Saturday, June 02, 2007

Entebbe: The revised edition

Younger folk may not recall the 1976 "Raid on Entebbe," an Israeli commando operation in Uganda, which was then under the control of the psychotic despot Idi Amin. The operation -- which took place on the eve and morning of the American bicentennial -- freed hostages captured by Palestinian terrorists who had hijacked an airliner that had flown out of Tel Aviv. The Entebbe incident gave rise to several films (I saw the one with Richard Dreyfuss, but missed the others) and did much to bolster Israel's image in the United States and around the world. The official IDF account of the action is here.

A startling new version of the event holds that the hijacking was secretly sponsored by Israel itself. Normally, I'd take such an allegation with enough grains of salt to sculpt a replica of Lot's wife. But the source for this claim is the BBC, which gained access to a hitherto-secret government report on the incident.

We do not have precise details regarding the actual author of this report or how he acquired his information. So keep the Morton's close at hand, because it may yet come in handy. What the BBC gives is, in pertinent part, this:
An unnamed contact told a British diplomat in Paris that the Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Bet, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) collaborated to seize the plane.
In the document, written on 30 June 1976 when the crisis was still unresolved, DH Colvin of the Paris Embassy writes of his source: "According to his information, the hijack was the work of the PFLP, with help from the Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Beit.

"The operation was designed to torpedo the PLO's standing in France and to prevent what they see as a growing rapprochement between the PLO and the Americans."

He adds: "My contact said the PFLP had attracted all sorts of wild elements, some of whom had been planted by the Israelis."
To my knowledge, this is the first time that the Entebbe raid has given rise to so bold a charge, even though Israel is a lint trap for conspiracy theories. A few skeptics have noted the odd coincidence that the hostages at Entebbe airport were kept in a building built by the Israelis themselves, which allowed the commandos to practice in an exact replica. The timing of the raid -- July 4, 1976 -- certainly played to the American psyche.

If I understand the BBC account aright, a faction of the PFLP -- a secular, socialist Palestinian group, then at odds with the PLO -- was infiltrated by Israeli agents, who goaded the others into committing the atrocity. Such a ploy is, in broad outline, familiar enough. Those who recall the Vietnam era know that infiltrators often prompted peace marchers to take illegal actions. The same thing has happened within other protest movements.

If we take the BBC account at face value -- if we provisionally accept that the hijacking of Air France Flight 139 (the triggering event) was, ultimately, set in motion by Israel -- then we have much history to reconsider.

The leaders of the hijacking were, according to the standard account, two Germans named Wilfried Böse and Brigitte Kuhlmann, both members of a German left-wing terror group called the Revolutionäre Zellen, or Revolutionary Cells. (The gloriously evil Klaus Kinski played Böse in one of the Entebbe movies!) In the 1970s, we took these "red" terrorists at face value. Later, in the wake of the P2 scandal, investigations revealed that much "left-wing" terror in Western Europe, especially in Italy, was actually orchestrated by far rightists and their sympathizers within the intelligence services. This Wikipedia entry on the "Strategy of Tension" gives a good brief overview of the relevant history.

All the studies I've seen on "false flag" terror in the Age of Disco have concentrated on Italy. I'm far more ignorant than I should be of the situation in Germany -- and I know of no previous allegations linking Böse and Kuhlmann to the Israeli services. Readers who know German may be able to educate me here.

More to the point: If (if) Israel did infiltrate the PFLP -- in itself, a reasonable presumption -- and if Shin Bet did prompt that group to take hostages in 1976, we must ask hard questions about other PFLP actions. The group conducted a series of horrifying hijackings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, actions which did much to make Americans disdain the Palestinian cause.

Wadie Haddad -- a close friend to PFLP founder George Habash -- was in charge of PFLP-EO, the activist group-within-a-group that carried out the 1976 hijacking. (The "EO" stands for External Operations.) At the time, Haddad struck many as having divided loyalties, and many people accused him of being an agent working for the Soviets. Vasili Mitrokhin, whom I do not trust, confirmed this accusation.

The neocons of that era obsessively promulgated the theory that Moscow controlled all the world's terrorism. (Never forget how Ledeen and his cronies tried to convince the world that the KGB ordered the shooting of Pope John Paul II.) Neocons then lied just as readily as they do today.

If the BBC's source is accurate, then it seems fair to ask whether Haddad's sponsor was actually Israel. Perhaps he was recruited outright. Much more likely, he was manipulated through means that we outsiders can only guess at.

Not long after the Entebbe affair, Mossad killed Haddad by spiking his Belgian chocolates, or so claims a recent book called "Striking Back." Simple justice -- or the silencing of someone who might reveal something awkward?

I'll keep an eye on this story -- and I'm keeping my salt shaker within easy reach.
I had heard previously that this incident, like the Achille Lauro incident with Abu Abbas, was an Israeli false flag set up. Possibly second hand via hearing what Victor Ostroupsky (sp? something like that) had published in his 'By Way of Deception.'

To my knowledge, this is the first time that the Entebbe raid has given rise to so bold a charge, even though Israel is a lint trap for conspiracy theories.

Try this one (not from the most reliable site, but still):
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