The Yom Kippur War, known as the October 1973 War in some places, is still the subject of much debate and controversy. In The Yom Kippur War, editor Asaf Siniver of the University of Birmingham, seeks to bring together various perspectives on the conflict and to free it from the “Israel-American prism” through which it is usually seen. It includes fourteen chapters detailing responses to the war among the neighboring countries — Egypt, Syria, and Jordan — as well as views of the war in Israel, the Soviet Union, and among Palestinians.
Unfortunately almost none of the works in the book live up the notion of opening up new ground to our understanding of the conflict. Most of them are based on secondary sources or a cursory examination of primary sources. Few of them provide us an understanding of the Arab perspective beyond what is already available in English on this issue by authors such as Patrick Seale and Avi Shlaim. This is due to the archives of the Arab countries being closed, but if that is the case then the whole premise of the book — providing insights into how the war was viewed from other countries — is problematic. For instance, in the chapter on Syria, the author asks, “Why did Hafez al-Asad refrain from using the war to put Syria on a different path?” The author does not answer the question except to provide a few theories already advanced by others.
Each of the chapters are well written and provide easily accessible synopsis of how the war unfolded and the ramifications it had. The article on Jordan by Assaf David provides an interesting examination of how Jordan sent its 40th Brigade to aid the Syrians, but never fully committed it to battle. Phillip Amour’s article on the Palestinian perspective is the most disappointing, providing no real insight into the war’s immediate impact on the community.
The reader is left with a feeling that an ostensibly promising and original volume does not live up to its intentions. In that sense this book might be a quick source for a student interested in the conflict but for the professional historian it holds little interest.