Israel and Her Neighbors

 

shutterstock_23337061On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence. If you are interested in the difference between the state established by the Palestinian Jews 67 years ago today and its neighbors – and you have a strong stomach – consider the case of Samir Kuntar.

Kuntar is a Lebanese member of the Palestine Liberation Front terrorist group. On April 22, 1979, Kuntar and three chums landed on a beach in Nahariya, Israel. After finding an Israeli policeman and killing him, Kuntar broke into an apartment belonging to Danny Haran, his wife, Smadar, and their daughters (Einat, 4, and Yael, 2). While Smadar and Yael hid in a crawlspace, Kuntar led Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to witnesses, he executed Danny in front of his four-year-old daughter and drowned him in the Mediterranean to make sure that he was dead. Then he smashed the girl’s skull against a rock with the butt of his rifle. Back in the crawlspace, Smadar smothered her two-year-old to death in a desperate attempt to silence her.

In the decades since this terrorist attack, we have gotten used to baroque levels of violence and sadism in the Middle East, so that Kuntar’s crimes seem almost quaintly old-fashioned by comparison. But here is my point. Kuntar was captured, convicted of murder, and spent 30 years in an Israeli prison. (Israel has the death penalty, but it is reserved for those who commit genocide; it does not apply to men who smash the skulls of four-year-old girls). While in prison, Kuntar married Kifah Kayyal, an Israeli Palestinian woman. While they were married, she received a monthly stipend from the Israeli government, an entitlement due to her as the wife of a prisoner of Israel. Also while in prison, Kuntar took online courses from the Open University of Israel, which granted him a Bachelor’s degree in Social and Political Science. In 2008, the Israeli government released Kuntar and four other Lebanese prisoners in exchange for two coffins containing the remains of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped, tortured, and executed by Hezbollah.

Kuntar returned to Lebanon a national hero. Wikipedia describes his reception:

Upon Kuntar’s arrival at Beirut Airport, along with four other freed Lebanese prisoners, he was officially received by the Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, Speaker of the Parliament of Lebanon Nabih Berri, some Lebanese members of Parliament, and Muslim and Christian clerics. Hezbollah arranged a public celebration in Dahieh (their stronghold in Beirut), where Hassan Nasrallah gave a welcoming speech to Kuntar. On July 17, 2008, Kuntar visited the tomb of Imad Mughniyeh. Later that day, a homecoming function was organized in Kuntar’s native village of Aabey, southeast of Beirut. The ceremony was addressed by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt and the Labour Minister and Hezbollah official, Mohammad Fneish. On July 19, 2008, Al Jazeera TV broadcast a program from Lebanon about Kuntar’s welcoming festivities. In it, the head of Al Jazeera’s Beirut office, Ghassan bin Jiddo, praised Kuntar, calling him a “pan-Arab hero”, and organized a birthday party for him.

Smadar remarried and has two daughters. Here is an archived version of an editorial she wrote for the Washington Post in 2003, before Kuntar was released, explaining the connection between Kuntar and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer during the Achille Lauro hijacking in 1985. She does not forgive, but she does not call for revenge. See if you can detect any hint of blood lust in her editorial.

A good way to judge a society is to see who its heroes are. Draw your own conclusions about a society that counts Samir Kuntar among its heroes.

Note: If I had been thinking straight, I would have posted this on April 22, which was both Independence Day in Israel (which follows the Hebrew calendar) and the 36th anniversary of the Nahariya attack.

There are 35 comments.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Any society could produce Kuntar.

    The term “society” should not be applied to that which would lionize him, unless it be a society of sociopaths.

    • #1
  2. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Percival:Any society could produce Kuntar.

    The term “society” should not be applied to that which would lionize him, unless it be a society of sociopaths.

    I think the point of the OP is that the Paleoswinians are a society of sociopaths.

    • #2
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    That is a dreadful story.

    • #3
  4. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Islam is a supremacist ideology. I think that’s the key to all its pathologies.

    • #4
  5. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Even more shocking, Kuntar was 16 when he committed these murders.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samir_Kuntar

    • #5
  6. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    A side lesson: nations that don’t have the death penalty, even for such unspeakable acts of murder, are doing themselves no good.

    • #6
  7. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov
    @Oblomov

    Kuntar is not an Islamist. He and the PLF are/were Marxist Leninists, which is a different kind of supremacist ideology. In 1979 Islamism was not a major political force in the Mideast outside of Iran.

    • #7
  8. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Barfly:Islam is a supremacist ideology. I think that’s the key to all its pathologies.

    I hadn’t heard of this case before, either but Kuntar is Druze and not — I believe — a Muslim.

    The Guardian published the account of an Israeli woman who interviewed him. He does not make a good impression.

    • #8
  9. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    I hadn’t heard of this case before, either but Kuntar is Druze and not — I believe — a Muslim.

    The response is that this evidences the effect of Islamism on greater Lebanese culture. That plus the general approving reaction to him really rebuts the argument that one should not hold Lebanon responsible for the acts of its terrorists.

    • #9
  10. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Manny

    Israel is far too kind.  I cannot see how anyone who smashes the brains out of a four year old does not get the death penalty.  That is a very moving story.

    • #10
  11. user_348375 Inactive
    user_348375
    @TrinityWaters

    Carey J.:

    Percival:Any society could produce Kuntar.

    The term “society” should not be applied to that which would lionize him, unless it be a society of sociopaths.

    I think the point of the OP is that the Paleoswinians are a society of sociopaths.

    Well, these barbarians have the Pope in their corner now, thanks to his recognition of the Palestinian state, the acknowledged leader in local pathologies.

    • #11
  12. user_309277 Member
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    Zafar:Even more shocking, Kuntar was 16 when he committed these murders.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samir_Kuntar

    Is it though?  Men between the ages of 15 and 25 are the prime demographic for this sort of stuff.  (Incidentally they’re also the prime recruiting ground for our own military).  Young enough to think they’re invincible, inexperienced enough to be susceptible to militant ideologies that promise eternal glory once the victory has been won, unsettled enough not to have wives or children tying them down, and in the prime of their physical abilities.  Kuntar was on the early side of the distribution curve, but I would have been much more surprised if he were 45.

    • #12
  13. Simon Templar Inactive
    Simon Templar
    @SimonTemplar

    Genesis 9:6  King James Version (KJV)
    6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

    Kuntar should have been put to death.  Releasing him utterly dishonored the blood that he spilled, the Israeli people, and Israel itself.  I am sick to my stomach.

    • #13
  14. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Carey J.:

    Percival:Any society could produce Kuntar.

    The term “society” should not be applied to that which would lionize him, unless it be a society of sociopaths.

    I think the point of the OP is that the Paleoswinians are a society of sociopaths.

    The more I learn about Palestinian “culture,” the more they resemble the sort of culture-of-evil I used to think didn’t exist outside of poorly written fantasy stories.

    • #14
  15. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Manny:Israel is far too kind. I cannot see how anyone who smashes the brains out of a four year old does not get the death penalty. That is a very moving story.

    kylez:A side lesson: nations that don’t have the death penalty, even for such unspeakable acts of murder, are doing themselves no good.

    Simon TemplarGenesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.

    Kuntar should have been put to death. Releasing him utterly dishonored the blood that he spilled, the Israeli people, and Israel itself. I am sick to my stomach.

    There is something about doing the unthinkable that calls forth punishment by death. It is not just returning to the evil the evil they perpetrate. It is the knowledge of the limits of our powers, both individually & in our association. These men must be put to death, because we have no other answer. Some think to forgive or not to be the evil types we have to be to plan, schedule, & execute the death penalty. But this is the price our awareness of our political lives requires & to not pay this price is to say that we will abandon whoever suffers horrors–the families who have to see their own slaughtered have also to learn from the state that they have to pay for the comfort of the murderers, who will receive the kinds of protections unavailable to the slaughtered. That seems to me the end of justice.

    • #15
  16. Simon Templar Inactive
    Simon Templar
    @SimonTemplar

    Titus Techera:

    Manny:Israel is far too kind. I cannot see how anyone who smashes the brains out of a four year old does not get the death penalty. That is a very moving story.

    kylez:A side lesson: nations that don’t have the death penalty, even for such unspeakable acts of murder, are doing themselves no good.

    Simon Templar:

    Kuntar should have been put to death. Releasing him utterly dishonored the blood that he spilled, the Israeli people, and Israel itself. I am sick to my stomach.

    There is something about doing the unthinkable that calls forth punishment by death. It is not just returning to the evil the evil they perpetrate. It is the knowledge of the limits of our powers, both individually & in our association. These men must be put to death, because we have no other answer. Some think to forgive or not to be the evil types we have to be to plan, schedule, & execute the death penalty. But this is the price our awareness of our political lives…

    Yes.

    Robert Macy, District Attorney of Oklahoma City, described his concept of the need for retribution in one case: “In 1991, a young mother was rendered helpless and made to watch as her baby was executed. The mother was then mutilated and killed. The killer should not lie in some prison with three meals a day, clean sheets, cable TV, family visits and endless appeals. For justice to prevail, some killers just need to die.”

    • #16
  17. jzdro Member
    jzdro
    @jzdro

    Oblomov:Kuntar is not an Islamist. He and the PLF are/were Marxist Leninists, which is a different kind of supremacist ideology. In 1979 Islamism was not a major political force in the Mideast outside of Iran.

    Thank you for this lesson, Oblomov.

    I’d like to learn more about this particular point.  Can you suggest some references?

    • #17
  18. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @FrontSeatCat

    Mark my words – there will be a heat wave this summer like no other – remember that, and know they’re just “firing up the furnaces down below and widening the real estate” for incoming residents like you just described above – completely sad and hard to comprehend.

    • #18
  19. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    In addition to Kuntar’s reception in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority also played its part.  In 2005, while he was still in prison, the Authority granted Kuntar honorary Palestinian citizenship.  When he was released in 2008, PA President Mahmoud Abbas sent “blessings to Samir Kuntar’s family” and met with him while visiting Beirut.

    It reminds me of watching two Palestinian spokesmen on American TV in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War explaining their support for Saddam Hussein by telling us he “represents the highest aspirations of the Palestinian people”.  Kuntar is viewed the same way.

    • #19
  20. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Simon Templar:

    Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.Kuntar should have been put to death. Releasing him utterly dishonored the blood that he spilled, the Israeli people, and Israel itself. I am sick to my stomach.

    Me, too; no ‘hero’ this, rather one who has obliterated the image of God in which he was created, by deliberately taking innocent life and taking pleasure in it.  Justice demands that this life be ended

    • #20
  21. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    [accidental double post]

    • #21
  22. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    This kind of conflict brutalises – even if you have good intentions.

    • #22
  23. Simon Templar Inactive
    Simon Templar
    @SimonTemplar

    Zafar:This kind of conflict brutalises – even if you have good intentions.

    Zafar, moral equivalency much?

    • #23
  24. user_309277 Member
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    Simon Templar:

    Zafar:This kind of conflict brutalises – even if you have good intentions.

    Zafar, moral equivalency much?

    Saying that each side is brutalized doesn’t mean that the sides are equally righteous.

    • #24
  25. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Adam Koslin:

    Simon Templar:

    Zafar:This kind of conflict brutalises – even if you have good intentions.

    Zafar, moral equivalency much?

    Saying that each side is brutalized doesn’t mean that the sides are equally righteous.

    I think it matters whether you kill when you’re forced, to save people, or you kill precisely to put people beyond saving. As well, not finding any way around killing innocents & going out of your way to find some innocents to kill, these things are not the same.

    But of course, every life taken weighs you down. Doing justice, in the most terrible situations, is like playing God with people’s lives. There is no way around the need to do it; there is no way around the truth than no man is God. Politics is both about politics & about our need to reach out to divine justice. But there is no way to avoid the ugly truth that mercy is sometimes beyond our powers.

    • #25
  26. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov
    @Oblomov

    Oblomov:
    Zafar

    This kind of conflict brutalises – even if you have good intentions.

    Zafar, I agree with you. There is no way that being in a constant state of war can be good for a society in the long run. Which is another reason why Israel is remarkable. Israel is a prosperous, humane, democratic liberal society whose Arab citizens sit in parliament; whose military has as one of its central doctrines the doctrine of “purity of arms”; where overt animus toward Arabs is grounds for dismissal from elite military units; where injured suicide bombers are treated in the same hospital wards by the same doctors as their victims and strictly in order of the gravity of their respective injuries.  I spent time in Israel during the first Intifada in 1989 and saw that conflict very up close. In four months of living with Israelis I never heard a single word of hatred for Arabs. Maybe it’s different now, but I doubt it. 

    • #26
  27. user_309277 Member
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    Oblomov:

    In four months of living with Israelis I never heard a single word of hatred for Arabs. Maybe it’s different now, but I doubt it. 

    It’s not all sunshine and roses.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/28/us-mideast-israel-lehava-idUSKBN0K605620141228

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/antiarab-soccer-fans-rampage-in-shopping-centre–but-no-arrests-7584089.html

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m on Israel’s side in this mess, and am in no way excusing the abominable behavior of entities like Hamas and Hezbollah.  But waging a counterinsurgency war for this long in a region that hates your guts doesn’t do a people good.  The Israelis would have to be saints not to have some of this cropping up.  It will get worse the longer this drags on, generation after generation.

    • #27
  28. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Oblomov, I hope you’re right about most people, but there are some who are really not that great.

    • #28
  29. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Zafar:Oblomov, I hope you’re right about most people, but there are some who are really not that great.

    That not all people are good or decent is inevitable. It’s deeply unfair to bring it up this way. How is it that Jews arouse this need to make sure everyone is unexceptionble, not to say saintly? It is remarkable how careful so many educated people are to save Jews’ souls, never mind the wars they face–you know, you’ve only got one life, better focus on what’s important–moral skepticism…

    • #29
  30. user_309277 Member
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    Titus Techera:

    Zafar:Oblomov, I hope you’re right about most people, but there are some who are really not that great.

    That not all people are good or decent is inevitable. It’s deeply unfair to bring it up this way. How is it that Jews arouse this need to make sure everyone is unexceptionble, not to say saintly? It is remarkable how careful so many educated people are to save Jews’ souls, never mind the wars they face–you know, you’ve only got one life, better focus on what’s important–moral skepticism…

    I’m jewish, and have contemplated making aaliyah a couple of times.  I’m not anti-Israel.  I worry about things like anti-Arab mobs and chants of “Death to Palestine” because I devoutly do not want the good, westernized, advanced, free Israel to turn into just another barbaric ethno-state yawping about oppression at the hands of the other.  I want Israel to win.  I want a strong and thriving Jewish homeland.  But being Jewish means remembering the deeply humanitarian and merciful teachings of the great rabbis.  It means remembering the Talmud, which says “he who saves a life saves the whole universe, and he who takes a life destroys the universe.”  The whole reason I support Israel is because its soul is good, especially in comparison to its neighbors..  The tarnishing of that soul would grieve me terribly.

    • #30
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