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Outbreak of the Yom Kippur War


Egyptian armed forces – a formidable foe
Uri Avnery Social activist
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Then came the war, a war we knew was coming, a war I warned them about. I'm not the only one; there were other warnings that were completely ignored. You have to remember, this was the period after the Six Day War when the Israeli Defence Force [IDF] was invincible – 'the army that could reach China, can certainly reach India'.  And the Arabs in general and the Egyptians in particular, were 'nothing, soldiers who flee, leaving their shoes behind in the desert', that was the image. I never accepted this picture because I fought against the Egyptians in 1948 and what remained with me was the impression that the Egyptian army is a good army, especially in defence. I talked about it once, didn't I?

I made an interim remark about the war of 1948 and the Egyptian army. From the time that the State was established until I was wounded, I was on the Egyptian front. And we, the soldiers on the southern front, had a good opinion of the Egyptian army. We certainly didn't disdain them – on the contrary, we thought it was the best Arab army. Soldiers always think that their enemy is the best. The Arab Legion was the best army; the Syrian army was the best army. We believed that the Egyptians were the best army, with two flaws: one, they could not fight at night while we fought only at night as we had no weapons with which to fight during the day. Why did the Egyptians not fight at night? There were all kinds of stories about them having an eye disease, which is true. In Egypt, eye disease was very common so their night vision was not good. I don't know whether this was true or just a story. The second flaw was that when they were defending they were great fighters − they defended the trenches to the last man, really − but when they stormed us they got to within 100 metres of us and then, somehow, they could not get any closer. Each time a machine gun fired, they would not advance. This is what the Egyptian army was. So I wasn't contemptuous of the Egyptian army.

ואז באה המלחמה. מלחמה שידענו שהיא תבוא, מלחמה שהזהרתי בפניה. מלחמה שאני לא היחידי, היו עוד אזהרות, שהתעלמו מהן לחלוטין. צריך לזכור, זאת הייתה תקופה אחרי "מלחמת ששת הימים" שצה"ל היה "הצבא הבלתי מנוצח", "הצבא שיכול להגיע לסין, יכול להגיע להודו בוודאי”. והערבים בכלל והמצרים בפרט היו "שום דבר, חיילים בורחים, משאירים אחריהם את הנעלים במדבר", זאת הייתה התמונה. אני אף פעם לא קיבלתי את התמונה הזאת מפני שאני לחמתי נגד המצרים ב-48' ונשאר אצלי הרושם שהצבא המצרי הוא צבא טוב, בייחוד בהגנה. פעם דיברתי על זה? לא? אני עשיתי הערת ביניים לגבי המלחמה של 48' והצבא המצרי. אני הרי מיום קום המדינה עד שנפצעתי הייתי בחזית המצרית. ולנו, החיילים בחזית הדרום, הייתה דעה טובה על הצבא המצרי. לגמרי לא זלזלנו בו אלא להיפך, חשבנו שזה הצבא הערבי הכי טוב. כל החיילים חשבו שהאויב שלהם הוא הצבא הכי טוב.הלגיון הערבי היה הצבא הכי טוב, הצבא הסורי הצבא הכי טוב. אנחנו האמנו שהמצרים הם הצבא הכי טוב, עם שני ליקויים: אחד, הם לא יכלו להילחם בלילה, ואנחנו לחמנו רק בלילה, לא היה לנו נשק בשביל להילחם ביום. למה המצרים לא לחמו בלילה? היו על זה כל מיני סיפורים: שיש להם מחלת עיניים, שבאמת, במצריים הייתה מחלת עיניים מאוד נפוצה, אז הראייה שלהם בלילה לא טובה, לא יודע אם אמת או סיפור. הליקוי השני היה שהם בהגנה היו לוחמים מצויינים, הם הגנו על השוחה עד האיש האחרון, ממש. אבל בהסתערות הם הגיעו ככה מאה מטר אלינו ואז איכשהו הם לא יכלו להתקרב. כל זמן שמקלע אחד עבד, הם לא התקדמו. זה מה שהיה הצבא המצרי. כך שלי לא היה שום זלזול בצבא המצרי.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Egypt

Duration: 3 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017