How Could Israel Have Lost Its War of Independence?


More easily than you might think! Five neighboring countries invaded Israel the moment it declared independence, in May 1948. The newborn state was also fighting Palestinian irregular forces, and there was a serious threat of armed conflict within the Jewish community.


Most alternate history scenarios rely on the conceit of a singular "turning point" in history that might have changed history. The scenario in Ziona, however, makes several changes to real history to bring about an Israeli defeat in the 1948 war:



Turning Point 1: June 7, 1941

Moshe Dayan, a pivotal Israeli figure in 1948 and in several subsequent wars, famously wore an eye patch. This was because he had lost an eye to a sniper in 1941 while on a volunteer mission assisting the British in fighting the Nazi-allied Vichy French forces in Lebanon. He might easily have lost his life instead.

The dashing Dayan and some of his, umm, "borrowed" antiquities.

Turning Point 2: July 21, 1944

The struggle over who would be U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's running mate in the 1944 elections was sharpened by the widespread if unspoken knowledge that he was a sick man, and whoever was elected vice president might succeed him if he died in office, as in fact happened on April 12, 1945, weeks before the end of World War II in Europe. Suppose the choice had fallen, not on Senator Harry Truman, who supported Israeli independence, but on the widely respected General George Catlett Marshall, who vehemently opposed it?

Turning Point 3: June 20, 1948

With war raging between Israel and her Arab neighbors, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion orders an attack on a ship loaded with fighting men and arms... a Jewish ship, but one crewed by the Irgun, a right-wing Zionist fighting force not under the command of the Israel Defense Force (IDF, called the Haganah before independence). Carrying out the order is Yitzhak Rabin, commander of the Harel Brigade in the elite Palmach force within the IDF, and a future Prime Minister of Israel. Sixteen men were killed on the ship, but Menachem Begin, head of the Irgun and another future Prime Minister of Israel, ordered his men not to return fire, and swam to safety himself. What if he had been killed, and his men had decided to take revenge on the Israeli government by assassinating Ben-Gurion? Civil war within an Israel fighting for its life was a distinct possibility.

The flag of the short-lived "United Arab Republic."

Turning Point 5: November 8, 1960

Just for kicks, if a Democratic President George Marshall had abandoned Israel, might American Jews have abandoned the Democratic Party in significant numbers, and helped throw the nail-bitingly close 1960 presidential election to the Republican, Richard M. Nixon, instead of the Democrat, John F. Kennedy?

Turning Point 4: December 8, 1958

Pan-Arabism was a 20th century movement that aimed to unify all Arab nations into a single super-state. Although it failed, it had a significant impact on Middle Eastern politics, with Egypt and Syria, for example, forming a "United Arab Republic" from 1958 to 1961. In Ziona, a longer-lasting union known as the "Arab People's Republic" is established between these two countries, led by a (fictional) Syrian military officer, a "Colonel Nidal." It is this entity that controls most of the land area designated by the UN resolution of November 29, 1947, for a Jewish state in Palestine--along with all of the remaining Jewish population, less than 60,000 souls imprisoned in three concentration camps in the spring of 1963, when the novel begins (out of a population of about 600,000 Jews in Palestine in 1948).

     In Ziona, the Arab People's Republic is aligned with the Soviet Union (as Egypt and Syria both were, in the historical 1960's), and is facing off against a U.S.-aligned "United Hashemite Kingdom" of Jordan and Iraq. (The Hashemite royal family rules Jordan today, and another branch of it ruled Iraq until a 1958 coup d'etat.)


Tricky Dick was almost cute when he ran against JFK.

El Che. Better on your T-shirt than heading your guerrilla unit.

Turning Point 6: April 17, 1961

Might a younger President Nixon, who had by his own account falsely presented himself as more dovish on Cuba than Kennedy in the famous September 26, 1960 debate, have felt the need to prove his Communist-fighting bona fides by giving needed air support to the U.S.-supported Cuban rebels who invaded Fidel Castro's Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961? Might the rebels have overthrown Castro, leaving the charismatic but inept guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara to try to fight the American-backed regime from the Sierra Madre Mountains? Somewhere a butterfly is flapping its wings...

All images on this page courtesy of Wikipedia/Wikimedia.