B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin reflects on the 40th anniversary of the Entebbe hostage situation and rescue in an op-ed for The Algemeiner.
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.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day) in Israel is not something that can be ignored. All the newspapers and broadcast outlets are dedicated to it. In thousands of ceremonies across the country, schools, academic institutions and government offices solemnly mark the murder of one third of the Jewish people during World War II. Traffic comes to a standstill and everyone—or nearly everyone—stops in their tracks while a piercing siren is heard across the land. I very much doubt that there is another nation in the world that shows greater respect for its national tragedy than Israel does towards the victims of the Holocaust.
Although the main thrust of the commemorations remain on the crimes of the Nazis and the devastation they wrought to a world of Jewish communities, rites, learning, traditions and individual victims, the B'nai B'rith World Center has been at the forefront of an effort to use these tragic events to fittingly turn the spotlight on Jews who went beyond the call of duty, endangering themselves and their families to rescue other Jews. Little known to most people today, thousands of Jews were engaged in such rescue activities in Germany, in the Axis states and in German-occupied territories. Together with a dedicated group of volunteers, members of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ) and the B'nai B'rith World Center have held annual large scale events on Yom Hashoah in partnership with the Jewish National Fund. JRJ was established over 15 years ago at the initiative of Haim Roet, who survived in Holland as a child through the heroic efforts of two non-Jews who were subsequently recognized as Righteous Gentiles by Yad Vashem and a Jew, Max Lions.
This event is, to the best of our knowledge, the only annual tribute dedicated to Jewish rescuers anywhere in the world. Through it we strive to inspire the nearly 1,000 school students and border police cadets present with the understanding that contrary to the popular perceptions validated by some Holocaust historians, Jewish solidarity did not die in the Holocaust—although it was, undoubtedly, put under tremendous strain. In reality, thousands of Jews rose to the challenge and, when the opportunity arose, found ways and the wherewithal to help fellow Jews.
The contemporary message we wish to promote is clear: these days when divisions among the Jewish people are escalating and dialogue has become polarized, the example of those Jews who rescued others in the face of annihilation should encourage us to rally our sense of solidarity and common Jewish destiny. Hundreds of thousands more in Israel are exposed to this message through the press coverage the event receives and other initiatives undertaken by the Committee.
Another 8,000 young German Jewish men released from Nazi imprisonment—many ransomed using his own fortune—were rescued through a scheme he proposed to establish internment camps in Britain. Israel died on June 1, 1941 along with actor and British intelligence office Leslie Howard when their plane was brought down in the Bay of Biscay by the Luftwaffe on a flight from Lisbon, Portugal. At that time Israel was busy planning the rescue of children from Nazi-occupied Europe to pre-state Israel for the Jewish Agency. He is credited with saving 50,000 Jewish lives. Each rescue story—like these two examples—is a narrative of heroism and selfless dedication to fellow Jews.
Through the efforts of the World Center and the Committee, key institutions and leading figures have become aware of the phenomenon of Jewish rescue. Writing to me and to Roet last month, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot noted that “our letter to him (about rescue by Jews in the Holocaust) brought home the importance of memorializing the Jews who endangered their lives to rescue the lives of their brethren during the Holocaust. As a result of this I found it appropriate to note these heroic rescue activities in my comments at a symposium of the General Staff at Yad Vashem prior to Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day. We must remember and not forget the bravery that was shown alongside the pain. The principals of courage and camaraderie upon which the Jewish people acted in order to rescue their brethren, accompanies us—the commanders of the IDF and its soldiers…”
Also, in a letter dated May 17, Asa Kasher, professor emeritus in philosophy at Tel Aviv University and the author of the IDF’s code of ethics and a leading moral voice in Israel, wrote to the Committee in support of its initiative to amend the Yad Vashem Law and charge it with recognizing Jewish rescuers.
Another recent breakthrough is the acceptance of an MA thesis by the University of Haifa Faculty of Humanities, Multidisciplinary Program in Holocaust Studies by Noa Gidron, “Jews Saving Jews—individual initiative during the Holocaust 1939-1945” in which the World Center’s work on this issue was recognized.
These developments have inexorably set Jewish rescue on a path to become the next major topic of Holocaust research and attention.
More from the World Center:
The Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should have been the most important event during the 46th General Assembly in Santo Domingo. It is the first instrument in OAS history to promote and protect the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
But the situation in Venezuela was the main issue discussed, both on and off the record.
Next week, Permanent Council will convene to discuss the report on Venezuela, made a month ago by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, invoking the Democratic Charter.
Since then, Venezuela started a face-to-face fight between the secretary general and the Venezuelan Government.
During the General Assembly, Venezuela presented a resolution to diminish the secretary general’s role. Among the proposal’s “resolves” are:
To express its profound concern at the conduct of the Secretary General of the Organization, Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes, especially his abuse of authority and exceeding of the powers conferred on him under the OAS Charter and the General Standards to Govern the Operations of the General Secretariat, and at his violation and lack of respect for the Code of Ethics of the General Secretariat
To urge the Secretary General to abstain from any activity, regardless of whether or not it is specifically prohibited by the General Standards to Govern the Operations of the General Secretariat, that may result in, or give the impression of resulting in: a) Giving preferential treatment to any organization or person; b) Losing complete independence or impartiality of action; c) Making an administrative decision without observing established procedures; d) Adversely affecting the good name and integrity of the General Secretariat.”
To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its forty-seventh regular session on compliance with this resolution.
Venezuela is attempting to diminish the secretary general because he is the only one denouncing, in detail, the ongoing violation of human rights by Maduro´s regime. His 132-page report, which will be discussed next week, has been compelling and emphatic.
There is a very deep division between the ALBA countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela) and a group of 15 countries which want to find a real solution to the the Venezuelan people’s is suffering. Those 15 countries decided to issue a statement before the end of the OAS GA, a sort of a preamble for the meeting of the Permanent Council next week.
Statement by Ministers and Heads of Delegation on the Situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States of America and Uruguay
We, Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), reaffirm our commitment to the Charter of the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which proclaims that “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it”, and our commitment with the respect of the principle of noninterference, universal principles and values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech and association;
If the OAS Permanent Council rejects the request of the secretary general to move forward and stops the violation of human rights in Venezuela, Almagro will not be defeated, but OAS will.
In the last decade, Iran has penetrated Latin America, Hezbollah has the freedom to move inside Latin America and it is all happening in Venezuela.
There is no real judiciary system, no freedom speech and far too many politic prisoners.
After so many years, OAS has used its secretary general to speak out. The statement of the 15 countries is cautious, but it is a step forward. How many more steps are they ready to advance? Today, it is uncertain.
In the private meeting between B’nai B’rith International and Secretary General Almagro in Santo Domingo during the OAS GA, Almagro was very clear when he told us that he will not answer to more insults and threats; he follow OAS rules and defend the respect of the Democratic Charter.
Now, the Permanent Council will have to show its commitment to democracy next week.
Days ago, Queen Elizabeth II awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to theatre and the arts to Sonia Friedman, the most acclaimed producer of her generation. The daughter of two eminent British musicians, Friedman founded Sonia Friedman Productions in 2002, and has gone on to establish a reputation as the guiding force behind literally hundreds of hits in London, New York and around the world. Winning more Oliviers—the British equivalent of the Tony Awards—than any other producer, she possesses the vision and acumen for bringing together gifted teams—directors, writers, designers and ensembles of actors—that assure success to a wide range of repertory, encompassing the mounting of classic plays like “Othello” or “Death of a Salesman,” as well as staged adaptations of films including “Boeing- Boeing,” “Legally Blonde” and “La Cage Aux Folles,” to groundbreaking new works (“1984,” “King Charles III”) “must sees” which have quickly taken the theatre world by storm.
Friedman’s current productions in the West End are “Bend It Like Beckham,” a musical treatment of the feel-good movie about a girls’ soccer team, and J.K. Rowlings’, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which is a sequel to the “Harry Potter” series and the first official staging of a work by the author, is slated for an official opening at the Palace Theatre later this summer. Replete with amazing special effects, but now using puppets instead of the live owl, whose anarchistic behavior created havoc on opening night, the drama naturally attracts legions of devotees who are eager to experience the tribulations of the adult Harry and his son as they conjoin their magic powers to defeat the forces of evil.
Playing at the Savoy Theatre is the first revival of the musical “Funny Girl” since it made its British debut in 1966. Remembered for catapulting the young Barbara Streisand to fame, it now features a new book by American actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein, but happily retains Jule Styne’s dynamic score, including the music for show stoppers such as “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade”
The story of “Funny Girl” was inspired by the life and career of Fanny Brice (1891-1951), a singer and comedian born to Lower East Side immigrants, who rose to fame as a Jazz Age star and frequent headliner of the Ziegfeld Follies. Numbers which she popularized during her heyday included “My Man,” an American version of a French torch song whose lyrics proclaimed a street waif’s devotion to her boyfriend, a faithless and violent pimp, as well as the wistful lament “Second Hand Rose,” and the whimsical and sunny “I’m Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love.” Characteristically resorting to the stylized Yiddish inflection that was at the time was considered funny by both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences, she lampooned the contortions of a snooty Russian ballerina in “It’s Gorgeous to Be Graceful” and fused Native American ethnicity with that of her own Lower East Side persona in “Look at Me, I’m an Indian.” On radio and then on television, she starred as Baby Snooks, a snarky little girl whose sarcastic comments delighted fans nationwide. Using tricks which often bordered on blackmail, Snooks always got the better of her long suffering and harried dad.
The 46th Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly will take place between June 13th to June 15th in the Dominican Republic. The main issue, scheduled several months ago, is "Institutional Strengthening for Sustainable Development in the Americas." It is a key matter indeed. Weak democracies cannot afford a serious scarcity of public safety, inequity, lack of free press, unemployment and discrimination.
There was a little progress between the years of 2005 to 2012. Poverty decreased and many people started to belong to a modest middle class, mainly in huge countries like Brazil. But governments spent a lot, increased the fiscal expenses and poverty and inequity started to reverse. As for statistics from 2015, poverty increased in such a way, that again, Latin America has 175 million people living in poverty and the figure has been increasing in current 2016. 75 million of those who are poor live without basic needs.
Poverty means millions without basic education and as a consequence more violence and less public safety.
This 46th OAS General Assembly wants to create an action plan to strengthen the institutions, but unfortunately what we find today, and it will be the center of the discussion, is the lack of respect to democratic values from populist governments, which are bringing deep unrest in the region. Venezuela will be at the top of the discussions inside Civil Society meetings, and, of course, in the frame of the General Assembly.
Just some days ago, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro decided to invoke the Democratic Charter for the unrest that is taking place in Venezuela. In a 132 page report to the OAS Permanent Council, Almagro documented the President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro government’s sweeping breaches of the rule of law and the mounting humanitarian crisis caused by food, medicine and power shortages. He called for the immediate release of political prisoners and steps to repair institutions and combat corruption. More importantly, he stressed that a recall referendum on Maduro, sought by the opposition and provided for in the constitution, should be held this year. “On that depends democracy in Venezuela,” the report concluded.
The request made by Almagro was considered in a meeting of the Permanent Council. There was an Argentine-sponsored alternate resolution calling for giving more time to a mediation effort by former Presidents Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, Martin Torrijos of Panama and former Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain “to reopen an effective dialogue” between the Venezuelan government and the opposition. A resolution which only delays the problem, which is going to be on and off the record in the OAS General Assembly next week.
Venezuela needs OAS action, and now, to prevent a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis. Previous mediations have proved to be too tolerant of Maduro’s systematic violation of the rule of law, and have failed. This time, there is no reason to expect a different result.
The discussion on the Venezuelan situation will bring to the OAS General Assembly the issues of lack of respect to democracy in the region, increasing discrimination and violence, and will also show that there is a long distance "for sustainable development in the Americas."
B´nai B´rith will actively participate next weekend in the discussions inside the Civil Society and in the dialogue of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) with the OAS secretary general. We will stress the need to face discrimination and particularly anti-Semitism, through not only the local anti-discriminatory laws, but with a joint regional decision to apply the Inter American Convention Against Discrimination.
Civil Society should be very steady demanding the respect to the rule of law and human rights, which are today widely violated in several countries, but, above all, in Venezuela where the lack of food, medicines and power has made the life of the population very hard and inhuman.
Read more about OAS here.
Last month, we had the opportunity to remember and honor. This began on Yom Hashoah, when we remembered the victims of the Holocaust. B’nai B’rith has made this remembrance a part of its calendar of activities by bringing the program, Unto Every Person There is a Name, to communities and campuses in North America. On Yom Hashoah, the names of victims are read aloud as part of ceremonies that brings the community together to commemorate and observe the day. There are readings, poems and personal stories shared by survivors. This also includes second and third generations of families. It is a time to salute the liberators of the concentration camps and recognize rescuers of Jews, whether they be Jewish themselves or of another faith.
Since 1989, B’nai B’rith has been responsible for the distribution of program materials provided by Yad Vashem and an international committee each year. B’nai B’rith is represented by the B’nai B’rith World Center on the committee and assists in the selection of an annual theme that is incorporated into the observance. In addition to the community events, we are especially proud that the program is linked to campuses across North America, via the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi’s program, We Walk to Remember, held on 161 campuses this year. B’nai B’rith provides the materials for the campus program and AEPi brothers walk through their campus in silence, beginning and/or ending with name readings. They pass out a fact sheet about the Holocaust and proudly wear a simple message “Never Forget” on their tee shirts. The sticker reminds them and those who they pass that they are committed to remembering and bringing awareness about the Holocaust each year.
A week later, communities gathered to observe tributes to Israel. On Yom Hazikaron, the Jewish community remembered the soldiers who have given their lives to create and protect the Jewish state. The day precedes Yom Haaztzmaut, designated to remember the anniversary of Israel’s founding. Both days offer the opportunity to remember and honor, bringing pain and joy together as one day ends and the other begins. These days remember and celebrate the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people. B’nai B’rith leaders and representatives of lodges and units across the globe, joined with the Jewish communities to remember and celebrate the fact that we are all connected to Israel no matter where we live.
We concluded the month of May here in America with Memorial Day, created as a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of our country. It was proclaimed after the Civil War in 1868, to honor those who had died and to decorate their graves.
As continued, it became a day to remember those who gave their lives fighting for their country around the world. It has also become a time to remind us that while it is a day off, it should not be known as the time to have a barbeque, get to the official opening of swim clubs or to take advantage of a sale at the shopping mall. B’nai B’rith’s commitment to remember those members who lost their lives is evident in archival information and in memorials around the country. Another way to remember and honor those lost and those who have been wounded is through community service at programs at Veteran’s Affairs hospitals.
The Jewish people remember and honor their history. Individuals also observe the days such as those described above and in another very personal way, when we observe the anniversary of a family member’s death. This is dedicated to my mother Rochelle Boltino, whose Yahrzeit was observed on May 31.
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