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July 16, 2008

A "Celebration" for Kantar
Posted by Michael Cohen

I try to avoid getting in the middle of debates about the Arab-Israeli conflict, but some times it's worth reminding ourselves of the types of enemies that Israel is facing.

Today, the Israeli government freed Samir Kantar, a convicted Palestinian terrorist, and four others in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who had been killed in Southern Lebanon. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Kantar, this round-up sums up his exploits:

In the dead of night on April 22, 1979, Kantar and three other gunmen made their way in a rubber dinghy from Lebanon to the sleepy Israeli coastal town of Nahariya, 5 miles south of the Lebanese border.

There, in a hail of gunfire and exploding grenades, they killed a policeman who stumbled upon them, then burst into the apartment of Danny Haran, herding him and his 4-year-old daughter outside at gunpoint to the beach below, where they were killed.

An Israeli court found that Kantar shot Danny Haran in front of his child, then smashed her head with his rifle butt.

Haran's wife, Smadar, who had fled into a crawl space in the family apartment with her 2-year-old daughter, accidentally smothered the child with her hand while trying to stifle her cries.

Kantar has never expressed remorse for his actions or for the deaths of Haran and his children. Apparently, he's not alone.

Kantar . . . wiped away tears as he stood before hundreds in the coastal border town of Naqoura in southern Lebanon. An honor guard escorted the men to a stage as a brass band played martial music and rows of uniformed fighters saluted.

"We knew that you were waiting for the resistance and it reached you. You came back free and heroes," said Ibrahim Amin al-Sayed, head of Hezbollah's political bureau.

The five later flew to Beirut, where they received an official welcome from the president and his government.

"Lebanese President Michel Suleiman called the five "freed heroes." Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and members of major political factions, including Hezbollah's rivals, were also on hand to welcome the men in a show of unity and opposition to Israel." In fact, the Lebanese government declared Wednesday a day of national celebration.

But the Lebanese government was not alone in expressing support for Kantar. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh hailed Kuntar as "a great hero." Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas got in the act congratulating the families of the "liberated prisoners."

Finally, there is this quote from Kuntar's former cell mate and . . . wait for it . . . the deputy director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza.

"Today is a true day of joy for all Palestinians and all freedom lovers across the world."

Not to take sides here, but when people wonder about the recalcitrance of Israeli leaders to enter peace agreements with their neighbors this revolting episode serves as a worthwhile reminder.


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Sure, Kantar was a terrorist who killed innocent civilians. The Israeli military and radical settlers have killed thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians through the years including women and children. In fact, Israeli cluster bombs (made in USA) are killing and maiming Lebanese civilians - including children - right now, two years after Israel was defeated in Lebanon by Hizbullah.

And didn't Israeli politicians like Begin and Shamir do things like kill civilians and blow up civilian targets (like the King David Hotel in Jerusalem) only to be later feted as statesmen and peacemakers? So spare us your selective indignation. Kantar and other Arab killers are a case of Israeli "chickens coming home to roost."

I've wondered about this myself, and apparently Kuntar maintains the girl and her father were killed in the crossfire during the Israeli raid.

Being reminded of the types of enemies that Israel is facingre and calcitrance of Israeli leaders to enter peace agreements with their neighbors only reinforces my desire to avoid getting in the middle of debates about the Arab-Israeli conflict. No American really knows what's going on over there, and what would it matter if we did? We're talking about a miniscule fraction of the world's population in the so-called "Holy Land." I wish we spent as much time anguishing over the plight of poor Mexican peasants, but they don't make headlines now, do they?

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