Yom Kippur, the Yom Kippur War, and Yonatan Netanyahu
September 17, 2010 3 Comments
Let’s agree that the ethnic people of every sovereign state have a right to exist. There is no more fundamental right. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness apply to individuals. Long before reaching these inalienable rights, there is a people’s right to exist — the most basic human right, the freedom from genocide.
Let’s agree that freedom from genocide is not negotiable. It’s not a “bargaining chip.” It is basic.
The world acknowledged Israel’s and Palestine’s right to exist on November 29, 1947. By a 33-13 vote (with 10 abstentions), the United Nations voted in favor of partition, and the right to exist of both Israel and Palestine. Every Muslim nation voted no, along with Cuba, Greece and India. The Palestinians effectively rejected their right to exist if it meant Israel would exist, and waged war on the fledgling state of Israel. Muslim nations have been exploiting that Palestinian mistake, at tremendous Palestinian expense, ever since.
Having lost the world vote in which they freely participated, the Muslim nations surrounding Israel invaded Israel, with intent to destroy. The Israelis fought for the right to exist. At considerable sacrifice, they won. Militarily, barely, Israel secured the right to exist — though it would take two more multi-front invasive wars against them, in 1967 and 1973, each with the intent to destroy Israel, to underscore Israel’s determination to exist.
The 1973 war, the Yom Kippur War, happened exactly 37 years ago — an Arab invasion on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, when Jews are commanded to fast, to pray, to cease all work, and to seek forgiveness and atonement. It is one of the most cynical military decisions in history — and historically relevant to our current raging debate about the proper reciprocity of Western sensitivity to Islam and Muslim sensitivity to Western Christianity, Judaism and Western values. There could be no more profound disrespect of Judaism than a military attack on Yom Kippur.
During the Yom Kippur War, Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu was a commander in the elite Israeli commando unit Sayeret Matkal, in Israel called “the Unit.” His distinguished service in the Golan Heights against the invading Syrians earned him (at risk of tautology) the Medal of Distinguished Service. Having been repeatedly heroic, Yoni’s ultimate heroism happened again in the service of Sayeret Matkal, in 1976.
In June 1976, Air France Flight 139 was hijacked by Palestinians and Germans. The hijackers diverted the plane to Libya, refueled, and departed for Entebbe Airport in Uganda, where, upon landing and making demands, they separated the passengers into Jews and Gentiles. One of the Jews showed the Auschwitz number tattooed on his arm, and a German captor said, “I’m no Nazi! I’m an idealist.”
The Israelis were realists. Operation Entebbe, the rescue of 100+ hostages in Uganda on July 4th, 1976, lasted 53 minutes. All seven hijackers, including the idealist, were killed. Of the 105 hostages, three were killed and approximately ten were wounded. The rescued hostages were flown to Israel. Only one commando, Yonatan Netanyahu, lost his life.
Idi Amin was humiliated. Believing Kenya colluded with Israel, the Ugandan dictator ordered the massacre of hundreds of Kenyans living in Uganda. He also ordered the murder of a Jewish hostage that had been moved to a Ugandan hospital. Being generally murderous and despicable, his regime crumbled. He lived out his life peacefully in exile in Saudi Arabia, where he died in 2003.
As either Israeli or supporter of Israel, it is difficult to be other than a realist. As either Israeli or supporter of Israel, the first principle is the right to exist.
In 1967, just before the Six Day War, Yonatan Netanyahu wrote in a letter, “we sit and wait. What are we waiting for? Well it’s like this…” and he told a parable of an Englishman, an American, and an Israeli caught by a tribe of cannibals. They were in the pot, about to be boiled, and granted a last wish. The Englishman asked for a whiskey and a pipe. The American asked for a steak. Both were granted. The Israeli asked for the chief of the tribe to give him a swift kick in the ass. Though confused, the chief granted the request and gave the Israeli a swift kick in the ass. The Israeli then pulled out a gun and killed all of the cannibals. The stunned Englishman and American asked him, “if you had a gun, why didn’t you kill them sooner?” “Are you crazy?” answered the Israeli, “and let the U.N. call me an aggressor?”
Ever since that honorable vote of November 29, 1947, the United Nations has been in full retreat, a collective hiccup, oh, wait, maybe not — and designs of genocide hang in the balance.
Yonatan Netanyahu’s little brother, Benjamin, who also served in Sayeret Maktal, now leads the Israeli determination to exist as Prime Minister. How much safer and more rational would the Middle East be if the Israeli right to exist, the basic right to exist, were simply acknowledged?