What would have happened if America hadn’t gotten involved in Vietnam at the end of the 50’s? Where would we be if the industrial revolution had never taken place? What if the Allies blocked Stalin’s (right) entry into Eastern Europe? How much would we recognize the world we live in if nobody invented the airplane?
How many lives would have been saved if the military intelligence assessment of October 5, 1973, a day before the Yom Kippur War began, were different?
The answers to these questions we will never know. History is what it is, and several historians from different fields were interviewed for a local Tel Aviv paper and chose the worst mistake ever made in human history. Were they also making a mistake? You decide.
According to Shlomo Zanad, a professor in history in Tel Aviv University, Zionism missed its biggest opportunity in the fact that it settled the Jewish People in the Land of Israel and not where the state’s visionary Theodore Herzl suggested, Uganda.
“If the Zionist enterprise had materialized in Uganda and didn’t come to Palestine, it would have been more successful,” said Zanad. “Here we’re stuck in an unending conflict with the natives. True, there are also natives in Uganda, but I have the feeling that if we weren’t caught in the traps of mythology symbolized by places like the Cave of the Patriarchs (Machpela), Rachel’s Tomb, and Joseph’s Tomb, it would have been easier establishing fixed borders.
In Zanad’s opinion, Europe’s biggest historical errors were made by Napoleon Bonaparte and Joseph Stalin: “Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 brought his demise. If he hadn’t invaded, France’s domination of Europe would have lasted longer.
“Stalin also lost out in 1941 when he didn’t listen to his spies and did not prepare adequately for the German invasion in Operation Barbarosa.” Zanad is also convinced that America missed out big in 2000 when they elected George Bush and not Al Gore. “While true that Bush’s victory was at a hairsbreadth, a large portion of the American people chose a President that got the country mired down in two stupid wars – Iraq and Afghanistan – that they can’t get out of.”
Dr. Daniella Davich, a history professor at Bar Ilan University, had this to say: “Alexander the Great missed an opportunity to present the Far East to the Hellenistic world, farther out than Pakistan. Alexander the Great did indeed reach these areas, but his soldiers got tired from the long marches of war in foreign lands and wanted to go back home. Perhaps if he had continued in his conquering march, Christians would have been more culturally connected to the Far East in Asia.” The other lost opportunity, the burning of the library in Alexandria in 391. About that, she said, “It was a huge library, unprecedented, that contained the best of the creative writing of the ancient world. From our perspective today, this is huge loss that such big parts of ancient culture are gone forever.”
Shlomo Ben Ami, a former historian and cabinet minister, spoke of Europe in World War II, when he noted the biggest loss as the invasion by sea of the Allies at Normandy, France, in 1941.
“Before the Allies invasion of France, Churchill had the idea of invading from the east, from the Caucuses, and to stop Russia advance into Eastern Europe,” said Ben Ami. “Chuchill understood Stalin’s intentions and mentality well, and knew that when the war ended, the enemy would be the Soviet Union.
“By invading from Normandy, the allies virtually gave Eastern Europe and East Germany to Stalin, who did not intend on freeing them after the war as the Allies had freed the West. This was a huge missed opportunity that could have brought on an entirely different world order.”