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June 30, 2016 3:51 pm

Entebbe: Are We Heeding the Lessons?

avatar by Daniel S. Mariaschin

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Terminal at Entebbe International Airport where "Operation Entebbe" took place. Photo: SRA Andy Dunaway

Terminal at Entebbe International Airport where “Operation Entebbe” took place. Photo: SRA Andy Dunaway

July 4th marks the 40th anniversary of the rescue of Israeli hostages at Entebbe.

Today we are surrounded by international terrorism. No continent, no country, no city—no airport—is immune from it. But in 1976, much of the world believed that terrorism was Israel’s problem, and it was viewed as one might from a good seat in a theater. You could watch it unfold, but not have to worry that it would affect you.

The Entebbe story, by now, is well known. An Air France airliner with 248 passengers aboard, bound for Paris from Tel Aviv, was hijacked after a stop in Athens by four terrorist operatives from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-External Operations (PFLP-EO), and  the German Revolutionary Cells. The plane was flown to Uganda, where 94 Israeli hostages were separated from the other passengers (who were released) and held captive until the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), in its legendary operation, freed the hostages. Lt. Col. Yoni Netanyahu, the commander of the unit that made the rescue, lost his life in the action. Dora Bloch, an elderly hostage transferred to a hospital in Entebbe, is believed to have been killed by Ugandan intelligence agents in the wake of the raid.

The rescue came after a spate of hijackings of El Al and other airliners by Palestinian terrorist groups. The Entebbe operation, with its logistical challenge of flying 2,500 miles to liberate the hostages, was Israel’s unequivocal answer to the then-growing menace of the PLO and off-shoot groups either allied to it, or operating on their own. For Israel, and for its supporters worldwide, coming three decades after the Holocaust, the stark message that Jews in distress could be rescued by the long arm of the IDF, was as re-assuring as it was miraculous.

My sense at the time was that diplomatic and media opinion saw PLO-inspired terror as somebody else’s problem. Indeed, even those who experienced home-grown terror, such as the United Kingdom at the hands of the IRA and Spain, from ETA, refused to see Palestinian terror against Israel and Jews worldwide as akin to their own problems. How shortsighted they were.

Palestinian terror groups wrote the primer for others who would come later. When, in 1985, wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer was killed and thrown overboard on the Achille Lauro cruise ship by operatives of the Palestine Liberation Front, it personalized the utter disregard for human life that drives the terrorist mind.

Israel was left to fight those battles by itself. When it tried to destroy the PLO infrastructure in Lebanon in 1982, it largely received international opprobrium. Some European leaders, and others, instead accommodated—or warmed—to Yasser Arafat. Instead of seeking to isolate, undercut and eliminate the threat he and others posed to the international order, he was increasingly seen as a “wily” statesman. But to him, and his cohorts, the message was clear: terror pays.

Today, terror knows no borders, and does not differentiate amongst countries or peoples. To the victims of it, it is just a matter of being lucky—or unlucky—of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, or not. ISIS/ISIL, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and any number of other groups compete to carry out one outrageous act after another. The beheadings of journalists Daniel Pearl, James Foley and others were only what we saw. Much of the havoc wreaked by these groups, and by those inspired by them, escapes our attention. There is just too much of it to keep track. The internet and satellite TV have brought terror into our living rooms and offices, and it has now reached the point where we are inured to much of it, because we sense that the next day will bring something more horrific, more devastating into view. Our lives now revolve around those threats, from airport terminals to the TSA public service advertisements and posters, exhorting us:  “if you see something, say something.”

No doubt, when the history of this period is written, it will be called something like “the era of Islamic extremist terror.” In the midst of it, there is no shortage of opinions as to how to defeat it. Defeat it we must, but where is the international unity necessary to achieve that objective? Europe, until relatively recently, actually debated whether or not Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. It decided, in its infinite inability to face reality, that it is, but that it also has a “political wing.” In Beirut, the Hezbollah leadership surely drew its own conclusions and has acted accordingly, by emasculating Lebanon’s sovereignty, acquiring ever-more-weapons, and fighting alongside its patron Iran in Syria and elsewhere.

If this era is to be known as the moment when ISIS/ISIL terror was stopped in its tracks, international equivocation and complacency cannot be considered options.  A shrugging of diplomatic shoulders will continue to embolden those who either inspired, or carried out, the most recent atrocities in Orlando and Istanbul.

Not Brexit, nor trade issues, nor climate change nor any other top-draw matter should deter what passes for the international community from acting decisively to defeat ISIL/ISIS at its source.

Do we need any further evidence that avoidance of this imperative will be at our peril?

Daniel S. Mariaschin is the executive vice president and CEO of B’nai B’rith International. As the organization’s top executive officer, Mariaschin directs and supervises B’nai B’rith programs, activities and staff around the world.

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  • Yale

    The most important response we can give to terror is to insist that it not enhance the political position of the forces that espouse it. Palestinian terror was always seen as justifying political pressure on Israel, exactly the opposite of the policy that might have brought it to an end, and now the Palestinians’ sole contribution to world culture, techniques for inflicting maximum horror, has metastasized. We are doing the same thing today with the Muslim Brotherhood, various Salafi outfits (including al Qaeda and ISIS) and the Iranian Revolution. And the people who have adopted the policy of appeasement insist that they are better-educated, better-informed, and more moral than those of us who knew their policy was going to end up exactly where we are now.

  • Nicholas Stroud

    In the context of the 1970s, the Cold War, the increasing discrimination against Jews in the Soviet Union, the increasing ambitions of Israel’s neighbors, and the incitement of the Arab states toward military mischief by the Soviets, another important lesson was to be drawn. Place the point of a compass on Jerusalem and scribe a circle from Entebbe to show how much of the world possibly nuclear-armed Israeli warplanes might successfully reach if need be.

  • “We must be ready to sacrifice all for our country Israel. For history does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid. We must continue to acquire proficiency in defense and display determination and stamina in purpose.” Never surrender – we are fighting for our survival and the alternative is extinction. Israel’s mission first and foremost is to take care of the Jewish people and insure their safety and security in Israel. Israel’s obligation is to its Jewish People and not to pacify the world at large. The historical facts are that for thousands of years the world at large has always persecuted the Jewish people and stood idle while millions of Jews are exterminated and persecuted. Right now we are in a badly separated, internally struggling, and bickering state both within Israel and also in the Diaspora. And our enemies are happily latching onto this internal fragmentation exploiting us against each other and leading successful campaigns against us on all fronts. No political wisdom, trickery or weapons and a mighty army can save Israel or Jews worldwide unless we rise above our differences, above our argumentative nature and form a single united Nation that is impenetrable. And that wouldn’t just save us but would blaze a trail of hope for others in this crazy world where there are no allies or friends any more only enemies waiting for the opportunity to destroy each other. We may not agree on everything, but we must respect each other and work together for our common goal which is survival in this hostile world which is on a spiral of deterioration.
    “A United Israel is a Strong Israel”
    YJ Draiman

  • Local Arabs is the description of the Arabs in what was formerly known as the region of Palestine, which is the Land of Israel. It is an insult and it is promoting the perpetration of a fraud by calling the local Arabs nothing else than local Arabs. Prior to the mid sixties they were called Arabs all of a sudden they woke up one morning and decided in order to promote their fraud and deception to assume the title the Jews had since the Romans renamed the Land of Israel Palestine and Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina.
    YJ Draiman
    Also, let’s not forget that not only is the word Palestine a Roman miss-spelling of philistine with no Arabic roots whatsoever and the only area the Philistines had was the Gaza area, the rest had 7 other nationalities; it’s only purpose was to insult the Jewish people and serve as a constant reminder that they had been conquered by the Romans. There is a certain irony in the idea that these Arabs would choose a Roman name over making up their own. But that fits their method of operations in that all they do is take what is NOT theirs. Be it the land of Israel, the bodies of innocent women and children, the freedom that the EU and the U.S.A. insists on giving them, thus to abuse and threaten. Why wouldn’t they steal a name designated for the Jews by the Romans also? Principally since until 50 years ago the Arab themselves considered is as an insult to Arabs. Abbas the terrorist with a murder conviction belongs in Jail and should be hanged for his crimes.

    No Jew or Jewish government has the right to evict Jews from their historical land in Greater Israel. “Israel, including Judea and Samaria, and the land east of the Jordan River has been the land of the Jewish people since time immemorial, over 30 centuries. Judea means Land of the Jews. Never in the history of the world has there been an autonomous state in the area that was not Jewish.” There has never been a Nation known as Arab Palestine. The Arabs received over five million sq. mi. of territory, but that was not enough. Violating international law and treaty the British allocated over three quarters of Jewish allocated land to the Arabs as the new Arab state of Jordan. Now the Arabs want more; they will not stop until they have all of Israel without the Jews. The Arab countries expelled over a million Jewish families and confiscated all their assets including businesses, homes and over 75,000 sq. mi. of Jewish owned land for over 25 centuries.
    You; the Arabs have murdered the Jews and others and now you want to inherit them?

    In view of past history of persecution; Israel and the Jews have an obsolete obligation to defend themselves at all costs. NEVER AGAIN. It must be in action not just words.

  • In Israel; if we do not fight for our rights, we will not be here. It is a matter of survival.
    Complain on Israel ignoring its Jewish roots and heritage of our nation.
    The minute the U.N. its representatives or anyone else call Judea and Samaria aka West Bank occupied territory, than there is nobody to talk to. Jordan is also occupied territory. Moreover, all the Arab countries established after WWI are also occupied territory; they were all allocated their territory by the Supreme Allied Powers at the same time they allocated Palestine aka The Land of Israel as the National Home of The Jewish people in their historical land as international law. The Jewish people must fight for their rights and heritage no concessions. Past concessions and compromise have proved counterproductive and only increased terror and violence. Stop deluding your-selves the Arabs do not want peace; they want all of Israel without the Jews. When the Arabs teach and train their children to hate, commit terror and violence, and their charter calls for the destruction of Israel. You are dealing with the enemy and not a peace partner. NEVER AGAIN. Stop the Ghetto Mentality.
    The Arabs attacked Israel with superior men-power and weapons, in four wars since the British left The Land of Israel aka Palestine in 1948. The lost all four wars in utter defeat. It is time for the Arabs to face reality. The Land of Israel west of the Jordan River which was liberated in four defensive wars; will be retained by Israel and its Jewish population for eternity.
    It is enough, that the Arabs have Jordan, which is Jewish territory, and the homes and 120,000 sq. km. of land the Arabs confiscated from the expelled million Jewish families, who lived in the Arab countries for over 2,500 years and now were resettled in Israel and comprise over half the population.
    YJ Draiman

  • Terrorism is the worlds problem and it is like Ebola. Ignore it and it will wipe you out. Another thing that needs to be remembered is that Amin was hailed as a hero at the UN and got a standing ovation. Its is not so much the fools that support terrorism that are the problem, it is the fools that support them that are equally to blame. Do not forget that Amin was a Muslim, a dictator, a criminal and an example of what is worst in mankind. The UN made him their hero?? Sick, Sick and more Sick. The civilized world has to stop supporting terrorism and note that the UN is one of Islam’s greatest fans.