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Remembering another July 4 when an American president stood up for Israel

 By Rabbi Ben Kamin  

Rabbi Ben Kamin

SAN DIEGO — One recalls July 4, 1976—the great Bicentennial—with much nostalgia and affection.  America was exactly 200 years old, had survived the Watergate scandals and a presidential resignation without bloodshed or constitutional tremors.   

The dreadful Vietnam War was over after some fifteen years of entanglement, though we struggled (and still do) with the cosmic shock of having lost 57,000 young lives in war that we lost and through which we all but lost our national soul.  Vietnam itself was a scarred waste of napalm and blood; for what?

But on July 4, 1976, the President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford, stood up in the White House and proclaimed:  “Today, Israel has given us the best present we could have on the Fourth of July.”  This decent and plain-spoken president then announced the details of Israel’s brilliant and daring rescue of 103 civilian hostages at Entebbe airport, near Kampala, in Uganda.

An Air France jet had taken off a week earlier and was skyjacked by Palestinian terrorists.  After landing at Entebbe, all the non-Jewish passengers were released (an act dubiously reminiscent of standard Nazi procedure).   The rescue of the hostages and the defeat of the terrorists and their Ugandan hosts was a feat of unparalleled intelligence and military luster.  One Israeli commando was killed—the commander of the mission, Jonathan Netanyahu, the brother of Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Ford was moved and had the integrity and uprightness to praise and congratulate our ally, Israel.  Indeed, the operation inspired a variety of American tactical rescue scenarios and the deployment of similar teams; American military reliance upon and interaction with Israeli intelligence and maneuvers has been a hallmark of the unique friendship between these two democracies for over sixty years.   It may be more important than ever, given the trending of Turkey (long before the recent contrived flotilla incident) away from the West and into the hands of Islamist plotters.

Why the ambivalence and hand-wringing now of our president and government about the fundamental and irreparable alliance we share with both the practical and historical narrative of the State of Israel?   

For the love of God, we wine and dine and wink and rationalize the ignominy of Afghanistan’s ungrateful and fraudulent  warlord president; we pine for Iran to turn into Oz; we practically apologize to the Arab global establishment after its hard-boiled and virulent opposition to the American ideals of education, liberty, creativity, and gender equality continue to be embellished by the unchecked Koranic provocation that blankets more and more millions of people from the Middle East to Africa to Asia and into Europe.

Why not love and admire our friend and acolyte and defender, Israel, its flaws (and our own) notwithstanding?   Would we prefer the Iranian / Hamas / Hezbollah public goals of Israeli and Jewish extermination?  Who would we then to turn to—Egypt?  Syria?  Somalia?  Iran?

Would that we had a president again who had the audacity to stand up for our real friends on July 4.

Rabbi Kamin is a freelance writer and author based in San Diego.

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