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On 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.