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The Sword And The Olive: A Critical History Of The Israeli Defense Force by [Martin Van Creveld]

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The Sword And The Olive: A Critical History Of The Israeli Defense Force Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 36 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From Chapter 11: During the 1967 War itself, the media, especially the publicly-owned radio (there was no television broadcasting service), had been relatively restrained. Once it was over, however, all caution was thrown to the wind and the feeling prevailed that a miracle had just occurred-such a victory, many felt, could only have come about as a result of divine intervention. A whole crop of new popular songs sprouted almost immediately. The most famous one (actually written just before the War but quickly modified to suit the new circumstances) was devoted to "Golden Jerusalem"; others, less well known, serenaded everything from the beauties of Sharm El Sheik ("which is always in our hearts") to the "thousands of men" (in reality, a battalion) who had assaulted Ammunition Hill and, shedding their blood, turned it into "sacred" ground. Dozens of coffee table books were put together and published. Some even included a section of empty pages in which heroes could write down their own reminiscences for their grandchildren to read and profit from.

Referring to Germany's victory over France in the War of 1870-71, Nietzsche had warned his countrymen against the fallacy that a military victory constituted proof of superior culture. After 1967 Israelis (and others) cast his advice to the wind, looking for and duly finding "underlying" causes that explained their victory while at the same time "proving" that it could not have happened otherwise and would happen again in case of another war. Thus entire books were produced to show that Israel had "The Power of Quality" on its side. Statistical comparisons were made which showed that Israeli academics out-published all their colleagues in the Arab countries combined. Even if their output only consisted of purely theoretical studies-a charge often raised against Israeli scientists during those very years-such superiority presumably translated itself into achievement on the battlefield.

Nor were the Israelis content to attribute their victory to intellectual qualities only. From his post as professor of international relations at Hebrew University, Jehoshaphat Harkavi, the intelligence chief who had been fired in 1960, explained that the Arab rank and file were "amoral familists." Thousands of years of oppression at the hands of their betters made them unable to understand the meaning of any organization larger than the family; consequently they would not fight for it either. As the chief of military intelligence, Brigadier General Aharon Yariv told a French writer, "a Western person" found it difficult to penetrate the Arab mentality. The latter was characterized by "weakness and his lack of logic, tenacity, and faith. There is no cause that he does not wholeheartedly embrace and that he cannot betray with the same good faith, without ceasing to believe in it. . . most of the reports of officers to their colonels, of colonels to their generals, and of generals to Nasser are full of lies." By contrast, in the IDF "we never cheat on results. We tell the truth, however painful it may be at matter how vanity is damaged."

As Nietzsche also wrote, war makes the victor stupid. In retrospect, the smashing victory of 1967 was probably the worst thing that ever happened to Israel. It turned "a small but brave" (Dayan during his radio address on the morning of 5 June) people which, with considerable justification, believed itself fighting an overwhelmingly powerful coalition of enemies for dear life, into an occupying force; complete with all the corrupting moral influences that this entails. Thus military lessons of the "feat of arms unparalleled in all modern history" began to be studied almost immediately. Not so its moral consequences, which were only clear to a very few-among them, rumor has it, Prime Minister Eshkol, who within days of the capture of East Jerusalem was wondering how one would ever "crawl out again." In any event Israel and the IDF refused to crawl out, and before long they were confronted with new challenges which they found difficult to overcome.

--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition. Review

Renowned defense expert Martin Van Creveld (author of Command in War) offers a comprehensive 20th-century military history of Israel, starting in 1907 with the organization of Jewish settler groups and concluding with the modern day. Much of the focus is on the Israeli Defense Force's glory years, roughly the quarter century from when Israel secured its independence in 1949, through the Six-Day War against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria (and their Soviet advisors) in 1967, to the October War against Egypt and Syria in 1973. Despite being massively outnumbered, Israel won smashing victories each time--and allowed many experts to claim that man for man, no army in the world was tougher than the one Israel put in the field. Van Creveld (himself an Israeli) celebrates these accomplishments, but is extremely critical of what has happened since: He compares Israel's bungled invasion of Lebanon in 1982 to the American experience in the Vietnam War and cites the Israeli military's various shortcomings in confronting the Palestinian Intifada. Morale in the armed forces is now at a low point, writes van Creveld, who disturbingly suggests that his country's apparent military invincibility may be a thing of the past. Whatever one thinks of this claim, few can doubt that The Sword and the Olive is an inspiring portrayal of courage and heroism in the face of overwhelming odds. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B004OA64IO
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ PublicAffairs; 1st edition (August 6, 2008)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ August 6, 2008
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 4127 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 656 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36 ratings

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Martin van Creveld is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts on military history and strategy. He is the author of 27 books, which between them have been published in 20 languages. The best known one is The Transformation of War, which back in 1991 predicted the ongoing shift from large-scale conventional warfare to insurgency and terrorism.

In addition to military affairs, van Creveld has written extensively about political history (The Rise and Decline of the State), Israel history, American history, and women’s history.

He lives near Jerusalem with his wife, Dvora Lewy.

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