Jack Cohen

Jack Cohen – The Greatest Transformation in History

An Israeli flag flutters in front of the Old City of Jerusalem in 2017 (AFP)

Jack Cohen – The Greatest Transformation in History

How is it that the Jewish people went from being the greatest victims in history to becoming the most victorious military force in the 20th century in just three years?  The Holocaust of WWII was the greatest example of ethnic cleansing in history.  It is indeed a strange enigma that the Jews went from the depths of genocide in 1945 to the heights of victory and success in 1948.  And to show that it wasn’t a fluke, the IDF victories of 1956 (the Suez campaign), 1967 (The Six Day War), 1973 (the Yom Kippur War) and 1982 (the First Lebanon War) followed, usually against great odds.  What was the secret of this amazing transformation from victim to victor?  I think there are three main reasons:

  1. Zionist secular culture: It is important to recognize that the Jewish settlement in the Holy Land began as far back as 1880, and that most of those settling in and establishing the State of Israel were non-religious Jews.  They had grown up in and adopted European secular culture, and as such they were far more culturally advanced and able to handle the increasingly technical side of arms and warfare compared to their adversaries.  They were pragmatic and had experienced the violent rejectionism of the Arabs for many years, including massacres of Jews in 1921, 1929 and 1936, and recognized the need to acquire arms and to prepare for combat.
  2.  Jewish innovation and culture: The secular culture of Jews in Europe had produced Einstein, Haber, Fermi, and so on, and in fact had dominated science and technology far beyond their numbers.  Some of these individuals moved to Palestine and constituted a core of innovative minds that developed an arms industry, improved the technology (the Uzi) and then went on to develop nuclear weapons, computers, drones, anti-missile missiles, cyber security and much, much more.
  3. The dominant form of warfare: I am reading an excellent book entitled “Armies of Sand” by Kenneth Pollack, that is an exhaustive evaluation of the poor performance of Arab armies in war (more about this book later).  One of his points is that in every age there is a dominant form of warfare, that varies from century to century.  For example, the Greeks and Romans used the phalanx, Genghis Khan used mobile horsemen, the British used the long bow and pike, then guns were developed and trench warfare resulted.  From an essentially static clash war changed when the Germans used tanks and introduced lighting warfare (blitzkreig).  The essence of warfare changed from quantity of soldiers, to quality of those who could master the technology.  The Jewish mind and capability was able to adapt to the fluid circumstances of highly mobile warfare, while the Arab culture was apparently not (this is his conclusion, which I agree with).  The time was right for the Jews to become adept at the current dominant form of warfare.

While there are many more factors, such as economics, quality of weapons, even politics (such as when ceasefires are agreed) these three factors seem to be the main ones that determined the resurrection of the Jewish nation from the depths of despair to the heights of victory.


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