Prisoner Swap; Golan; Negotiations

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Tuesday that a prisoner swap between Israel and Hizbullah constituted a "huge failure" for the Jewish state and a "national success" for the Lebanese party. "The release of the prisoners, thanks to the German mediator … is a huge failure for the policies of Israel," Siniora said in a public/official statement. "The success of Hizbullah in the negotiations led by a third party is a national success for the party and for the struggle of the Lebanese because it secured national goals which Israel always refused to respect."

Lebanese youths decorate a street in Sidon with posters of Lebanese prisoner Samir Kantar. A prisoner exchange deal with Hezbollah will go ahead only once Israel receives information on an airman who went missing in Lebanon in 1986. (AFP Mahmoud Zayat)
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, said “I congratulate all Lebanese on this achievement and I hope that all the Lebanese consider it their achievement. If it is completed, Lebanon will be the first Arab country in the Israeli-Arab struggle to close the detainee file after liberating the land.''
Walid Jumblatt said the prisoner exchange was not linked to the issue of Hizbullah's weapons. He said: "We don't want to provoke Hizbullah sensitivities.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his government was forced to agree to the prisoner swap deal with Hizbullah out of its desire to uncover the fate of the two Israeli soldiers

When Arabs were asked to identify the leader they admire most (in an open-ended question), the number one answer overall in a recent poll, (and especially in predominantly Sunni countries such as Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan) was Hasan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader. The Palestinian problem continues to rank as "most important" problem among non-Palestinian Arabs.

France is a captive to its ties with Syria by Michael Young in the Daily Star – He blames Lebanon's woes on France and suggests that Kouchner is impeding the Hariri court to help Syria.

The French approach to Lebanon has been characterized by remarkable incompetence in the past eight months, and by the absence of any discernible strategy. After trashing Resolution 1559 last November by pleading with Syria to permit a Lebanese presidential election (one the Elysee Palace had thought to follow up with a triumphal Christmas visit to Beirut by Sarkozy), the French stepped back when Assad rebuffed them. Humiliation was swiftly swallowed, however, after the Doha agreement, when the Syrians received the visit of Sarkozy adviser Claude Gueant, their reward for briefly failing to obstruct the Lebanese Constitution.

France: The Gate of Europe: Tishreen, Damascus (Translation thanks to

On July 2, the state-controlled daily Teshreen carried the following editorial by Chief Editor Issam Dari: “It is impossible to mention France without mentioning its revolution, which changed the course of history. We cannot talk about France without coming across its scientists, scholars, innovators and leaders who enriched the human culture and raised the slogan of freedom and entrenched the meanings of independence and patriotism.

“We cannot but mention the founder of the fifth French Republic, late President Charles De Gaulle, who has become a headline for resisting the Nazi occupiers and a school to fight for freedom and independence and a model to be pursued in steadfastness in the face of pressures, dictates and calls for “realism”.

“When General De Gaulle led the French resistance from London and through the radio and while he was subjected to pressures and dictates from Winston Churchill, he said: “I was too weak to surrender.” De Gaulle did not surrender. France gained its independence and freedom and De Gaulle established the fifth republic. That was a profound lesson that affirms that freedom does not come from surrendering to the fait accompli, and that no matter how immense the pressures are, they can never force righteous people to surrender.

“We recall General De Gaulle while France is close to commemorating its Independence Day. President Bashar al-Assad will visit Paris, a first visit in many years – upon the invitation of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“Syria is placing much hope on a balanced French policy in the Middle East, and on an active French role in the issues of the region, in what pushes the peace process forward and entrenches security and stability. Syria realizes that France is Europe’s gate and that, along with Germany, they constitute the dynamo for the European Union, which maintains good relations with the Arabs and huge interests that require this union to carry out its influential and effective role in finding solutions to the crisis – which if continued – will negatively affect the interests of the European and Arab sides equally…..

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Thursday peace talks between Israel and Syria, now mediated by Turkey, would have to be conducted face-to-face "very soon."

"With the Syrians, we are talking seriously and in my estimation very soon the negotiations will have to be direct. They will not be able to continue in the mode in which they are currently being held," Olmert told an economic conference in the southern resort city of Eilat.

U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones said Thursday that Washington would not intervene over Israel's renewed negotiations with Syria, calling it a private Israeli matter. Jones said that the U.S., like many Israeli officials, were wary of establishing contacts with Damascus, but would not opposed the renewed negotiations.

Analyze This: Laying down the law on the Golan:

A Golan returned to a Syrian regime headed by the likes of Bashar Assad, who serves as valuable partner of Iran, an invaluable supporter of Hizbullah and Hamas, and a brutal oppressor of his own people, would never pass muster with the Israeli people – whether or not it actually comes to a vote.

"The Necessary Steps for a Responsible Withdrawal from Iraq"

Rep. James McGovern (MA-03), who wrote the preface, said the report provides "a road map for the next administration and Congress to follow". According to McGovern, the report outlines "what it would take to leave – what is required in terms of a cease-fire, reconciliation, recovery and security when the day comes for our troops to begin coming home." The report was authored by a Massachusetts- and Washington-based "task force" working with an advisory group of 14 international experts. These met together in a March workshop at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

We welcome reviews and commentary on the Task Force findings. Sincerely, Charles Knight, Project on Defense Alternatives, Commonwealth Institute, for the Task Force Organizing Committee. 617-547-4474

Salma Al-Shami write about a Syria play she saw in NY City: []

Hi again, Josh,

A couple of months ago I saw an incredible play called Damascus that was featured as part of the "Brits Off Broadway" series in NYC. It's written by Scottish playwright David Greig, and I was truly impressed by how many of the subtle nuances of Syrian culture he was able to pick up on and write into his characters and plot. The story follows Paul, a salesman who has come to Damascus on Valentine's Day to sell English language textbooks to an indifferent dean of a school and his beautiful assistant Muna. Paul's plane back home keeps getting delayed, and in the meanwhile, he develops relationships with Muna and Zacharia, the young hotel porter who is girl-and-party-obsessed. In the background is Elena, a Ukrainian pianist who acts as a Greek chorus, narrating the moral and theoretical backdrop of the scenes. As the synopsis of the play concludes, "In Damascus, a city of transformations, Paul grapples with language and love, meanings and misconceptions. And as his flight home is delayed by a bomb at Beirut Airport, he begins to wonder, will he ever leave?"

Greig offers all types of social commentary, weaving in elements of what happened to the pre-Ba'ath intelligentsia (the "old generation") after the rise of the party, of the Palestinian narrative and its effects on the thinking and thought processes of Damascines, of the nature of gender relations etc…
In any case, it's an excellent and quick read. I was able to track a copy of the play down from the UK. Don't know if it's available in the US, but if it sounds like something you'd be interested in reading and can't find it here, I'll happily loan you my copy of it.
Here's a link to an interview that features Greig talking about his play and about his experiences working with young Syrian playwrights. 

2008-07-02 11:21:16 –

LONDON (AP) – The British government has added the military wing of Hezbollah to a list of terrorist groups banned in Britain.
Home Office minister Tony McNulty said in a Wednesday statement that the entire military section of the organization has been listed as a proscribed group under British terrorism laws.
The department says that Hezbollah's social and political work in Britain would be unaffected. But the ban will place tight limits on any fundraising _ particularly if funds are suspected to be intended for military action.

Individuals can be prosecuted for becoming a member of a proscribed group under British laws.

Revue de presse: Politique extérieure
M. Walid EL-MOUALLEM, Ministre des Affaires étrangères, a indiqué que tout progrès sur le volet syro-israélien des négociations ne devrait pas se faire au détriment du volet palestinien ou bien être utilisé à son encontre. suite

Revue de presse: Actualité nationale
Des sources bien informées ont déclaré à Al-Hayat que le gouvernement syrien publierait des rapports périodiques sur le niveau de la corruption dans le pays et ce à la lumière de l’approbation du Conseil des Ministres du Traité international sur la lutte contre la corruption qui nécessite des engagements précis de la part de Damas. suite

Bangkok Post | Spectacular SYRIA:  Forget everything you have ever heard about Syria; it is a surprising country. Anyone who has been there can tell you the ancient ruins are beautiful, the food delicious, and the natural scenery very attractive. The nightlife is lively and the daylife intriguing. What more could you want on a holiday?

Comments (81)

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51. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Go on, make Israel even more abhorrent and become a democracy. Show us how bad we are. What are you waiting for?


How many times do I have to tell you that I care about Israel’s well being and that is why I care about democracy in the middle east.

The fact is that there is not ONE person in the Israeli public domain, including Liel, that holds your point of view. But, you are satisfied by the support of 5 bloggers living in the West to vindicate your position. The big picture is simple. Peace with dictators is not peace. It is just a recipe for bigger war. The Syrian people have to vote freely for peace. As for whether the Israeli public changes its mind, we will see in the referundum won’t we if things ever come to one.

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July 6th, 2008, 5:03 pm


52. Shai said:

“The fact is that there is not ONE person in the Israeli public domain, including Liel, that holds your point of view”

Hmmm… sounds like propaganda to me. I know Alon Liel for almost 20 years now. Our views are very close, trust me.

You know, you remind me of Yakov Smirnof’s joke about cable tv in the old Soviet Union. In your AIG-style democracy, Syrian TV would have a choice of two channels: Channel one, an AIG propaganda channel, sponsored by AIPAC and various wealthy neocons, and Channel two, with an AIG-like officer pointing a finger at the audience, telling them to go back to Channel one… The Syrians could enjoy freedom, as long as it is AIG-style freedom. I wonder how you’d react if the majority of Syrians voted for Bashar Assad. Would you then make peace with him? Ha… what a funny question, eh?

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July 6th, 2008, 5:57 pm


53. ugarit said:


So it really comes down to “We are, … the “chosen people”…”

How can an atheist Jew think of himself as part of the “chosen people”?

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July 6th, 2008, 6:11 pm


54. ugarit said:


“But how could we possibly convert by force, even if we wanted to? ”

Well Israel expelled Palestinians by force and spends a tremendous amount of resources to isolate jew from non-jew in the occupied territory. Is expelling of the non-chosen people more acceptable, in Judaism, than making the Paletinians part of the chosen-people?

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July 6th, 2008, 6:15 pm


55. Shai said:


I’m not sure I follow you now. I of course do NOT believe that we are the “chosen people”. Jews are no better than anyone else on earth. Not Christians, not Muslims, not Hindus, not Shinto, not Atheists. I was being sarcastic.

And I happen to HATE and feel ashamed of the fact that my people forced hundreds of thousands of other people to leave their homes, towns and villages, and to become refugees for the past 60 years. Expelling is absolutely NOT acceptable to me, under any circumstance. And, therefore, neither is forced conversion. That belongs to some 1500-2000 years ago. Not to modern day Israel.

I hope things are clear now…

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July 6th, 2008, 6:35 pm


56. ugarit said:


It’s much clearer now. Thank you. But wouldn’t mass conversions be better than what Israel is doing to Palestinians, now. Once they’re converted they’re automatically granted Israeli citizenship and full Israeli rights. Now they’re granted nothing.

Peace with Syria is not going to change Israel’s views of non-jews in the occupied Palestine.

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July 6th, 2008, 7:46 pm


57. Shai said:


Israel needs to end its Occupation of the Palestinians, period. We mustn’t, and indeed can’t, force anything upon the Palestinians. We cannot convert them, any more than they can convert us. But it’s funny that you mention that… I can’t imagine how the Rabbinical courts in my country would react (puzzlement, disbelief?) But I doubt they would like the idea…

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July 6th, 2008, 7:53 pm


58. ugarit said:


I disagree with you that you can’t force anything upon the Palestinians. Israel has been doing just that for decades.

I know conversions are unrealistic. What do Zionists want? Do they want the Palestinians to pack up and leave? That’s not going to happen so what’s the next step for Zionism? Clearly the “chosen-people” perspective is getting in the way of rational thinking.

Throughout history invaders/occupiers assimilated/get assimilated/expel. Even in those barbarous times bi-directional assimilation was/is the norm. Why are Zionist so un-accepting of assimilation. Is it the “chosen-people” issue again?

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July 6th, 2008, 8:11 pm


59. Karim said:

offended said family is/was mostly Nasserists.

It’s your problem ,but for you Nasserism means dictatorship,one party system ,tortures ,mukhabarati system , oppression,bad managment,corruption,minority sectarianism,false slogans ,treachery,brain drain ?exactly what we have in Syria today those are the great objectives of nasserism ?
And if you disagree with this merge so where is the problem??? Be Nasserian and a free man .The qardahist prisons are/were always full of nasserists btw.

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July 6th, 2008, 8:57 pm


60. Nour said:


Let’s not forget that the Nasserists themselves engaged in “dictatorship,one party system ,tortures ,mukhabarati system , oppression,bad managment,corruption, majority sectarianism,false slogans ,treachery,brain drain.” I don’t think Syrians are quick to forget the likes of the Nasserist Abdel Hamid el-Sarraj who was responsible for the brutal torture and killing of thousands of Syrians, and who had the head of the Lebanese Communist Party tortured to death and then burned with acid.

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July 6th, 2008, 9:24 pm


61. norman said:


You do not have to force the Palestinians to convert , Just offer it to them for a full citizenship . the will convert in droves,

I know that this is an unlikely scenario.


Who are the Nasserists, i guess Syria was very secular when i was there in the late seventies.


i think you should express your thoughts without enticing sectarian tensions , you will be more effective .just a thought.

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July 6th, 2008, 10:05 pm


62. Karim said:

Exactly Nour ,Farjallah al Helou.
the dictator Abdelnasser was the spiritual father of all these dictators that came to power in the 60’s and 70 ‘s among them Hafez Asad ,Khadafi and the post Faruk regime in Egypt.They destroyed our cosmopolitan and liberal culture ,that exlplain the increase of radicalism and irrationality in the arab world.Norman what you said is true but in the 70’s ,the syrians were not less religious than today becase most of them were not product of the asad era they had not yet inculcated the bad manners and hypocrisy,they had clean hearts.Today Syria is other ,because most of Syria’s inhabitants are born after 1970.

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July 6th, 2008, 10:09 pm


63. offended said:

Let’s not forget that many communists and leftists were implicated in persecution of many other political parties throughout the recent history of the ME.

It’s amazing how people’s minds are programed in such a way that they will figure you out in fraction of a second.

Offended from Aleppo? how could you support the regime? don’t you know Aleppo is full of grieving families who were wronged by the draconian Alawaite regime? you must come from the few families who were not affected. But still, it can’t be offended, you are wrong.

Aha, you are Nasserist? fuck you and fuck Abdulnaser, this is why you support dictatorships and their mukhabarat. Don’t you know that many Nasserists are still in prisons? (here’s where i get confused, are Nasserists real freedom struggler then, or are they dictators-loving mobs??)

Karim and Nour, honestly, I feel sorry for you both. And for everyone who would let his political affiliations blind his judgment. I said my family used to be Nasserists, I didn’t say I am a Nasserist myself.

I’d like to think of myself as a free thinker. Good luck in trying to taint that school of thought now as well.

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July 6th, 2008, 10:50 pm


64. why-discuss said:

Nasserism was the consequence of the persistancy of colonial powers to control the region and benefit gratis of its resources( Suez canal at at time). It was also a reaction to the weak, pathetic and corrupted rule of King Farouk.
Nasserism started with great ideas on sharing of wealth under charismatic Nasser and turned out to be a total failure if we judge from where the country is after more than 50 years. This is due on one side to the violent reactions of the frustrated western countries loosing their grip and on the other side by lack of a real pragmatism in the rulers of Egypt. Destructions of institutions, repressions, disposessions, giving power to uneducated people, sanctions , all contribute to weaken even more the average egyptian. A new even more corrupted class of officers took over the country and brought it from disaster to disasters. Egypt has not yet recovered from that dark period of its history.

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July 6th, 2008, 11:26 pm


65. norman said:

Stupid me ,I thought Nasirism is a religion. Now i got it ,

I agree with you ( Why-Discuss ), Nasser ruled Syria during the union like a Calif with rulers from Egypt instead of letting the Syrians rule themselves through a federal system like the US , That would have had a better chance., Don’t you think ?.

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July 6th, 2008, 11:34 pm


66. why-discuss said:


That’s what I mean… Egyptian leaders were unexperienced, lacked elementary pragmatism. They were under the strong influence of the Soviets and subject to ramping corruption. This contributed to discredit the noble revolutionary ideals and aborted attempts to unite the arab world.

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July 7th, 2008, 2:40 am


67. Nour said:


It was nothing against you, and I don’t want you to take my post the wrong way. I’m only intending to show that Syria’s problems did not begin with the Assads and that removing Bashar al-Assad from power will not necessarily bring a better system. I think some people, unfortunately, are more interested in experiencing the gratification of satisfying a personal vendetta than they are in improving the country and creating a better system. That’s why many Iraqi so-called “opposition” figures were only interested in getting rid of Saddam, regardless of the consequences and disasters that would befall Iraq as a result. Likewise some Syrians are more interested in seeing Assad removed from power than they are in building a good system for Syria.

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July 7th, 2008, 3:30 am


68. Shai said:


This particular invader (Israel), will have to leave the Palestinian territories, not assimilate the Palestinian people. Talking of forcing anything conversion/assimilation upon them is purely academic – it’s just not going to happen. 10 years from now (hopefully much sooner), there will not be a single Jew or Israeli living in the West Bank, with the exception of whatever Israeli towns remain in a negotiated agreement between the two sides (probably following a swap of land). No Palestinian will be offered Israeli citizenship, and no Israeli will be offered Palestinian citizenships. At least not until my fantasy UME (United Middle East) is created…

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July 7th, 2008, 3:32 am


69. ugarit said:


I appreciate your optimism about Israel leaving the WB and Gaza but I think you’re being unrealistic.

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July 7th, 2008, 3:52 am


70. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What is a Syrian “free thinker”? Is that someone that freely thinks like Bashar Asad without the muchabarat threatning him? Or is there a political party in Syria called the Free Thinkers that you support? Or maybe you are a free thinker because you do not get paid to think?

I am quite sure that free thought is allowed in Syria as Asad does not yet have the technology to read people’s minds. The trouble is with free speech and free actions.

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July 7th, 2008, 3:53 am


71. Shai said:


It’s not going to happen tomorrow, and may in fact not happen before Israel and Syria sign a peace treaty. But sooner or later, it’ll have to happen. Otherwise, you’re left with the one-state solution, and though many Palestinians and Arabs are starting to look at that as the only solution left (given Israel’s unwillingness to withdraw from the WB), this is far more unrealistic, because it means either the end of a Jewish majority in Israel, or a fully-functioning Apartheid forever. I don’t think Israelis could live with either one for long. Mark my words, 10 years from now, most of the WB is Palestinian (belonging to a nation-state called Palestine). We’ve already withdrawn from Gaza – there’s not a single settler there… it’s all about the West Bank now.

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July 7th, 2008, 4:11 am


72. offended said:

AIG, you do like to kick a fuss with everything I say don’t you?
Let me make it clear for you: Syria is NOT paradise; it is a country with lots of combined problems least of which is the freedom of speech. You’d be surprised to see how many like-minded Syrian youth are there similar to my point of view. I was trying to point out to Nour and Karim that I am not affiliated with any political school; I think it is fair to call that free thinking.
Don’t worry AIG, more freedom will not make me see the crimes of your country any less abhorent. Put your puny mind to rest.
Muchabarat? the last time I met a ‘muchaber’ was when I attended a football match for Al Ittihad, every other spectator was ‘mechaber’ taba3o.

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July 7th, 2008, 5:15 pm


73. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

When you realize that your greatest problem is freedom of speech and not “the least of your problems” you will have a chance of changing something. It is quite simple really, unless you can talk about and discuss problems freely and openly, you cannot solve them. Heck, you will not even know they exist.

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July 7th, 2008, 6:03 pm


74. offended said:

AIG, knowing that problems exist precedes talking about them.
i.e. you know when you can’t get a hard-on that you need to talk to your doctor about popping some aphrodisiacs or probably remarrying once again.
i.e. when you know your insurance company is screwing you, you talking them out of it, or else you talk to one of their competitors.
And so on….

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July 7th, 2008, 6:50 pm


75. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

We are not talking about personal problems here. The press and freedom of speech are essential in bringing public issues to the conciousness of people and as a means to discuss them.

For example, how can the public know the real conditions in Syrian prisons without a journalist writing about it? How could you fix the problem without a public debate? I can give you tons of examples.

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July 7th, 2008, 6:57 pm


76. why-discuss said:

I heard on TV that the two Israelis soldiers captured in 2006 are alive!
If true that is an extraordinary PR success for Hezbollah in the eyes of the Israelis and the Lebanese. Contrary to what Olmert said, Israelis will be able to celebrate their return with the same joy Lebanon will of Samir Kantar and the other lebanese prisonners. Olmert ‘s rate must have gone up! Hezbollah has been very very smart!
I hope it’s true.

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July 7th, 2008, 8:42 pm


77. ausamaa said:

In his last interview couple of days ago, Nassrallah never refered to them “specificaly” as being dead. The news that they are dead came from Israel since the begining.

Maybe Olmert & Company intended they are “dead” story thinking that for once he at least once hand his people a “nice” surprise. If this is the case, I think it is a gross miscalculation on the part ot the entire Israeli Political Elite who are in-the-real-know (despite being a nice surprise if they turn out tobe alive) because it will further erode the trust in what Israeli officials declare be it good or bad news.

With Bush and Olmert, usually, when it raines, it pours….

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July 7th, 2008, 9:49 pm


78. Qifa Nabki said:


Who are the other Lebanese prisoners? How many alive? I’ve only heard reports about corpses.

As for Samir Kantar, how popular do you think he is in Lebanon? My own anecdotal experience (totally random sample: Aounis, LFers, Sunnis) is that he’s not exactly a hero. Responses range from “he’s a criminal” to “he did nothing worse than any Israeli has done to us”, etc. But nothing glowing.

Your thoughts?

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July 7th, 2008, 10:58 pm


79. offended said:


The discussion was personal, it all started when you picked up on the point of my person being free thinker and all.


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July 8th, 2008, 9:16 am


80. why-discuss said:

Russian FM: IDF soldiers held in Lebanon alive, in good condition

Strange that this news is dated 2006! Not much media attention is given to that extraordinary news. It is probably better to hammer that Kantar was a murderer (There are many conflicting reports about the veracity of the sadistic killing of the little girl) than to show that a “terrorist” organization would bother keeping two IDF war prisoners alive.


“Israel approved the swap June 29. It will hand over Samir Kantar, serving multiple life terms for a 1979 attack in Israel’s north, as well as four Hezbollah prisoners and dozens of bodies of fighters. In return, Israel is to receive two soldiers captured by Hezbollah in a 2006 cross-border raid that set off a fierce 34-day war.

I don’t know how much Kantar was perceived as a hero, but getting out of a Israeli jail after 29 years makes him a hero. I read that even Jumblatt said he’ll go to the ceremonies.. weird

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July 8th, 2008, 2:08 pm


81. Karim said:

QN:As for Samir Kantar, how popular do you think he is in Lebanon? My own anecdotal experience (totally random sample: Aounis, LFers, Sunnis) is that he’s not exactly a hero. Responses range from “he’s a criminal” to “he did nothing worse than any Israeli has done to us”, etc.

Bro QN ,they say that Samir Kuntar killed civilians in his attack in north Palestine ,it may be true but we should put into the context in which this attack happened,so he was young and idealist but Samir Kuntar as Anwar Yacin before him have changed in prison and i think that Samir has acquired a PHD in prison(that show that the qardahists and other arab regimes are worse against this people than the zionists),Anwar refused to be an easy pray for Hizbollah propaganda and i think it will be the same with Samir.

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July 8th, 2008, 9:51 pm


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