Op-Ed: From Entebbe to Chelm: The Loss of Ahavat Yisrael
"Each Jew is responsible for every other Jew. The concept of Ahavat Yisrael (the love of the Jewish people) is the responsibility of all Jews.” My rabbi always taught me that every shabat.
The other evening I was watching a documentary on television about the Raid on Entebbe. Today, among the majority of the younger generation of secular American Jews, this singular event is unknown despite its historical importance to the state of Israel and the Jewish people. In 1976, terrorists from the PFLP, allied with German communist-anarchists from the Baader-Meinhoff Gang, hijacked an Air France jet and forced it fly to Entebbe, Uganda where the hijackers demanded the release of Palestinian Arab terrorists in Israeli jails. The Ugandan army under strongman Idi Amin was in cahoots with the terrorists and even assisted with controlling the hostages held in an old building at the Ugandan airport.
The Israeli government at the time seemed to have its hands tied. The hostages were being held 2,200 miles away in a hostile country and the terrorists demanding the release of terrorist murderers in Israeli jails to not kill those hostages. As time clicked by, the hijackers released some of the passengers from the Air France jet but only non-Jews. Some French passengers of Jewish descent asked to be released by the terrorists, but the German hostage-takers insisted there was no difference between them and the Israelis and their PFLP allies made no distinction between “Jews” and “Zionists.” The German form of “selectzia” that had originated during the Holocaust was thus reactivated, Jews to this side. The only non-Jews who remained were the French Air France crew who refused to abandon their Jewish passengers.
Even though there was a 70 per cent chance of failure, the Sayeret Maktal was brought into play and those Israeli commandos flew the 2,200 miles and rescued all but two of the hostages in a daring night raid on the Entebbe airport. Of IDF troops, only one man was killed, the hero Yonaton Netanyahu, one of the officers in command. Yonaton was the brother of Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s current Prime Minister.
Yonaton Netanyahu probably never imagined in his wildest dreams as he flew to his mission just before his death in battle, that forty years later his brother, as Israel’s Prime Minister, would oversee the release of thousands of Arab terrorists just like those demanded for at Entebbe to show imaginary “good faith” to a Palestinian leadership that has never stopped advocating for the end of Israel and Jew-killing. The concept of Ahavat Yisrael certainly must have been searing through Yonaton’s brain as he and his men flew closer and closer to the Ugandan airport. Yet now the concept takes a backseat to political “favors.”
Certainly Yonaton never imagined that his brother would tolerate a PFLP front group office in the heart of Jerusalem called the Alternative Information Center run by Jewish communists and Arabs where it would devise ways to help de-legitimize the Jewish state. And certainly Yonaton never imagined his brother years later would offer to pay compensation to the families of IHH terrorists who were killed after they violently attacked IDF commandos on the Mavi Marmara who were trying to aid Hamas, a group whose charter calls for murdering all the world’s Jews.
Yonaton and his Sayeret Maktal boys back in 1976 were carrying in their heads the notion of Ahavat Yisrael under orders from Yitzhak Rabin and even Defense Minister Shimon Peres back then, the Israeli leaders who later brought us the imaginary “Saudi Peace Process” that has killed so many Jews. Who would imagine that Shimon Peres, the savior of a Palestinian Arab terror state in the heart of Israel, would once have been so proactive?
But the most upsetting thing is that Yonaton Netanyahu probably never imagined that brother Binyamin would do two unimaginable things that Yonaton was laying his life down for. Those PFLP terrorists who he and his troopers were winging themselves toward would ultimately get their wishes forty years later as Israel began a policy of releasing terrorists with blood on their hands to show “good faith” to an enemy that has no appreciation of good faith.
I remember the photographs at the start of the Oslo process of the Palestinian Arab who had murdered the two IDF reservists in the Palestinian police station where they were knifed to death after being caught after taking a wrong turn in the PA. I remember expressing my anger at the scene of an Arab holding up his bloody hands covered with the blood of two Jews. That image has become famous and the Arabs hold events where they have children today hold up “bloody hands.” My Israeli friend told me back then, “You see that guy holding up his bloody hands? He’s dead,” he told me.
The Israeli nation that followed the idea of Ahavat Yisrael would at one time have sent the Shin Bet out and killed him to send a message the Arabs understand better than anyone: “If you kill our people, we will kill you.” My friend was astonished when the killer was jailed instead. And I told him back then, “You watch. One day they will release him and he will get away with killing those two Israeli boys.”
And it happened. The Ahavat Yisrael of Israel’s past was becoming the “Ahavat for terrorists” campaign in chasing an illusory and phony “peace” under the watch of Yonni’s brother.
Earlier came the infuriating “Disengagement” in 2005 as Jews deported 8,000 Jews from their homes and businesses in Gaza. Even most Israelis never noted the windfall to agricultural interests inside the Green Line, who took up the businesses left and lost by those deported Jews, special interests gaining income advantage over a political activity. Now we have “leftist” Israelis calling for complete withdrawal yet again from the entirety of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Common sense would tell anyone what happened with Gaza proved that any more concessions to harming and dispossessing Israel’s own population of Jews would only lead to more disastrous outcomes. We ignore Ahavat Yisrael at our peril.
The attitude that one should not be a “fryer” (sucker in Hebrew slang, ed.) by working to aid the Jewish people has permeated the younger generation and is being promoted daily in Israeli universities. The radical left Kobi Snitz’s and Neve Gordon’s who studied abroad in the US and Canada saw how to make names for themselves by rubbing elbows with American anarchists who cheered on America’s enemies and thus started their own campaigns in tiny Israel. Many are part of NGO’s now that lie and defame the Jewish people in Israel that are funded by enemies of the Jews in the EU. The leaders and activists in these NGO’s got theirs, so no matter what is said against the Jewish people, they can be counted on to root for it.
During Operation Cast Lead even Jews were busy voicing support for Hamas whose charter calls for wiping all of world Jewry from the face of the earth. Former PM Olmert’s daughter attended such a demonstration while he was still in office and his Jewish wife co-founded the ISM’s Women in Black.
Since the beginning of the Jewish state, yeshiva students were exempted from the army in order to pursue Torah study. Now that war looms on an even grander scale, the thought of drafting hareidi students into the IDF meets with a threat from their leadership for all of them to leave the country. So much for Ahavat Yisrael among those who seem to be Israel’s most pious Jews (I’m not including hareidi who serve in the IDF).
Forgive them, brother Yonaton. And thank you from those of us among the Jewish people who still believe in Ahavat Yisrael. The question is, can Israel survive without it?