ENTEBBE, Uganda — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday lauded Israel’s famed July 4, 1976, Entebbe rescue of a hijacked Air France plane, saying at a memorial service to mark its 40th anniversary that the Jewish state was right to launch the operation on his country’s territory.
Speaking at the Ugandan airfield where IDF troops rescued dozens of Israelis and Jews from the German and Palestinian terrorists who had hijacked a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris, Museveni said Ugandan leader Idi Amin’s “hobnobbing with the terrorists was a crime in itself.”
Turning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose brother led the commando unit and was the only Israeli military fatality during the mission, Museveni said: “Your brother Jonathan, some Israeli hostages, and some Ugandan soldiers were killed here, on that night, fourth of July 1976. Fortunately, the rescue mission succeeded and the innocent civilians were rescued.”
An often rambling Museveni, clad in a wide-brimmed light-colored hat, also listed a number of biblical links between the Jewish state and his own nation, while consistently referring to Israel as “Palestine.”
The Entebbe raid, he said, was “another bond” linking “Palestine to Africa.”
Museveni condemned terrorism and “indiscriminate violence” — even if the “cause is just” — but said there was still a need for violence so long as it is used responsibly and morally.
“Even soldiers when they are not armed should not be attacked,” he said. “That is our doctrine. We’re a liberation movement, we use violence for the cause of Africa, but it’s disciplined and purposeful violence.”
The president made the same point about Amin in a Twitter post, writing on the social media platform on Monday evening that “Idi Amin was wrong to keep the hostages and Israelis were right to use their capacity to rescue the hostages.”
The comment was accompanied by an image of the Israeli and Ugandan flags being held side by side.
Idi Amin was wrong to keep the hostages and Israelis were right to use their capacity to rescue the hostages. pic.twitter.com/PREXjmWvPI
— Yoweri K Museveni (@KagutaMuseveni) July 4, 2016
The Israeli prime minister, who spoke before the Ugandan president, called the Entebbe mission “a watershed moment for my people.”
During the Holocaust, Jews “were murdered by the millions, stateless,” Netanyahu said. “The State of Israel has changed that. It was perhaps in Entebbe where this transformation was seen by the world. We were powerless no more.”
Baby Jesus and Iran
The Uganda president used biblical narrative to emphasize the link that existed between his country and Israel before the Entebbe raid. He cited the story of Joseph, which he said “was also a sad story but also created a bond, just like this one here.”
He went on to recount the tale of “baby Jesus,” who he said was hidden in Egypt, and referred to the founder of Christianity as “another bond between Africa and Palestine, both born out of sad circumstances.”
He also said that “even… the Muslim religion” had a link to Africa, given that the Prophet Muhammad was forced to flee to the continent. He did not elaborate.
Continuing the biblical theme, the Ugandan leader related a story about a meeting he once had with the hardline former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“When I went to Iran, and there was the man who was president at the time, the one before the current one – Ahmadinejad – I told him about this biblical story,” he said, meaning the stories linking Jews to the Holy Land. “He was telling me the Jews are not from the Middle East, but from Europe. I said no, I have my Bible, I had my Bible with me, I showed it to him.”
Museveni said that Ahmadinejad “didn’t know at all.”
“In the Bible it talks about the Persians and Midianites. I said where are the Midianites? I know you are the Persians. But where are Midianites? He didn’t know,” the president said.
The point is, he continued, “There is a lot of ignorance. Sure, I don’t want to tell my Arab friends and our Iranian friends that you are all mentioned in the Bible.”