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Lebanon: Return of prisoners

As I write these words, Lebanon is giving five of its citizens/fighters a hero’s welcome. These resistance fighters have just been released from Israeli prisons. The release came as a result of a swap deal between Israel and Hezbollah/Lebanon. According to the terms of the deal, Israel will release Lebanese prisoners and hand over the remains of more than 100 fighters killed during decades of war between the two countries, while it gets information about a missing flight lieutenant and the two soldiers captured in July 2006 by Hezbollah.

It was declared today that the two soldiers were dead and their bodies have been turned over to Israel. Among the Lebanese who were released is Samir Kuntar. Kuntar was sentenced to more than 400 years in prison and has spent 29 years in Israeli jails. The released prisoners are now being welcomed by the Lebanese President, Parliament Speaker and the Prime Minister, among other dignitaries, at the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut. The Lebanese president is giving his welcome speech. Today was declared as a national holiday to give every Lebanese a chance to partake in welcoming its heroes. Here are a few reactions from Lebanese blogs and more to come later, so stay tuned:

Anecdotes from a Banana Republic uses wit and humor to describe the day and goes on to say:

Kuntar has been imprisoned in Israel for 29 years, since the early age of 17. And how the world has changed in his absence! Kuntar has never sent a drunk text message to an ex-girlfriend or stalked anyone on MySpace on Facebook; he's never taken a stroll through the new downtown or eaten at Barbar (a mega- bistro that opened its doors during the Civil War.) Someone warn him that servis now costs a whopping 2,000LL. Thankfully many of the old, familiar faces from the 1970s are still in power; he'll only have to adapt to the likes of newcomers such as Saad Hariri.

Arab Democracy discusses Israel’s claim to moral superiority and being a hero for a day:

Whether Israel likes it or not, this UN brokered deal is the direct consequence of the July 2006 war. In a conventional war perspective, where the military operations end with a clear winner and loser, such a deal would have occurred sooner after the war. But Israel was not in a posture to admit defeat in August 2006, while Hezbollah showed much triumphalism describing as a “Divine Victory” his ability to resist the Israeli attack.
Israel needed time; it took over a year for the Winograd Report to be issued detailing the Israeli mistakes after a lengthy investigation. After admitting defeat, it is now time for Israel to pay the price.
Under a “humanitarian” cover, Israel is making a historic move. Giving back Samir Kuntar in exchange of two (maybe dead) soldiers captured on the 12th of July 2006 is a giant leap. The interesting debate about it in Israel is about fears that such a move might become a political and juridical precedent.


Bilad al Sham
describes the event as an ultimate victory for Hezbollah:

The poster on the Lebanese side of the border said it all: Israel sheds tears of sorrow, Lebanon sheds tears of joy.
The pictures from Naqoura were the ones Israelis had been dreading for two years since Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were seized by Hizbullah – an event that sparked off the summer war in southern Lebanon and northern Israel. Two simple black coffins were presented to the media.

On the Israeli side of the border the families and friends of the two burst into uncontrollable tears on witnessing the pictures relayed from the Hizbullah-controlled Al-Manar TV.
It is not all that Hizbullah controls in Lebanon today. Indeed, the handover of the bodies in exchange for five living Lebanese, including Samir Quntar, the man serving four life sentences for his role in a terror attack in Israel in 1979, is arguably the icing on the cake in two wonderful years for Hizbullah and its pro-Syrian allies.

It is hard to argue that Israel achieved either of its stated aims in the 2006 war – it failed to return Regev and Goldwasser and it did not weaken Hizbullah by pushing it to lines behind the Litani River.

Tantalus uses satire and humor to describe the events in a “rumor has it…” post.

Lebanese Political Journal
updates, describes and publishes opinions about the events in a series of posts.

Blacksmiths of Lebanon has photos of Samir Kuntar being captured in 1979 with comments from Israeli press, as well as another post in which he questions whether the price paid to release the prisoners was worth it:

Lebanon's prisoner in Israel is on his way back [while hundreds of Lebanese continue to languish in “brotherly/sisterly” prisons in Syria] and yet another pretext for Hizballah's weapons is gone.
Was it worth it?
Over 1,200 dead – 300 below the age of 13; over 4,400 wounded – 700 of them permanently disabled. Those figures alone provide a very clear answer [NO!], but don't forget to add to them the hundreds of thousands displaced and the billions of dollars of damages inflicted on the country.
No matter to Hizballah, they – and the Israelis with whom they negotiated (Olmert & Co.) – got the PR boost that they needed just when they needed. The Lebanese, and the Al Jazeera-viewing Arab public in general, should simply forget the militant group's recent history of turning its weapons on its fellow Lebanese and precipitating a sectarian rift rivaling that of country's 15 year civil war.

More opinions, coverage and analysis from the Lebanese blogosphere later, so check back.

Other GV Posts:
Israel: Intense Emotions Over the Hezbollah Prisoner Exchange

20 comments

  • Wow. Hooray for yet another outrageously biased MENA post. Talk about cherry picking blog posts to suit an agenda!

    Most of the Lebanese blogs that I read are full of expressions of shame and chagrin over the release of Kuntar.

    Readers interested in following those blogs can find a summary on Mustapha’s blog, Beirut Spring.

    Also, check Now Lebanon for sober editorials and comments from angry readers (there are many). Naharnet has some interesting comments, too.

    Samir Kuntar was 16 years old when he shot a man in front of his 4 year-old daughter and then used the butt of his Kalashnikov rifle to smash in the little girl’s skull. He served less than 30 years of 4 life sentences. During those 30 years in an Israeli jail, he married and had conjugal visits; he was also permitted to study at the Open University – at Israeli taxpayers’ expense – and earn two university degrees.

    I wonder if you, Moussa, or anyone participating in this thread, has read the first-hand account of Smadar Haran, the mother of that little girl and the widow of the man who was shot. Below is an excerpt; the full version was
    published in the Washington Post

    Read it and then ask yourselves: how in the world can this man be described as a hero? Are you all so blinded by hatred for Israel that you are unable to acknowledge Samir Kuntar is a murderous psychopath who committed his crime because he simply likes violence?

    “It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband, Danny, and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach not far from our home in Nahariya, a city on the northern coast of Israel, about six miles south of the Lebanese border. Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists, sent by Abu Abbas from Lebanon, landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away. Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us as the terrorists burst into our building. They had already killed a police officer. As they charged up to the floor above ours, I opened the door to our apartment. In the moment before the hall light went off, they turned and saw me. As they moved on, our neighbor from the upper floor came running down the stairs. I grabbed her and pushed her inside our apartment and slammed the door.

    Outside, we could hear the men storming about. Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat. They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing there were more people in the apartment. I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space and we would be killed. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. “This is just like what happened to my mother,” I thought.

    As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl’s skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.

    By the time we were rescued from the crawl space, hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her.”

  • Thanks Lisa for your long insight. Gilad Lotan has contributed a story from the Israeli blogosphere here:
    http://globalvoicesonline.org/2008/07/17/israel-intense-emotions-over-the-hizbollah-prisoner-exchange/
    And Moussa Bashir clearly says that he is working on a follow-up post.
    And thanks for reminding me about cherry picking. Should check out when it is at my end of the woods as my jam supply is running low.
    Have a great day!

  • […] GV Posts: Lebanon: Return of Prisoners Posted by Gilad Lotan Share […]

  • […] the follow–up to my previous post on the return of prisoners. Although there are some bloggers who criticized the release of Samir […]

  • rasha reslan

    global voices on line must not be censored ,ive send a comment why it is not posted ,i need more than an explanation thx u so much

  • Dear rasha reslan

    I am doing the comment moderation at the moment and I can assure you that there is no censorship on Global Voices. We only bar spam and hate speech. I have just checked the spam filter to see if your comment was there for some reason, and I didn’t find it. Please note that the capcha system will bar comments if you don’t provide the right information and not always it gives you an error message.

  • rasha reslan

    thx u for ur care

  • Tal

    I also tried to post a maasge, but it was not published

  • Tal

    Dear Jillian,

    I had responded to you comment very lengthly, but from some reason this respond was not approved, or failed to appear.

    I’ll be brief now, but I hope it will be good enough.

    Israel is not the best democracy in the world. in the corruption standards we are placed in the 30th place in the world (when 1st is the less corrupted). I believe corruption democracy can not live together.

    Israel do control 2.5 million Palestinians without democratic rights. but Israel for the last 20 years through democratic struggles, try to find a solution to this problem.

    You have to remember, that Israel is in a state of war from the day she was born. every 7 years we have here a war.

    John Stuart Mill wrote in his book “On Liberty”, that liberalism and democracy is not good practice for small states surrounded by many enemies.
    If you will look on the map, you will see that Israel is a very small state surrounded by vast Arab countries, which most of them wish to destroy her.

    For such circumstances, Israel is a very liberal and Democratic place

  • […] (Ar), from Damascus, informs his readers that on July 17, 2008, and during an interview held with Samir Kuntar by MANAR TV, Kuntar said that there is an Egyptian prisoner still held in Israeli jails and that no […]

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