The Yom Kip­pur War: Pol­i­tics, Diplo­ma­cy, Legacy

Asaf Siniv­er
  • Review
By – September 23, 2014

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.

Relat­ed content:

Seth J. Frantz­man received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty of Jerusalem where he cur­rent­ly holds a Post-Doc­tor­al Fel­low­ship. He is a colum­nist for the Jerusalem Post and Fel­low at the Jerusalem Insti­tute of Mar­ket Studies.

Discussion Questions