulnerability and ?defeatability?.

I was an American graduate student at the Hebrew University in 1973. When the sirens went off, the university emptied out. As a non-Israeli, I was one of the few still walking about the campus. Many other students never returned from the fronts.

The modern equivalent of the Folly of Achan was the Labor Party Debacle of October 1973. The Labor Party had run Israel since its birth as its own personal fiefdom. It had imposed a silly socialist command structure on the country based on 19th century economic illiteracy, which had kept the country impoverished and underdeveloped. In 1973, the bulk of Israelis still did not have telephones or televisions. Many still had no kitchen. Some still had no bathroom. The country was shackled by government-established monopolies, tax rates often over 100%, spend-till-you-drop fiscal policy, and regularly shut down by the trade union terrorism of the Histadrut.

The same Labor Party had nurtured a blind faith in the capacities of the military. After Israel?s military success in the Six Day War, the political leadership was convinced that military deterrence was no longer something in need of maintenance and construction. The country was awash in blind hubris and baseless over-confidence. Mediocre generals and colonels were celebrities and followed by the paparazzi. Newspapers bragged about Israel being stronger than NATO and jokes abounded of single Israelis capable of defeating entire Arab regiments with no effort. The Bar Lev line of fortresses along the Suez Canal was impregnable, impossible to overcome.

The politicians undermined and under-maintained the military defenses, thinking them unnecessary. The government agreed to the pinnacle of stupidity, the ceasefire with Egypt in 1970 that allowed the Egyptians to move their forces and missiles right up to the Suez Canal, and so neutralizing Israeli military capability. The army ignored reports about the capabilities of the new ?high-tech? anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles flooding into Egypt and Syria. Israeli military intelligence was asleep (as it has also been since the beginning of Oslo regarding Palestinian intentions and behavior), ignoring the Egyptian-Syrian buildup and ignoring all of the warning signs, exhibiting Pearl Harbor stupidity in the summer of 1973. There were 500 poorly equipped Israeli soldiers along the front line against Egypt the day before Yom Kippur.

Even when the fighting began, Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan displayed gross incompetence and, later, cowardice. They feared calling up the reserves, lest this ?provocation? upset the Americans. Surely, single Israelis would chase away entire regiments of Arab tanks, right? They nursed the delusion that this was a skirmish, not a full Egyptian-Syrian-Russian attempt to defeat Israel and wipe it out.

2,600 dead Israeli troops and 10,000 maimed were the price paid by the country for the foolishness of the Labor Party ?conception?. The Bar Lev line collapsed in hours, joining the Maginot Line in the history of human folly.

But it was not the only ?conception? imposed on the country by the Labor Party and its allies to prove to be mega-stupidity. The collapse of the pre-1973 hubris led to Achan-like reassessment of Israeli military prowess and survivability by the world. Perhaps Israel could be defeated and destroyed militarily after all. Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan succeeded in re-establishing the Arab belief that Israel could ultimately be erased through armed force and terror.

Even more destructive in the long run was the undermining of Israel?s own faith in itself and belief in its own power. The blind hubris from before 1973 was replaced by whiny Israeli defeatism and self-doubt, by attempts to attribute the conflict with the Arabs to the evil nature and insensitivity of the Jews, and to seek its resolution through appeasement and self-debasement.

This self-doubt reached its height a mere nine years after the Yom Kippur War. While the 1973 War had started as a debacle and had cost the country the lives of a huge segment of its youth cohort, it had ultimately ended with a dazzling military victory, one orchestrated, incidentally, by Ariel Sharon before his later metamorphosis into a Beilinized appeaser. But the 1982 invasion of Lebanon in the ?Peace for Galilee? campaign saw the transformation of the Israeli Left from a rather-naive, but basically patriotic, group of people nursing delusions into a full-fledged movement of self-hatred and anti-Israel radicalism. The Left took to the street to denounce Begin and Sharon as ?war criminals? and fascists, and the Left underwent radicalization that transformed it into an anti-Israel, anti-Zionist movement, in a manner similar to the morphing of the Western campus Left into little more than a movement of anti-Americanism. The more extreme segments engaged in open treason.

By the late 1980s, the Israeli Left and much of the Israeli Labor Party were in the process of imposing a new Grand Concept on the country, one that would prove even more destructive and foolish than the pre-1973 concept of military hubris and overconfidence. It was the Grand Oslo Delusion, the Oslo Pagan Cult, where Israel attempted to disarm Arab savagery and fascism through displays of goodwill gestures, restraint, self-debasement, turning the other cheek when Jewish children are mass murdered, unilateral disarmament, refusal to fight, nurturing Israeli defeatism through lecturing the country that it was their fault that there was war and terror, because they were insensitive to the ?Other? and trying to ?occupy? another ?people?.

The Israeli chattering classes were the most open in embracing treason. The campuses became cesspools of Tenured Traitors openly supporting Arab terror, mutiny and insurrection by leftists in the Israeli military, many openly endorsing the end of Israel?s existence as a Jewish state, and a handful endorsing Holocaust Deniers and neo-Nazis around the world in their zeal to delegitimize Zionism. These people openly endorsed anti-Semites and ?boycotts? of Israel by those overseas seeking the destruction of Israel and its population.

The Israeli media became the occupied territories of the Israeli Left, where non-Left opinion is increasingly suppressed and denied access to the media. The country?s literary figures conscripted themselves into the Radical Left and increasingly support treason and mutiny, such as the air force officers refusing to serve or follow orders until the government implements the political ideas advocated by the most extremist 5% of the country?s electorate.

Shimon Peres, who did not play a serious role in the 1973 Labor Party debacle (and Rabin, who was safe from blame in an ambassador?s job in 1973), is likely to go down in history books as the man who did more to destroy his own country than any other. It is still too early to know if he and Yossi Beilin succeeded. They imposed their ?Concept? on the country, a concept that proved to be absolutely, 100% wrong.

On the strength of that ?Concept? they converted the West Bank and Gaza into large bases for launching Nazi mass murders of Jews, terrorist attacks, and missile and rocket attacks on the Jews. They destroyed Israel?s capability of acting militarily and effectively against the savages, lest this upset the White House and the rest of the world. They convinced the world that the Israelis and the Jews had lost their will to survive and to resist anti-Semitism.

They restored Arab faith in their ability to erase Israel at the point of bayonets. They undermined the will of Israelis to resist anti-Semitic demonization. They refused to subject the PLO to tests of its intentions before arming it, bankrolling it, and importing its stormtroopers into Jewish lands.

They created a situation where even Likud governments are shackled by Labor Party faits accompli and are incapable of undoing the mindless follies of the Labor Left; where the hero of the Suez Canal is afraid to attack the Hizbollah, and instead offers wholesale release of Palestinian murderers in order to ?buy? back the bodies of three POWs that were murdered by the Hizbollah; where the same man is afraid to use a bomb that can wipe out the Hamas altogether, lest some ?innocent? bystanders get hurt.

And in doing so, the long-term strategic destruction caused by this new Labor Party ?Concept? makes the folly of Achan and the 36 fallen Israelites in the battle of Ai appear as children?s games.

By the way, what ever became of Achan? For his folly, he and his entire household were killed and erased. But his memory is in fact a mixed one and he was in large part redeemed. Tradition has it that, before being executed, Achan not only repented for his crimes, but went on to write a special prayer. The second paragraph of the Aleinu prayer, which ends every Jewish prayer service and is recited three times each day, is attributed to the very same Achan.

Curiously, it is the only part of Jewish prayer in which the concept of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world by establishing the rule of God and the defeat of paganism) actually appears. Tikkun Olam has long been hijacked by the assimilationist liberals (or ?asslibs?) among Jews as a code word for leftist ?social justice? and political correctness. This no doubt has made Achan roll about in his grave. And, as the ultimate silliness, many of those same Reform and ?Liberal? synagogues that misdefine all of Judaism as liberal political activism in the name of the hijacked Tikkun Olam do not even read Achan?s prayer, the only prayer in which Tikkun Olam appears. They simply skip over it.

Perhaps this is part and parcel of a greater phenomenon. Jewish leftists are wrong about absolutely everything. Jewish liberals are wrong almost as often. But, unlike Achan, they never admit being wrong about anything. They never seek repentance or redemption through atoning for their crimes and follies.

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