Friday, July 18, 2008

Samir Kuntar: A Murderer, Not A Freedom Fighter

Samir Kuntar, 46, is among the five prisoners recently released by Israel into Lebanon. The prisoners were swapped in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped on July 12, 2006 in a Hezbollah cross-border raid and who subsequently died, probably through being badly wounded in the ambush. The attack led to the month-long war between Israel and Lebanon.

Kuntar and the other prisoners were greeted by Lebanese president, prime minister and speaker of the parliament at the Beirut airport. The government declared a national holiday. Kuntar received a hero's welcome in a Hezbollah rally in a southern suburb of Beirut attended by tens of thousands who chanted his name.

What did Kuntar, a Lebanese Druse, do to be imprisoned at the age of 16 for the next 30 years?On April 22, 1979, he landed in a small boat in Nahariyah with three other fighters from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. According to The New York Times (July 16, 2008), "The four men killed a policeman and broke into an apartment building and kidnapped a young father, Danny Haran, and his 4-year-old daughter, Einat, taking them to a nearby beach. Mr. Kuntar was found guilty of murdering Mr. Haran in front of Einat, then turning to the child and crushing her skill against a rock with the butt of his rifle."

This is the man hailed as a freedom fighter by Hezbollah and its supporters.

Kuntar, though, is no freedom fighter. He is a murderer, plain and simple. There is no justification, political or otherwise, for the murder of a father in front of his young daughter, and the brutal murder of that daughter. His actions did not advance the just cause of Palestinian nationhood; indeed, they were part of a cycle of violence and revenge that has plagued the region for so long. And within that cycle, his actions were particularly heinous. What's more, he shows no sign of regret for the crimes he committed as a youth.

Those of us who have long been against the Israeli occupation and the settlements, and who want to see a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel, base our stance on human rights and self-determination, values we must apply consistently. Kuntar does not exemplify those values in any way. His murders, based completely on nationality and ethnicity–especially in the case of an innocent child–must be condemned as the product of a genocidal impulse.  His overwhelmingly positive reception gives rise only to dismay, especially in a region where the hope for peace is so fragile. 

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