August 3, 2019

Movie Review: "The Red Sea Diving Resort" (Netflix - 2019)

There has been a flood of publicity over the release of The Red Sea Diving Resort, a film about Operation Brothers, a Mossad operation conducted from 1979 to 1983 in which thousands of Ethiopian Jews were clandestinely transported from refugee camps in Sudan to Israel.

It is a great story, one that needs to be told. Unfortunately, this attempt to tell that story falls short.

In the late 1970's, the Israeli intelligence service was secretly moving Ethiopian Jews from Sudan to Israel via a circuitous route, usually by air through European cities. Because of the visibility of the flights and increased Sudanese security, Mossad leadership halted the operation, believing that it posed too great of a risk to both the refugees and its officers.

A group of Mossad officers came up with a plan to resurrect the effort to bring the Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Having planned and executed intelligence operations during my career, I regard the Israeli plan as truly outside-the-box thinking.

The officers, through off-shore shell accounts, purchased a defunct diving resort on Sudan's Red Sea coast. The plan was to move the Ethiopian refugees from the camps in Sudan to the resort, where Israeli Navy commandos would use inflatable boats to move them to an Israeli-owned, ostensibly commercial, trawler for transport back to the port of Eilat via the Gulf of Aqabah.

Excellent tradecraft and the courage of the Mossad operatives resulted in over 3000 Ethiopians being taken to safety by the time the operation ended in 1983.

A word to my fellow Arabic linguists. The Sudanese dialect of Arabic is unique and difficult, but the quality of the language in the movie, with a few exceptions, was mediocre at best.

Again, a great story. The movie version seems contrived, uneven, and focused more on the personal issues of the Israeli officers rather than the plight of the Ethiopians they were there to rescue.

Watch it because it is a compelling story, and forgive the shoddy production.