Jason Maoz can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five years ago this week, the Monitor learned firsthand just how the mere mention of Richard Nixon is enough to turn even the most mild-mannered of liberals into screaming viragos. In that particular case, the words about Nixon that so provoked them – their tortured heads no doubt filled with the sounds of werewolves howling and fingernails scratching blackboards – appeared not in this column but in a front-page essay for this paper penned by your humble scribbler.
The piece, titled “The ‘Anti-Semite’ Who Saved Israel,” was based solely on the accounts of eyewitnesses and the work of reputable scholars, but that didn’t stop a distressingly large number of readers (several websites and blogs had mentioned or linked to the article) from accusing this mild-mannered reporter of everything from sugar-coating Nixon’s anti-Semitism to exaggerating his role in the monumental arms airlift at the heart of the story.
Of all the negative responses – many of them larded with CAPS and exclamation points, usually telltale signs of an ignoramus at work – not one dealt in substance. Conspiracy theories abounded – they always do with those who accept as fact every crackpot message they receive via e-mail or by telepathy or from signals emitted by UFOs.
When yours truly used some of the material from that front-page essay in an online article for Commentary magazine last October commemorating Nixon’s role in rescuing Israel during the Yom Kippur War, the outpouring of hatred from unhinged liberals was no less daunting.
One of the more popular notes sounded by respondents to the 2005 front-page essay was that Nixon’s actions on behalf of Israel were prompted by Golda Meir’s supposedly having had in her possession all sorts of juicy political and personal dirt on Tricky Dick that she threatened to make public. Another commonly cited blackmail scenario had Golda putting the squeeze on Nixon by threatening the use of nuclear weapons – a fanciful bit of fiction inspired by the play “Golda’s Balcony,” in which a very old, very tired and, it has to be said, very mediocre prime minister is depicted as Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle all wrapped up in one.
Well, someone who was in a position to know about these things is certainly a more reliable source than some playwright with a political axe to grind, so when your dogged correspondent penned the Commentary piece last fall, he turned to the eyewitness testimony of Mordechai Gazit, who at the time of the Yom Kippur War was director general of both the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office.
Here’s what Gazit had to say to Gerald Strober and Deborah Hart Strober in their oral historyNixon: An Oral History of His Presidency: “The airlift was decided not because we asked for it. Our relations with the United States were not at a point where we could have asked for an airlift; this was beyond our imagination.”
Hard as it may be to believe, this was still not good enough for some of the more deranged Nixon-haters, who accused this unassuming scribe of taking things out of context or the Strobers of getting the story all wrong. In fact, the Strobers had a lot more in their book. For example, Gazit recounted to the Strobers Golda Meir’s visit to the White House in early November, shortly after the end of the war. No hint here of Nixon feeling as if he’d been coerced by Meir: “The meeting lasted between a half hour and forty minutes…. [Nixon] told Golda, ‘I took three critical decisions on your behalf: the airlift, the $2.2 billion to finance the arms, and the confrontation with the Soviets in’ – as he put it – ‘the precautionary alert.’ And then he whispered to her, ‘I can’t do it again.’ By this we understood him to mean that he had his own problem – Watergate; that he was not very strong, and that he was saying the time had come for us to move along in the peace process.”
And Aharon Yariv, who in a long career served in a variety of Israeli governmental positions, including chief of military intelligence, added this perspective in his interview with the Strobers: “The relationship between Nixon and Golda was one of personal friendship. When we came to the White House they were sitting next to each other in armchairs, and he put his hand on hers and said, ‘You and Brezhnev would get along well together.’ Golda would refer to Nixon as ‘my president.’ ”
But what did Gazit, Yariv and Meir know? Surely not as much as the Nixonphobes whose latest missives the Monitor eagerly awaits.
Jason Maoz can be reached at email@example.com
Seven years have swiftly passed since my husband and made aliyah from Washington, D.C. When we arrived it was the beginning of the seven year cycle of a “Shemitah” year, the time when, according to a commandment in the Bible, the soil in the land of Israel should rest, so that its fertility can be restored, it having been sapped during the previous six years.
We are now in another “Shemitah” year and we can scarcely believe it because of the diverse panorama of events that occurred during this period. And so, now we pause – to review this interval with much satisfaction.
We went up to Israel in the wake of the miraculous victory of the Six Day War. This stunning triumph awakened Jews in all corners of the earth to proudly proclaim their Jewish identity. Many came to help, and a considerable number decided to settle in the newly found homeland. The Israelis basked in the image of the victorious David, who defeated the insolent Goliath.
The economy flourished and everyone shared in it. The lira was then about four to the dollar. Basic foods were heavily subsidized by the Government as was bus transportation. The cultural segment of our lives was meaningful. To be able to attend public events without fear of going and returning home at any hour added greatly to our enjoyment. Memorable are innumerable occasions, such as, the first time we rose from our seats to hear the Israel hilharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, play “Hatikva” at the opening of the season and the Israel Symphony Orchestra, conducted bythe local Gary Bertini, do likewise.
Of course, there were various kinds of adjustments, but none that could not be overcome with the proper perspective. Importantly, we felt at home. It took about a year to get settled and to learn how to function with an archaic banking system, a telephone company whose employees inevitably reply to requests with the Hebrew version of “manyana,” a bureaucracy protected by the Histradrut, recurrent labor strikes and a most interesting, diverse population of Jews.
But all this is cushioned by the incredible fact that most everyone is Jewish – the bus drivers, the policemen, the nurses, the tour guides, the banking personnel, as well as the government.
Many factors more than offset initial frustrations. Living in Israel makes the Bible a reality. For example, “Shemitah” a theoretical subject, discussed by Talmudic scholars in the Diaspora, is widely adhered to in Israel by observant Jews. All year they are careful to use only agricultural products which are permissible according to the interpretation of the “Shemitah” laws by rabbinical authorities. Much is expressed in the media concerning “Shemitah” and a five star hotel in Jerusalem even notes on its menus its observance of the Sabbatical year of the soil.
Shabbat is a joy that can hardly be duplicated elsewhere and all the holidays assume an incomparable charisma, each beaming its own personality. You can feel the holiness of Yom Kippur and the exultation on Simchat Torah. Sukkoth is a week long holiday, celebrated by everyone. All the schools are closed and most offices and shops are either closed or functioning with a skeleton force. Immediately after Yom Kippur “schach” is made available in the cities for the “sukkah” and the streets and terraces are dotted with them. Linked with
Sukkoth are many varied activities throughout the land.
The Western Wall is unique. There is not a psychiatrist who can compete with it. You can talk to The Wall and it answers. You sense the presence of G-d’s angels. Perhaps they are represented by the families of birds living there, taking note of all of us. Then, too, perhaps The Wall is a vast computer and the birds, the programmers of events and dispatchers of our prayers and the “kvitels” that are left in the crevices. And when we go away, we always feel better than when we arrived. And it is all free. Where else in the world can we receive such spiritual strength!
And not to be overlooked is the delightful midnight TV feature which quotes pearls of wisdom from the Bible, Talmud and “Saying of the Fathers.” It is an incentive to remain awake until before the midnight news, because listening to the sagacity of our sages relieves the accumulated tensions of the day.
The year 1973 arrived with it the tragic Yom Kippur War. Sadat and most of the media call it the October War. It was a complete surprise and shocking to us novices, from America. The first three days were absolute confusion and the news distressing. Indelible in our memories was the evening Golda Meir, of blessed memory, appeared on TV and confirmed that the Egyptians had crossed the Bar Lev line, that we were overtaken and even if Israel wanted to make peace with Egypt, Egypt opted to push on! The tide turned shortly thereafter when Arik Sharon (“Melech Dovid” his boys called him) crossed over the Suez Canal and trapped the 3rd Egyptian army, a feat now being studied in the army schools of many nations. The brilliance of this maneuver by the Israeli army is but another frustrating example of how frequently Israel is pressured into retreating from an advantageous position – and, where right is made to appear wrong.
The war was a sobering experience and it affected everyone. It was a great shock. The defense forces were caught unprepared and could not perform immediately as they did in the Six Day War. It had a prolonged psychological impact on the population. A ceasefire was negotiated and Kissinger started his shuttle stratagem.
An image of an Israeli may well be the basket of food hanging from his hand on his way home, the newspaper he is reading while walking and the news program he is listening to on the bus or on the portable radio he frequently carries. Thus every Israeli is well apprised of the public disagreements between the chief rabbis, the terroristic attacks, the dramatic Entebbe rescue, the U.N. discussion on Zionism, Sadat’s incredible visit to Jerusalem, Begin’s visit to Ismailiya, the strikes of teachers, bank staffs, post office employees, doctors, El Al personnel and the perennial mini crises that occur.
However, in between and even during critical occurrences, the daily lives of the people continue at an even stride. Countless events cause tremendous pride, assurance and happiness. Many nations have sough out Israel because of its agricultural, medical electronics, etc. research. The design and manufacture of the Kfir plane (with American engine) and other armaments are notable achievements. Leadership in research and development of solar energy is one of the recent accomplishments. The establishment of a fashion industry and its annual market week is attended by buyers from Europe and other parts of the world. A furniture manufacturing industry has begun a make its impact locally and abroad: The annual book fair held at the Binyanei Ha’ooma in Jerusalem, in which leading publishers from all over the world participate, continues to be an exciting and anticipated occasion and perhaps gives an insight to the Israeli psyche. The opulation attends in droves, despite a charge for admission, and buys significantly. It is said that, per capita, Israelis are the largest buyers of books. In the field of sports they are competing more than commendably despite the discriminating tactics by the sports associations, inspired bythe Arabs. And, we shall always recall with great glee how the Maccabees defeated the Russians in basketball at Virton, Belgium, in February 1977, which was televised. There are so many things that give the Israelis that special confidence (“chuzpa”). Where else is there a museum like Beth Hatefutsoth in Ramat Aviv on the Tel Aviv University campus!
But man needs material things too, in his daily life. Rapid inflation and high taxes are facts of life. Government subsidies for basic foods and transportation have been considerably decreased. As a consequence of the ragged economy, wage disputes result and there is the endless adjustment in salaries to the cost of living, but the sequence is, first, a strike that inconveniences the public. However, no one goes hungry or uncared for. The cost of apartments, in line with inflation, is as expensive as in the States, except in development towns and settlement areas. But, new immigrants are given various privileges, including cheap housing and household furnishings at reduced prices.
During the period between the two “Shemitah” years we experienced two extremes – a war and the making of peace with Egypt. It was bewildering to see the reception Sadat received in Haifa. It seemed unreal that Israelis could so soon forgive the Yom Kippur War. But apparently the yearning for peace was overwhelming. And we wondered whether a like welcome would be accorded the Israelis when they would come to Egypt and whether the Egyptians also had a genuine desire for peace.
When we arrived in Israel the population numbered about three million and now it is about four million, Arabs increasing more rapidly than Jews. Many Jews continue to make aliyah, although at a slower pace than desired. It is gratifying to note the large percentage of observant Jews among the new immigrants from the west. They are the most motivated and idealistic element. Among them will be the future builders and leaders of Israel, who will help to mold Israel in the image we all long for.
There are so many opportunities in all fields and with perseverance, attainment is unlimited and the quality of life for Jews superior than elsewhere.
It is noteworthy that there is in Israel a considerable percentage of natives, for
such a small and young country, who enjoy also a second home, can afford to vacation frequently within Israel as well as abroad, refurnish their apartments when they feel the need for it, etc.
Notwithstanding the present political and economic situation, we look forward
with much hope for the future – to the next “Shemitah” year and to the Jubilee Year of Israel’s establishment.
This week marks the 36th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, so it seemed appropriate to revisit Richard Nixon’s role in enabling Israel to recover from the staggering setbacks it suffered in the first week of fighting.
As the Monitor noted four years ago in a Jewish Press front-page essay on Nixon and the Jews – elements of which appear this week at commentarymagazine.com and thenewnixon.org – precise details of what transpired in Washington during the first week of the Yom Kippur War are hard to come by, due in no small measure to conflicting accounts given by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger regarding their respective roles.
What is clear, from the preponderance of information provided by those directly involved in the unfolding events, is that President Richard Nixon – overriding inter-administration objections and bureaucratic inertia – implemented a breathtaking transfer of arms, code-named Operation Nickel Grass, that over a four-week period involved hundreds of jumbo U.S. military aircraft delivering more than 22,000 tons of armaments.
This was accomplished, noted Walter J. Boyne in an article in the December 1998 issue of Air Force Magazine, while “Washington was in the throes of not only post-Vietnam moralizing on Capitol Hill but also the agony of Watergate…. Four days into the war, Washington was blindsided again by another political disaster – the forced resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew.”
“Both Kissinger and Nixon wanted to do [the airlift],” said former CIA deputy director Vernon Walters, “but Nixon gave it the greater sense of urgency. He said, ‘You get the stuff to Israel. Now. Now.’ ”
Boyne, in his book The Two O’Clock War, described a high-level White House meeting on October 9:
As preoccupied as he was with Watergate, Nixon came straight to the point, announcing that Israel must not lose the war. He ordered that the deliveries of supplies, including aircraft, be sped up and that Israel be told that it could freely expend all of its consumables – ammunition, spare parts, fuel, and so forth – in the certain knowledge that these would be completely replenished by the United States without any delay.
White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig concurred:
As soon as the scope and pattern of Israeli battle losses emerged, Nixon ordered that all destroyed equipment be made up out of U.S. stockpiles, using the very best weapons America possessed.… Whatever it takes, he told Kissinger … save Israel.
“It was Nixon who did it,” recalled Nixon’s acting special counsel, Leonard Garment. “I was there. As [bureaucratic bickering between the State and Defense departments] was going back and forth, Nixon said, This is insane…. He just ordered Kissinger, “Get your [expletive] out of here and tell those people to move.”
Haig, in his memoir Inner Circles, wrote that Nixon, frustrated with the initial delays in implementing the airlift and aware that the Soviets had begun airlifting supplies to Egypt and Syria, summoned Kissinger and Schlesinger to the Oval Office on October 12 and “banished all excuses.”
The president asked Kissinger for a precise accounting of Israel’s military needs, and Kissinger proceeded to read aloud from an itemized list.
“Double it,” Nixon ordered. “Now get the hell out of here and get the job done.” When Schlesinger initially wanted to send just three transports to Israel because he feared anything more would alarm the Arabs and the Soviets, Nixon snapped: “We are going to get blamed just as much for three as for 300…. Get them in the air, now.”
Informed of yet another delay – this one because of disagreements in the Pentagon over the type of planes to be used for the airlift – an incensed Nixon shouted at Kissinger, “[Expletive] it, use every one we have. Tell them to send everything that can fly.”
Wrote Nixon biographer Stephen E. Ambrose:
Those were momentous events in world history. Had Nixon not acted so decisively, who can say what would have happened? The Arabs probably would have recovered at least some of the territory they had lost in 1967, perhaps all of it. They might have even destroyed Israel. But whatever the might-have-beens, there is no doubt that Nixon … made it possible for Israel to win, at some risk to his own reputation and at great risk to the American economy.
He knew that his enemies…would never give him credit for saving Israel. He did it anyway.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Monitor’s rumination last week on unjustified criticism directed against The Jewish Press brought a note from a longtime reader who raised the now infamous “Israel Wins” headline that appeared on the front page of The Jewish Press during the first week of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
The reader noted that for years – even decades – afterward, that headline was a staple in the conversation of just about anyone intent on disparaging the paper. Why this was so she’s not exactly sure – true, the war was far from won at the time, and the huge type the paper chose to use fairly screamed “cheesy tabloid” – but, as she recalled, all media outlets were bullish on a quick Israeli victory in the opening days of the war, and no one went around years later chuckling about how The New York Times got it wrong or how CBS News jumped the gun.
The early 1970’s were a relatively primitive time in terms of news transmission. There were no fax machines, no personal computers, no 24-hour cable news channels, and of course there was no Internet. News footage was shot on film; transporting it even short distances and then processing it took several hours – footage from overseas even longer. It could take days for perceptions to take hold, let alone change from one extreme to another.
The Yom Kippur War commenced on Saturday, Oct. 6. The Sunday newspapers in America carried some sketchy accounts of the war’s preliminary stages. Greater detail began to emerge on Monday, with The New York Times’s Terence Smith reporting that “Israeli forces have blocked the advance of Egyptian and Syrian armies and cut off a force of about 400 Egyptian tanks that had established two bridgeheads on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal…”
That same day, the Times’s Robert McFadden wrote: “Claiming superiority in the skies, Israel said her jets had struck deep inside Egypt and Syria, crippled Syrian air defenses and severed nine of 11 Egyptian bridges across the Suez Canal…”
On Tuesday Oct. 9, the Times’s Charles Mohr, reporting from Tel Aviv, weighed in: “Israeli officers began today to refer to the Middle East war in the past tense, personally confident that the short-term outcome was now a foregone conclusion…”
The new issue of Time magazine informed readers that “By Sunday morning, after nearly a day of intense fighting, Israeli forces had seized the initiative on both fronts…. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said that the mop-up might take several days, but…that the curious battle of Yom Kippur was already decided.”
The Jewish Press is put to bed Tuesday evenings. As of Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 9, the newspapers, the newsweeklies, television and radio all were painting a picture of an aroused Israel roaring back after having suffered setbacks very early on. The media completely fell for the line being peddled by the Israeli government.
If you were composing a headline for a Jewish newspaper on that particular day, the choice of “Israel Wins” made perfect sense – particularly if the newspaper was a weekly and you didn’t want to appear outdated by the end of the week when, as everyone knew from all the optimistic reports coming out of Israel, the fighting would be over, the Arabs in full retreat.
By the end of that first week of war, however, it was clear that far from winning handily, Israel was taking heavy casualties, the Arab armies were performing better than anyone had expected, and there was no indication as to when the fighting would be over and in what shape Israel would emerge from it.
The tone of the following week’s Jewish Press reflected the altered perception, with coverage that can best be described as disappointed, even bewildered, if still cautiously optimistic. But that “Israel Wins” headline took on a life of its own, becoming a favored cudgel in the hands of Jewish Press critics.
As recently as four years ago, a reader informed the Monitor that the editor of another Jewish newspaper had just mentioned the headline – this was thirty years after the Yom Kippur War, mind you – while giving a speech about Jewish media. The reference was not meant to be positive.
That editor is both old enough and intelligent enough to know how the media initially portrayed the Yom Kippur War. It’s distracting, though, to be bothered with facts when you’re busy grinding an ax.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/that-infamous-jewish-press-headline/2007/04/05/
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