July 4, 2013
In New York on that two hundredth Fourth of July, 1976, the Parade of Tall Ships sailed majestically down the East River. My Coast Guard buddy, Lt. Cdr. Bill Albanese and I were especially eager to see the procession of sailing vessels from all over the world. Bill brought his son, Dante, and I brought my nephew, John. We wanted the boys to experience the all-out celebration of America’s Bicentennial from the vantage point of Governors Island. The Coast Guard’s training barque, Eagle, had the honor of leading the way. Above us on that brilliant sunny afternoon loomed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
After Op Sail concluded, we watched the nighttime fireworks that seemed to go on forever. Millions of our fellow Americans celebrated with us from sea to shining sea. Riding back to Brooklyn that night, with the boys asleep in the back seat of the van, Bill and I listened as WCBS Radio’s reporters noted that there had been no homicides in New York City that day.
That was not so halfway across the world in Uganda. There, at Entebbe Airport, one of the hundred hostages on board an Air France jet parked on the tarmac was taken off the plane. She was murdered by soldiers of dictator, Idi Amin. Dora Bloch was a frail, 75-year old Jewish woman from Britain. The hundred hostages remaining on board were Israelis, or Jews from other nations who had been held for a week after Palestinian terrorists had released the flight’s non-Jews.
Suddenly, we heard that almost all of the remaining hostages were free. An Israeli commando team had flown thousands of miles and liberated the Jewish passengers threatened hourly with death. The leader of the commandos was Jonathan Netanyahu. He was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu. Today, Benjamin is the Prime Minister of Israel.
Jonathan did not live to wear the victor’s laurels. He was the only one of the heroic commandos to die in the Entebbe raid. Three of the passengers were killed in the rescue effort, but so were all the Palestinian hijackers and their German Communist comrades.
The news of this amazing rescue capped America’s Independence Day celebration. We had always been close to the Jewish people. Our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin had seriously proposed a design for the Great Seal of America that depicted the Children of Israel being freed from bondage in Egypt. Now, we were seeing these Children of Israel being freed from their own bondage in Uganda. The waves were not parted for them, but the clouds were. Idi Amin’s decade of murder and misrule began to unravel from that fateful night. Soon he would be forced to flee Uganda for exile in Saudi Arabia; the world saw this clownish killer no more.
Israel’s fearless action on our Bicentennial Fourth of July was an amazing gift to America, too. They showed that faith and courage can work miracles. The Entebbe Raid required careful planning and great skill to bring off successfully, to be sure. But faith comes first. “He who believes is not afraid,” sings the Israeli satirical group, Latma. (I call them “Saturday Night Live” for our side.) The Latma video commemorates the Israeli War of Independence and highlights the miracle of Entebbe.
We should remember our Bicentennial and Israel’s Operation Jonathan when dealing with Iran’s rulers. And we should remind those murderous mullahs of the fate of Idi Amin. WE who believe are not afraid.