Thursday, July 7, 2016

How Idi Amin Personally Threatened Israel Over the American Movie "Victory at Entebbe"

The operation to liberate the Jewish hostages at Entebbe in Uganda on July 4, 1976 stunned the world and captured the imagination of creators of many--writers, newspapermen, and of course movie producers. For good reason: Operation Jonathan, as it would become known in Israel, had all the makings of a first rate action movie--terrorists hijack an aircraft to a distant land, a tyrannical ruler assists them, and a daring commando unit releases them while its commander falls during the rescue. Unsurprisingly, immediately after the dust had settled on "Operation Jonathan," different producers in Israel and abroad sought to make a movie about it.

They acted with great speed. Less than six months after the operation, in the middle of December 1976, the television movie Victory at Entebbe premiered, featuring famous Hollywood stars such as Kirk Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Lancaster, Anthony Hopkins, Elizabeth Taylor, and others.

Different adaptations of Entebbe portrayed the operation in different ways but they all had one thing in common: the "bad guy" (in addition to the German and Arab hijackers) was the leader of Uganda, Idi Amin Dada, who was known for his brutal repression of his political opponents. It is no wonder, then, that "Victory at Entebbe" evoked the wrath of Amin.

In December 1976, he sent a telegram to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and protested his and Uganda's depiction as accomplices in the hijacking. The ruler of Uganda repeated his claim that he acted to save the hostages while Israel abused his "hospitality" and sent troops "purposely to destroy lives of innocent people." Evidence proved, however, that Amin and his army were accomplices (as can be seen in the Foreign Ministry documents we published on our Hebrew blog). The wording of Amin's telegram was undiplomatic and included veiled threats: "Those who are now rejoicing will one day suffer and some of them will come and kneel before me for mercy and will write a different story about their fate." All this was dictated by Amin himself.

Idi Amin (Wikipedia)
Two more movies were produced on Operation Jonathan: a television movie named Raid on Entebbe in January 1977 (with Charles Bronson as Dan Shomron) and later that year an Israeli feature movie named "Mivtsa Yonatan" (Operation Jonathan). Its cast included some of the most famous names in Israeli film and entertainment of that time: the singer Yehoram Gaon as Yoni Netanyahu, the singer Arik Lavie as Dan Shomron, and actors such as Shaike Ophir, Gila Almagor, Shmuel Rodensky and many others.

N.B: The operation to rescue the hostages in Entebbe was originally code-named "Operation Thunderbolt." It was actually a Hebrew translation of the name of the 1965 James Bond movie "Thunderball." This was the name the IDF computer came up when Dan Shomron, the commander of the operation looked for a good code name. Following the success of the operation, the Israeli government decided to change the name to "Operation Jonathan" in memory of Lt. Col. Yehonatan Netanyahu. In the rest of the world, it's widely known as "Operation Entebbe."

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