Operation Entebbe then and now

  • 7DaysinEntebbe 2B
Operation Entebbe was probably Israel’s most successful and internationally acclaimed counter-terrorist hostage rescue mission.
by PETER FELDMAN | Mar 29, 2018

It took place in 1976 and the Israelis managed to save all the hostages, with only one fatality: Yoni Netanyahu, who led the mission and was the brother of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

It was the story of heroes. I recall, 42 years ago, standing on the set at Burbank Studios in California, observing how Hollywood conjured up its own made-for-TV movie about the historical raid that had occurred some months earlier.

This swiftly produced film documented how a courageous Israeli commando unit planned its raid on Entebbe Airport in Uganda on July 4 to rescue 83 of their countrymen, who were held hostage by PLO terrorists.

It was described as the most daring and audacious rescue mission in history. Netanyahu, the only military casualty, was a hero.

Watching 7 Days in Entebbe, the latest screen version of the event, you would never have guessed his role. Yoni gets scant recognition. In a lacklustre movie that plays out like a tired, old TV show, he is hardly mentioned.

The film’s Brazilian director, José Padilha (working from Gregory Burke’s script), has tried to provide a fresh and controversial approach to the drama. He chose to highlight the action of the terrorists involved – a decision that has already raised the ire of Israelis and members of Jewish communities worldwide.

He concentrates on the two German terrorists, Wilfried Böse (Daniel Brühl) and Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike), delving into their backgrounds, philosophies and moral dilemmas, with the characters questioning at the end whether the hijacking of the Air France plane was such a good idea.

German actor Brühl and English actress Pike both give good performances as they manoeuvre through a minefield of their respective characters’ own making.

The Palestinian extremists involved, however, receive far less screen time.

There is focus, too, on the Knesset and the difficult decisions that had to be made at the time by then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) and defence minister Shimon Peres (a re-made Eddie Marsan, in heavy make-up).

The build-up to the raid is devoid of either tension or excitement and, most importantly, there is a distinct lack of genuine empathy for the hijacked passengers. There is no single character who serves as an emotional core for the movie.

The one time I felt unease creeping up was a sequence at the airport, when the kidnapped passengers aboard Air France Flight 139 are being separated by the hijackers and their Palestinian cohorts. The Jewish passengers and Israeli citizens – men, women and children – are removed from the rest of those on board.

The situation is amplified when they decide to release all the non-Jews and then threaten to kill everyone else, starting with the children, if their demands are not met.

A cheerful President Idi Amin, played by Nonso Anozie, welcomes them all to Uganda on their forced arrival and indicates that they should “enjoy” their stay in his wonderful country. In a telephone conversation with the Israelis, he insists that they must negotiate with the terrorists.

This posed a tough dilemma for the Israelis. It divided the thinking between strongman Peres and the more flexible Rabin.

The credits mention the use of poetic licence in putting the production together and, while it is not a bad movie technically, it never truly engages the audience.

  • 7 Days in Entebbe opens at cinemas on April 6


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