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-1&-EYliebbey Van&ss~ andotMr Thoughts JEWISH Ht)STAGE (Theo Bikel): LAficr shoiFinx a tattooed 111u11bcr 011 his ann.] Again. Germans pointing guns at Jews. GERMAN TERRORIST (Heln1ut Berger): We have nothing in con1n1on with the Nazis. It's not the san1e. JEWISH HOSTAGE: It's the san1e. -FROM THE TELEPLAY VICTORY AT E,>v'TEBBE TN THE USUAL COMMERCIAL HASTE THAT MOTIVATES most studio L executives, the heroic feat of the Entebbe raid in July 1976 spawned three-count 'em, three-movies; all of them were filmed within weeks of the incident. The funny thing is that all of them were good movies and were successful, even though they were in direct competition among themselves. For sheer international breadth of performance, Operation Thunderbolt was the best, I think. I know that the production company, Golan and Globus, thought theirs was the best because they'd produced it, and I must admit it was very good. Entehhe, vanc.ssa, and other Thoughts · 367 The one I was in, Victory at Entebbe, was not far behind; we had the legendary Helen Hayes, we had Richard Dreyfuss, a grown-up Duddy Kravitz with an Uzi; we even had Elizabeth Taylor in a cameo role and the Austrian actor Helmut Berger playing the German terrorist. Godfrey Cambridge was cast as !di Amin. He had not been well for the past years, was grossly overweight, and, under doctor's orders, had lost close to sixty pounds. While standing by to make his entrance for his big scene, he keeled over with a n1assive coronary attack. We \Vere all in shock as we watched the paramedics trying to revive him. They worked for close to an hour, but it was hopeless; he was dead. On the following day we shut down filming for a couple of hours so that everyone who wished could attend Godfrey's funeral. I was one of the pallbearers, a role that still is not easy for me. Through my youth I was told that a hereditary colzen, or priest, was not allowed to enter a cen1etery for religious reasons. It was something I overcan1e only late in life. Godfrey was replaced by Yaphet Kotto, also a very good actor, and the filming of Victory at Entebbe continued. (So did the race to have an earlier release date than the other Entebbe stories.) The thing that made Israeli military stories successful, at least before the tragic invasion of Lebanon, was that in them Israel was seen fighting for its very survival and prevailing against the odds; the issues seemed clear-cut, even if they weren't in real life. One would like to say that the entire world held its breath during the standoff at Entebbe Airport on tl)e shore of Lake Victoria in Uganda, when Palestinian and German terrorists held hostage the passengers and crew, Jewish and Gentile, of a hijacked Air France jet. One would like to say that there were real international outrage and thundering denunciations from the pulpits of the world's diplomatic community over that act of piracy and kidnapping. One would like to say that civilized nation after civilized nation sprang to the defense of the imprisoned passengers, travelers who had no part in any disputes, and rattled sabers at the Arab nations that had bought and paid for the hijacking as if they were hiring a crew of roofing contractors. One would like to say it, but one can't because it wouldn't be true. There were pro forma denunciations at the United Nations, and the United States flexed its muscles. But by and large the world watched impotently while a gang of Palestinian and German terrorists separated out the Jews from the rest of the passengers and threatened them with death. !di Amin joined in the fun and, like any good despot, even asked the Jewish passengers to acknowledge him as their protector. There were some who privately believed that Israel had brought it 368 • THEO on herself because of her refusal to deal directly with the Palestinians. Nonsense. Whether or not you believed that the Israeli government could have been more flexible in its positions, hijacking international travelers and holding them hostage was an ontrage. As at the Munich Olympics in 1972, Jews were again held at gunpoint on the world's stage. Only this time it would be different. As the crisis lingered on day after day, people wondered whether Israel would finally cave in and accede to the Palestinian demands, the...


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