America celebrates Independence Day, by far the most important national holiday of the year in the United States. It commemorates the birth of the nation and the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, with fireworks, picnics, concerts, parades, political speeches and ceremonies. It is a day of patriotism and the largest birthday celebration in America—a true day of remembrance.
It is in this spirit that I, as an American, will celebrate Israel. The nation of Israel and the Jewish people have sacrificed more for American freedom per capita than any nation on earth.
Radical Islamists call America the “Great Satan,” and Israel the “Little Satan.” The reason is obvious; the Jewish people in Israel have, with their own blood, defended America and the Western world against radical Islam since the days of its rebirth on May 14, 1948.
When Jewish poetess, Emma Lazarus, penned the immortal words emblazoned on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, Palestine was desert, a wasteland in the hands of the unfriendly Turks. From 1881 to about 1920, three million Jews emigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States. Welcoming them to America were Lazarus’ words:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Ties between the Jewish people and the early pilgrims in America were as foundationally strong as the rock on which the Pilgrims stepped ashore in 1620. A group hoping to found a “New Israel” would become highly influential when the colonists began to aspire to freedom. Early founders and presidents of the newly-formed republic would express the hope that the children of Israel might one day find rebirth in their homeland – the land God gave to Abraham.
Our forefathers, including Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, lobbied for an image of Moses guiding the Israelites on the Great Seal. Such presidents as John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, and Abraham Lincoln lobbied for a homeland in Palestine for the Jews. President Harry S Truman was the first world leader to recognize the new State of Israel in 1948.
One of the greatest symbols of Israel’s sacrifice is Yonathan Netanyahu, commander of Sayaret Mutkal, who was killed in action on July 4, 1976 during Operation Entebbe in Uganda. His brother, Benjamin, is the current prime minister of Israel. Character and dedication are symbolized in a letter Yonathan wrote to his parents on December 2, 1973. In the letter he wrote: “We are preparing for war and it’s hard to know what to expect. What I am positive of is that there will be a next round and others after that. But, I would rather opt for living here in continual battle than for becoming part of the wandering Jewish people. Any compromise will simply hasten the end. As I don’t intend to tell my grandchildren about the Jewish State in the twentieth century as a mere brief and transient episode amid thousands of years of wandering. I intend to hold on here with all my might.”
In 2008, Ugandan President Yoweri Musevani flew to Israel at the invitation of President Shimon Peres to attend the “Facing Tomorrow Conference.” When I discovered he was there, I immediately approached Grace, first lady of Uganda. I told her that her husband had broken his promise. I referred to the fact that Maureen Reagan Revel, the daughter of Ronald Reagan had asked me in January of 1986 to organize a press conference for President Musevani. Maureen was having a difficult time arranging it because of all the negative press regarding Uganda’s former leader, Idi Amin.
Amin, in need of arms, approached Muammar Qadaffi of Libya. The two leaders reached an agreement designed to supply jets to Amin if he agreed to sever all contact with Israel. Without prior warning, the Ugandan dictator ousted all Israelis from Uganda and offered Israel’s embassy to Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Amin’s next move was to erect an imposing mosque in the midst of Kampala.
After our conversation, I was able to fulfill Maureen’s request and invited President Musevani to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Washington, DC. My invitation to Musevani was supported by then-director of the NRB, Dr. Ben Armstrong, who invited the president to speak. I hosted Musevani and his cabinet in my suite, and during that meeting, he said, “I want to do something for you to show my appreciation.” I replied, “I only ask one thing of you, and that is to honor Jonathan Netanyahu with a memorial at the airport in Entebbe.” That did not happen.
When I said to Grace Musevani, who is a very religious woman, that the promise had not been kept, she looked at me and replied, “Man of God, you are right. God will strike my husband down like Naaman the leper in the Holy City of Jerusalem if he does not keep his promise. He will keep his promise!”
I was so pleased to realize that the following day Musevani met with Benzion and his son Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset to announce that he would take the control tower, the only remaining part of the original airport, and commemorate those who participated in the raid on Entebbe. It was they who had rescued 248 passengers and 12 crew members being held hostage after Air France flight 139 was hijacked by the PFLP, a German terror cell. Later named “Operation Yoni,” it would honor Jonathan Netanyahu, the commander of the raid, and its only fatality.
The death of Yoni Netanyahu inspired me to write Israel: America’s Key to Survival in 1981. On the front cover of the book are U.S. and Israeli flags sliced in half by an Islamic Saudi Arabian sword. The premise of the book was that Israel was the only democracy and firewall between radical Islam and the West. I wrote that if Israel was weakened, radical Islam would begin attacking the West; that New York City’s tallest building would be the first target.
On the back cover is a quote from Benjamin Netanyahu:
“Their goal is to destroy America … destroy it … reduce it to nothing and they feel they can effectively do it through terrorism.”