"Berber Sea-Pirates"

I have been reading Oded Abarbnel's memoir blog-posts, he is the pilot of the Israeli EL AL 426 flight that was hijacked by the PLFP in 1968 and directed to land in Algeria and stayed there for 40 days. What struck me most in his memoir of the incident was the racist and orientalist nature of his telling of the story. The other thing that struck me was the the lack of gratitude and meanness (and even lack of manners) in face of the good treatment these Israeli hostages have experienced in Algeria.

In talking about Algeria and Algerians while heading to Algeria's airport, the only thing that came into his mind was that they are "berber sea-pirates" referring to the historic powerful Ottoman empire navy in the Algerian shores. To him The Algerians were sea-looters, pirates and bandits, and "It was France who finally put an end to piracy and anarchy when, in 1830, it conquered the whole of Algeria". And by hosting the team that hijacked the plane the Algerians have returned to their "naughty habits" and "Hopefully these bad habits which have become second-nature in Algeria will be remembered by some statesmen and journalists throughout the Western world, and they will present Algeria with a reminder of their heritage which they, apparently, decided to renew". It didn't ring any bell for him of how poorly the country was left after its Independence in mid 1962 from "The Free West World", when Mr.Oded asked for a towel and he was told "apologetically" that they couldn't get it because "Algerians dried themselves with sheets after taking a shower, if they dry themselves at all". To him, Algeria’s president and foreign minister back then, were simply "descendants of the Berber sea-pirates".

No enhanced interrogation techniques learned from the "Free West World" were applied to them while being held hostage by the Algerians, although they knew well that he is a former military pilot. They were given a radio to listen to news from the " BBC ... Voice of America... Voice of Zion channel “To the Diaspora” " They were placed in a villa with a Tennis court, and they stayed out all the time to be visible to any spying plane, they did it purposefully and it worked. The Algerians ordered medicine to one of the passengers from abroad because that particular drug was not available in Algeria. They were served all kinds of delicious food and drinks in silver plates (yes you read it right, SILVER). Almost all of their requests were well accommodated, they have even celebrated his birthday with a "large and tasty almond cake, as well as several bottles of French cognac, liqueurs and aperitifs". And when he was asked about the treatment he got from the Algerians his answer was : "...we had been treated “correctly”, choosing this word carefully......they treated us like Prisoners-of War.. [and we were in an]..incarceration." because, according to his logic, even though the Algerians did treat them well "....It should be emphasized..... that the Algerians should not be praised". This is what the Algerian "Berber sea-pirates and hijackers" did.

On the other hand, The Israeli "hostages" were acting dumb, mean , "So detached from reality" and racists. For example, when they were requesting necessary items, the women in a "shameful conduct " asked for "slips...bras...long list of hygienic items and cosmetics... day creams and hand creams and eye-shadow and lipstick and nail polish and shampoo and hair softener and a hair-dryer and so on and so forth". To him, "Algerians and Arabs are looking at her sexy body with lust" Referring to one of the Israeli women while walking out in the Algerian Airport (all women were released way earlier). He was continuously asking whoever people visit him from the international community to convey the message that: " we, the prisoners, were asking of our Government not to release any terrorists in exchange for our release" (part of it might be the result of having a comfy time and luxurious treatment). He was "without any compromise, threatening " if they will not be allowed to spend the Youm Kapour day in a Synagogue. One of the hostage passengers, Elkana Shemen, cursed one of the guarding soldiers "....in Arabic, “Inaan-Abu-Dinek,”" because the soldier did not bring him a tube of toothpaste. The bedcloth that they were first slept in, was described as "made by Arab material".

Although the pilot seemed honest in his recount of the incidents, his racism and bigotry could not be hidden. The contradictions his logic have shows how bigoted, colonialist, orientalist, racist and chauvinistic his mindset and view of the world is.