The informed public and the Yom Kippur War
Information, presented to the public as classified and indistinct, shapes the public mood in one way or another.
Nachum Pessin and Moshe Dayan at Shaare Tzedek Photo: Shaare Tzedek Medical Center
The official archives of the State of Israel are trickling out bits and pieces
of information about the Yom Kippur War, as they do every year. Every year, as
if out of some sort of masochistic pleasure, a few more drops drip onto our
heads like “Chinese water torture,” reopening the wounds of October 1973 that
refuse to heal.
This information, presented to the public as classified
and indistinct, shapes the public mood in one way or another. This time, for
example, the anger is directed towards the head of the Mossad at the time,
Reserves general Tsvi Zamir. We have been led to believe that if only he had
tossed and turned a bit less on one particular night and had paid more attention
to the telephone call he received the fate of the war would have been different.
That, of course, is nonsense.
Last week, an important book was published
by Sifriat Ma’ariv called The Chinese Farm, by Ilan Kfir.
describes the battles of the 14th Armored Brigade at the Suez Canal, under the
command of col. Amnon Reshef. In the concluding chapter “The Battle Over the
Hearts and Minds,” Kfir describes the struggle by Reshef and his comrades in the
brigade to gain public recognition for their role in general, and their part in
the Battle of the Chinese Farm in particular.
According to Kfir, had it
not been for the personal struggle of the fighters of 14th Armored Brigade, it
is unlikely that the brigade’s important contribution to the war would have
received public recognition, especially in comparison to the Paratrooper
Brigade’s 890th Battalion.
AN INCREASING number of books are being
written about the Yom Kippur War, each one giving us important information that
complements and adds to its predecessors, but we are still missing the full
picture of the war. It was the policy of past governments, as well as the
archives, to hold on to the information and not to release it to the public
under the pretext of protecting state secrets.
I encountered a strict and
short-sighted approach while investigating certain events that took place during
the Second Intifada of 2000-2005 for my doctoral dissertation. I requested
simple information from these archives, for the most part unclassified and not
remotely as important as that terrible war in 1973. Nonetheless, all my requests
were rejected and I was forced to rely on alternative sources, mainly personal
In my opinion, this is our last chance to hold a real
investigation into the Yom Kippur War. The Agranat Commission made a start, that
was good at the time, but undoubtedly, there were flaws that are emerging with
The many years that have passed since then make it possible to
reveal the information on the Yom Kippur War, from the situation leading up to
it to the way it was conducted and its conclusion. These issues need to be
re-examined in an independent investigation, free of political and personal
At present, many of those who held key positions at the time
are still among us and it is still possible to reach them, in addition to the
information locked away in the national archives, at the exclusive discretion of
the officials and their political proprietors.
Next year, Israel will
mark the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. Now is the time to appoint a
new public commission which will be able to investigate the war, to authorize
the publication of all related information and submit its findings in October
2013. That would be the most fitting way to mark the 40th anniversary of the Yom
The writer is a member of Knesset for Kadima. He is on the
Committee for Foreign Relations and Security. He completed his doctorate in