My latest article in Kaminando y Avlando, the Sephardi Hebrew Congregation of Cape Town's monthly publication:
July 4th marked the 34th anniversary of the Entebbe Raid. Although four years have passed since I wrote this article for my blog, I think the point is still highly relevant in light of recent events in Israel and abroad.
Another 4th of July is fast approaching here in Israel. A day that should mean something not only in Israel, but also worldwide, will probably only be mentioned because of its significance in US history. Little will be made of the fact that it is the anniversary of one of history's most daring anti-terror rescue operations. Thirty years have passed, but this event can still play a major role in shaping the world's mentality in pursuing its inalienable rights. During such an uncertain stage in Israel's & the world's war on radical Islam's terror tactics, July 4th should be remembered for the actions of Israel's elite forces during Operation Thunderbolt, otherwise known as the Raid on Entebbe.
A brief overview of the event: Late June 1976, an Air France jet left Israel and landed in Athens, where two Germans and two Arabs boarded the plane and hijacked it. The plane arrived in Entebbe, Uganda, where the terrorists were joined by more Arabs and friendly Ugandan troops (by orders of the country's president, Idi Amin). The terrorists demanded the release of their imprisoned comrades throughout Europe and Israel. After a few days, all the non-Jews and non-Israelis are released and flown to Paris – an eerie reminder for Israel of the Holocaust and the selections. As the world remained predictably silent, Israel planned a daring mission while 'attempting to negotiate.' Late July 3rd, Sayeret Matkal (Israel's most elite unit), with other standout soldiers from various units, left Israel on a 4,000 km flight in an attempt to deal a death blow to terrorism.
On July 4th, Israel's forces did the impossible: they rescued all but 4 of the hostages (2 were killed by stray bullets at the terminal, 1 died of his wounds in a Nairobi hospital and Dora Bloch z"l was left behind in a Ugandan hospital, where she was murdered by Ugandan troops) and one soldier, the commander of Sayeret Matkal, Yonatan ‘Yoni’ Netanyahu z"l. Israel had once again stood up to terror, refusing to allow it to dictate her policies.
The significance and importance of such an accomplishment should be stressed in light of worldwide events in the last few years. Islamic terror has killed thousands of innocent civilians since 2000, and while their numbers, supporters and strength continue to grow, the world's reactions become more timid and appeasingly pathetic. When the US pursues actions (offensives against terror supporting Afghani & Iraqi regimes) that it deems necessary to protect its citizens, far too many countries refuse to react. When Spain suffered a devastating attack that killed 191 people, its reaction was to change prime minister (PM) and withdraw all its troops from Iraq. Wonder what the terrorists learned from that?! When Australia lost over 100 citizens in the attacks on Bali in 2002, the reaction was a few harsh words from PM John Howard and since then, very little else. After the first suicide bus bombing in London, England's reaction also left much to be desired. So as radical Muslim activity flourishes in Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, too little is being done to put obstacles in the terrorists' paths. The inability to preempt, or react, is only further strengthening the belief of the terrorists that one day they will win the war against us.
The rescue at Entebbe stresses the right and duty of any nation to defend its citizens. A day to honor the bravery and dedication of those soldiers would stress a vital point: A country should undertake whatever means it deems necessary to protect its citizens from the threats of terrorism, be it a preemptive strike or by reacting to attacks. A good example of the above are the events surrounding the World Trade Center towers: Bill Clinton should have reacted with force after the first attack in '93, and by that I don't mean bombing a medicine factory in Sudan, and George Bush should have started to act when all the warnings came in before the tragic events of September 11th unfolded.
The free world is in a vital phase in its war to eliminate radical Islam's terror tactics and allow a moderate and peaceful Islam to flourish. Any backtracking or hesitation, like we're seeing today with Israel with regards to Hamas for example, will only strengthen the terrorists' resolve to destroy the values most of us take for granted. By commemorating and highlighting the brave actions of the IDF on July 4th 1976, the world would be sending a clear and necessary message to the terror cells of the world: No action taken against the citizens of the free world will go unpunished.