The Prisoner Swap Controversy

Much of today's Daily Star is devoted to stories of the return of Lebanon's prisoners. Yesterday on NPR, Walid Junblatt defended the notion that Lebanon should welcome them as heros. Samir Kantar, the most controversial returnee, is a Druze. He killed an Israeli family in an attack on Israel in the 1970s. The controversy raises all the difficult questions about what is permissible in war. When is killing to be called terrorism and when is it legitimate? When is killing collateral damage and permissible under the "rules" of war, even if lamentable, and when does it cross the line into war crimes. Should people cheer their returning soldiers even when they have killed children and women in the name of defending the homeland? How does one measure intentions in such situations?

A similar controversy was raised by the assassination of Mughniyya, the Hizbullah hero. Some saw him as a legitimate national hero who drove foreign occupiers out of Lebanon with minimal loss of life and by targeting military objectives. Others see him as a master terrorist and murderer.

Here are some of the headlines: 

Israel Mourns, Hezbollah Exults: (By Griff Witte and Alia Ibrahim, The Washington Post)
In Swap, 2 Jewish Soldiers' Remains Are Released and 5 Lebanese Prisoners Go Home 

Freed detainees receive heroes' welcome – Hussein Abdallah: Five Lebanese prisoners freed by Israel arrived to a hero's welcome in Lebanon Wednesday, hours after Hizbullah handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers seized two years ago.Among those freed in a prisoner swap greeted with triumph in Lebanon but anguish in Israel was Samir Kontar, who was sentenced to five life.

Naqoura rolls out red carpet for liberated detainees Agence France Presse (AFP): Five Lebanese prisoners arrived to a triumphant red carpet welcome in Lebanon on Wednesday after being freed by Israel in a prisoner swap after years behind bars. The five – Samir Kontar and Hizbullah members Khaled Zeidan, Maher Kurani, Mohammad Srour and Hussein Suleiman – were given a heroes' welcome when they set foot on Lebanese soil.

Lebanese officials hail swap deal as harbinger of unity Dalila Mahdawi: Senior Lebanese officials welcomed Wednesday the prisoner swap between Israel and Shiite group Hizbullah, with many saying that the exchange would serve to bolster unity in Lebanon. Speaking to Al-Jazeera television about the returning Lebanese prisoners, Christian opposition leader and head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun said.

Tens of thousands celebrate return of detainees in Dahiyeh Eugene Yukin: Tens of thousands of jubilant people descended into the Rayeh football court in Beirut's southern suburbs, better known as Dahiyeh, Wednesday night to celebrate the prisoner exchange that took place earlier that morning. In the prisoner exchange five Lebanese prisoners were exchanged for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured on July 12.

World leaders see prisoner exchange as positive step Eugene Yukin: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he is encouraged by an exchange of prisoners that took place between Israel and Lebanon's Hizbullah on Wednesday. Ban said at a news conference in Berlin that he hoped it will be the beginning of many to come.

Swap criticized as granting Nasrallah victory Agence France Presse (AFP): Israeli commentators sharply criticized a prisoner exchange with Hizbullah on Wednesday, saying it gave a propaganda victory to the Lebanese group and set a dangerous precedent. The Maariv daily newspaper said Israel had been humiliated, arguing that Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah "will entrench his image.

Economics

Map from here US Dept. of Agriculture

Poor Middle East wheat crop to drive up imports

Poor rainfall will slash this year's harvest in Syria, a major foods and commodities player in the Middle East, to around 2.3 million tonnes from 4.2 million tonnes last year, according to traders and agronomists.

Syrian officials who deny it will go that far concede it will drop to 3 million tonnes, eroding a strategic stockpile of at least 1.5 million tonnes in country with wheat consumption of at least 3 million needed to feed 19 million people.

Syria's private millers have begun importing Black Sea wheat and the country is studying issuing tenders to buy soft wheat and even contemplating importing US wheat as its production hits a nine-year low. Barley production is also expected to fall to almost a third of last year's 800,000 tonnes production.

Syria Will Start Importing Wheat After Drought Hurts Harvest
2008-07-15 12:53:49.490 (New York)
By Abeer Allam

July 15 (Bloomberg) — Syria will start importing wheat for the first time in at least 18 years after drought hurt the crop. 

"We will likely make a decision about quantity in a couple of days,'' Adnan Ramadan, a senior official at state-owned grain exporter Hoboob, said today by phone from Damascus. “It won't exceed 100,000 tons.'' The Syrian government expects farmers to harvest 2 million metric tons of wheat in the year through June 2009, half the previous year's crop, according to a report by the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service dated May 15.

"The harvest was below expectations this season because of the drought,'' Ramadan said. “We have halted exports for the past year to build our stockpiles. We will use imports to add to that.''

Demand in Syria, a country of 19 million people, is increasing because of refugees from neighboring Iraq, according to the U.S. report. Syria exports wheat to countries including Jordan, Yemen and Egypt.

Iran `Increasingly Isolated' on Financial Front, Levey Says 
By Steve Scherer

July 15 (Bloomberg) — U.S. Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey said Iran was becoming more isolated from the global financial and business community, especially as European countries begin to cut off business ties.

"What we've seen in the last month or so is very significant, with the Europeans taking a very important step forward in terms of actions against Iran,'' Levey told reporters today in Rome. Levey is undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Iran is finding itself, because of its own conduct, increasingly isolated.''

Italy was Levey's first European stop on a trip aimed at coordinating diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran to prevent the Islamic republic from funding terrorism and developing nuclear weapons, he said. After meetings at the Bank of Italy, Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry this morning, he will travel to Spain and France.

Eni SpA, Italy's biggest oil producer, and Total SA, France's biggest petroleum company, this month both announced they wouldn't seek any new contracts or investments in Iran even as oil prices soar to record highs. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said oil prices will remain above $100 per barrel because of political tensions and threats against his country, according to a state-television interview late yesterday.

While U.S. policy to isolate Iran may put “some pressure'' on oil prices, the goal is to find a diplomatic solution, Levey said. Should diplomacy not work and force be used, the effect on petroleum prices would be “much more drastic and costly in every way,'' Levey said.

Oil prices climbed to near a record today and have gained more than 50 percent this year. Crude oil for August delivery rose as much as $1.55, or 1.1 percent, to $146.73 a barrel inelectronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Progress on Israel needed for Syria/EU pact-France
Tue 15 Jul 2008, 14:42 GMT

BRUSSELS, July 15 (Reuters) – It is still too early for the European Union to sign a stalled partnership pact with Syria and more progress is needed in dialogue between Damascus and Israel, the French foreign minister said on Tuesday.

"My personal opinion is perhaps it's a bit too early, we are going to have to wait and see how the dialogue between Israel and Syria develops," Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told a European Parliament committee.

"But we should be prepared to move forward. Not yet, we should be on standby, and ready to respond to the opening up, the democratic opening up of Syria, but I think that we will need to bide our time," he said.

Kouchner was speaking after a visit by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Paris at the weekend marking his emergence from isolation by the West three years after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, which many believe was orchestrated from Damascus.

Comments (75)


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51. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

HP,
“The symbolism you saw in the line-up of leaders does not extend to the people they represent.”

I wish I could believe that, but politicians do what they think would be popular with their supporters. And those that did not kiss, supported Kuntar verbally, specifically Aoun. Sfeir is not a politician, but even he had nothing to say against the Kuntar festival.

“The reaction, pain, and generalization I’m observing are precisely what HA wanted to achieve. You’re playing into their hands.”

No HP. M14 and the other parties in Lebanon had a chance to show people in Israel what they are really made of, and that they are different than Hizballah and they failed. The only plausible interpretatin for their actions is that this is what their pblic expects of them. I am not playing into anyone’s hand. I am looking at reality and I see a kissing line.

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July 18th, 2008, 5:50 pm

 

52. Honest Patriot said:

Where is Shai?

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July 18th, 2008, 7:13 pm

 

53. Qifa Nabki said:

HP

He’s on vacation!

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July 18th, 2008, 7:29 pm

 

54. Qifa Nabki said:

It means something is really rotten with Lebanese society.

This is so cute.

The Butcher of Beirut became Prime Minister of Israel. The man who was declared “personally responsible” for the Sabra & Chatila massacres by the Kahan Commission was popular enough in Israel to go on to a glorious career.

This MUST mean, AIG, that Israeli society has no problem with murdering civilians as a strategy of war.

Wow, rotten societies all around, it seems…

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July 18th, 2008, 7:41 pm

 

55. Alex said:

AIG,

Instead of wanting people to make statements to declare their rejection of Kuntar and other violent activists, there is a more genuine way to seek an end to violence … peace.

If everyone in Lebanon is making you sick, imagine how sick Israel and people like you who work very hard (for hours every day) to sabotage peace efforts, are making Israel’s neighbors who suffered much more as they see terrorists elected Prime ministers of Israel .. and Imagine how sick people felt when President Bush praised Prime minister Sharon as a man of peace! … just when Sharon was ordering more Israeli punishment of the poor occupied Palestinians that left large numbers of them dead.

Part of the motivation for the Iraq war is to rearrange the Middle East in a way that makes Israel feels more secure … you are seeking security NOT through negotiated fair and comprehensive peace treaties with your neighbors, but through starting wars and economic sanctions that will kill huge numbers of people, destroy their homes, smash their dignity … and make them hate you even more in the process.

If Kuntar really killed innocent civilians, then I deplore it. I will never respect that man and I would not be happy seeing everyone in Lebanon (or Syria?) paying their respects to him.

The same way I feel about many of Israel’s elected prime ministers who killed many, many more civilians when they started unnecessary wars instead of seeking peace.

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July 18th, 2008, 7:54 pm

 

56. Akbar Palace said:

AP, yes, Israel has the right to self-defense. I do not think that assassinating Nasrallah (or Kuntar) serves that goal (see Rumyal’s analysis).

HP –

OK, thanks for the answer, now, when would YOU use military force as part of the right to self-defense?

… I would do is conduct the most serious negotiations with all the moderate forces in the Arab world, commit to return land to Syria and Lebanon, and find a way to move the peace process faster on the tracks that should lead to the solution that’s pretty much 99.99% defined by now.

How do you define “moderate forces in the Arab world”? Which forces are NOT moderate? Lastly, how do you know that “serious negotiations are NOT going on as we speak?

The real troublemakers are the religious fanatics (on both sides).

Please give a short list of the top five “religious fanatics” on both sides.

On the Arab/Iranian side it is obvious that, left unchecked, such fanaticism is going to replunge the area into the abyss of misery.

“Left unchecked”, how will this “fanaticism” replunge the area into the abyss of misery.

I will NOT be surprised to see a preemptive war against Iran launched before GWB leaves office.

If you want a “surprise”, it looks like Bush succeeded in democratizing an “unchecked, “fanatic” regime. With negligible help from the Arab world. Only now the Kuwaitis are opening up an embassy there.

Hallelujah!

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article4351876.ece

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July 18th, 2008, 7:54 pm

 

57. Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

You know what I think?

You’re complaining because you lost a round to Hizbullah, and you’re now trying to take it out on “Lebanese society”.

You love to tell people: “What is important is not what the Arabs say, but what the Jews do. If you don’t like our ideology, that’s why we have the IDF, but don’t complain about the consequences, etc. etc. etc.”

It seems Hizbullah has been listening, and they’ve been doing a lot of “doing” themselves, and now you are the one doing a lot of “saying”.

Remember, AIG, don’t complain about the consequences…

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July 18th, 2008, 8:13 pm

 

58. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN and Alex,
When Sabra and Shatilla happened Israel setup a commission and Sharon lost his job, not because he was personally responsible, but because he should have known that his Lebanese allies could be cold blooded murderers. Let’s not forget who killed the Palestinians, it was of course Lebanese. But the fact is the Sharon was in the political desert for many years because of Sabra and Shatila. And let’s remind ourselves again who demanded that an inquiry be setup about Sabra and Shatilla? Yes the Israel public. There was no cover up or an attempt to blame anyone else.

What is rotten in the Lebanese society is that WALL to WALL, M14 to SSNP, they all supported Kuntar. Not ONE politican did not support him. Not ONE politician said anything about how Nasrallah treated the prisoners and their families. It is this 100% political consensus behind Kuntar that is so disgusting to me and I dare say many Israelis. Is there not one righteous man in Sodom? How is it possible that in a normal country 100% of politicians, who usually cannot agree on anything, agree that making a child murderer a hero is the right thing to do? How can it be that in a normal country not ONE politician would say anything against how Hizballah treated the prisoners and their families?

There are immoral and bad people in all countries and Israel has a fair share of them. Israeli people are just average, they are not more or less moral than any other people. But when ALL politicians in a country speak with one voice and stand in line to kiss Kuntar, that is pathological. A whole country has gone to the worst extreme without any form of internal self criticism by the political parties in it. This is something beyond the capabilitiy of this Israeli to understand.

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July 18th, 2008, 8:19 pm

 

59. george said:

Well, CWW since you know that most people who blog here hate Israel, have you asked yourself why is that? Is it because we just love to hate?? or is their another reason for it???
I’m a Syrian living in the US and do believe for sure that 911 was an internal job and there is noway you could convince me otherwise.
but that is not the subject here.
Israel is a terrorist country that can not thrive or survive without killing people and acting like a victim. We know that you have suffered a lot in the holocaust or whatever but that doesn’t give you the right to act like monsters. and hey the holocaust is not the only genocide to happen in the world.. look at the Palestinians for example.. look at the Armenian genocide look in history and you would see that the so called holocaust is only one of many. So please, stop talking about it and move on.

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July 18th, 2008, 9:57 pm

 

60. Akbar Palace said:

The same way I feel about many of Israel’s elected prime ministers who killed many, many more civilians when they started unnecessary wars instead of seeking peace.

Alex –

I’m afraid “Israel’s elected prime ministers” have never killed as many Arabs as Arabs have. Arabs have killed orders of magnitude more Arabs than Israelis.

The long and short of it is that Arabs can kill thousands of Arabs and not a sound is made.

Who was crying when Assad killed his Arabs?

Who was crying when Syria killed her Arabs?

Who was crying when Lebanon killed her Arabs?

Who was crying when the Jordanians killed their Arabs?

Who was crying when the Algerian killed their Arabs?

Where is the “brave” Arab street?

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July 18th, 2008, 10:47 pm

 

61. Honest Patriot said:

AIG, what is then, according to you, the solution?

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July 19th, 2008, 12:25 am

 

62. Enlightened said:

Rumyal:

Moral relativism: ” The good you do today may be quickly forgotten, but the impact of what you do will never disappear”

I was beginning to pen a response to you to explain my position, until I read this:

“Therefore, I will have to squarely agree with my compatriot AIG that we should have no desire in reconciling at this point. (Maybe tactically we should, but not morally).”

Sorry I cant take you seriously anymore!

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July 19th, 2008, 1:48 am

 

63. CWW said:

There was a question a while back about killing Kuntar and Nasrallah. I’d have to say that I agree with JUSTONEAMERICAN.

If he hasn’t taken up arms and started working with some terrorist or resistance group, Kuntar is a civilian. So, I don’t think killing him would be legal or effective in fighting terrorism. However, Nasrallah is the leader of a terrorist or resistance group. He’s engaged in combat. That makes him a legitimate target. Killing the leadership of an organization usually hinders its ability to function so taking him and other elements of the Hizbollah leadership out might go a long way toward debilitating Hizbollah. So, if Israel took him out (imho) it would seem to be legitimate and effective, but Kuntar is off limits.

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July 19th, 2008, 2:04 am

 

64. CWW said:

George,

First off, it is interesting to see that you believe that I am Jewish. One does not need to be Jewish to think that Samir Kuntar is not a great man or that the holocaust happened. In fact, I believe that regualr or normal people believe that the holocaust happened and that Samir Kuntar is a horrible person.

You asked me to stop talking about the holocaust and move on, well I only mentioned the holocaust to point out that many Syrians have “certain thoughts about the holocaust.” Well, while in Syria I learned that many of my Syrian friends either thought that it didn’t happen or wish that Hitler would have finished the job. How can we move on when so many people think that it didn’t happen or that the job should be finished? Now I don’t mean to generalize, but I really don’t think I met a Syrian who didn’t like Hitler. Go to Bab Touma, in the window of that Armenian bookstore near sahat Bab Touma on Shar’a Bab Touma is a copy of Mein Kampf. Now mind you, there is limited window space, so they’re only going to be putting the items that are in high demand in the window. I digress. There’s nothing wrong with reading Mein Kampf, but I did learn a lot when I saw it in the window of a large bookstore in a busy shopping area.

In any case, you asked me ” CWW since you know that most people who blog here hate Israel, have you asked yourself why is that? Is it because we just love to hate?? or is their another reason for it???

The answer to that question is long and complicated. I would say thought that ultimately it has to do with losing. I’ve been to Israel a number of times and the people I met would never say that they hate Arabs. I mean of course there is that contingent that would say that they hate Arabs, but it didn’t seem to be acceptable to say that one hated Arabs in front of a large group of people when I was in Israel. Perhaps, that comes from the strength of winning. Syrians on the other hand, have no problem saying that they hate Israel. Perhaps that has to do with being defeated. Or perhaps there are other reasons for it. All I know is, that I can’t imagine hating another country or another people.

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July 19th, 2008, 2:29 am

 

65. norman said:

People who think that killing the leaders in Arab camp is justified should accept that killing the leaders of the Jewish community is as acceptable and i mean all the leaders of the Jewish community who support Israel occupation and destruction of Arab rights.

Revenge killing can be from both sides.

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July 19th, 2008, 2:41 am

 

66. george said:

CWW
I’m not saying that what Samir Kuntar did is justified but the guy was 16 years old. He was a kid. and in the middle of a civil war when killing was happening on a regularly bases. I think that he should not have been sentenced 3 life terms.
Not all Syrians hate Jews. WE hate Israelis, and I think there is a difference. I live in the US and I meet Jewish people everyday and I connect with them and work with them and communicate with them. I only try to stay away from the Israeli Jews. You know why Arabs love Hitler?? Because they think that if he had finished the job they would have still living in their houses. they would have been with their families in their country. But because Hitler left many Jews behind, they (The Arabs) are paying the price for that.
I don’t agree 100% with this idea in 2 points. First, Hitler was not only killing Jews. He was killing all people who are not from the pure race he is, So not only Jews were being killed.
Second, I believe that if Hitler won the war and “finished the job” he would have continued to kill the Arabs too. So it doesn’t make sense to wish one evil away to get a another one.
and you are right in your theory about the losers hating the winners. The winners have won already there is nothing for them to hate anymore. but the Arabs who lost their homes and their families hate the Israelis who did that to them and convinced the whole world that they are the victims and that some terrorists are trying to kick them out of the land they stole.
and as for the Holocaust I don’t deny it but I deny that it was on the scale that the Jews want us to believe. Read Norman G. Finkelstein’s “The Holocaust Industry”

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July 19th, 2008, 3:22 am

 

67. ugarit said:

http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2008/07/these-are-197-dead-bodies-delivered-by.html

These are 197 dead bodies delivered by Israel to Lebanon in the prisoner exchange. The two dead Israeli soldiers have received more coverage those those 197 dead Arab bodies. Hell, dead Israeli soldiers receive more coverage than all the Arab living. Such are the racist standards of the White Man. This explains why MEMRI sent out a bulletin today protesting that Fath’s PLC members (from Fath movement, for potato’s sake) honored Dalal Al-Mughrabi (the “professional” propaganda outfit, MEMRI, labeled dead Dalal as a “terrorist”). According to Zionism, even dead Arabs (women, children and the rest) are terrorists. If Dalal was a terrorist, does not that make Ehud Barak a Super-terrorist? Those dead Arab bodies are not all Hizbullah: only 9 belong to Hizbullah fighters. 17 belong to the Lebanese Communist Party, 22 to SSNP, and 30 to the Amal Movement. The rest belong to various Arab countries: they died fighting in Lebanon for Lebanon and for Palestine. They all (148 of them) belonged to various Palestinian organizations. Some were from Tunisia. But make no mistake about it: the supply of Arabs willing to fight Israeli occupation will never deplete. Never.
PS I posted this before I read the New York Times. Sure enough, there was not a single picture of a funeral for the dead Arab bodies. Instead, the New York Times have been publishing pictures of Israeli tears for THREE DAYS IN A ROW, including today when the news is the arrival of the 197 bodies.

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July 19th, 2008, 3:48 am

 

68. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

HP,
The solution is for the Lebanese to find out by themselves. I have given up hope of understanding what they want.

Israel’s goals regarding Lebanon should only be about keeping the border quiet and making sure that doing so is in Lebanon’s interest. In practical terms this means disproportionate reaction to any aggresive action from Lebanon.

Even if Israel left Sheba tomorrow, Hizballah would spin it as a divine victory and most Lebanese would buy it. They would even more believe that Israel has become soft and it would not advance peace 1 inch. Just like the fact that Israel left South Lebanon convinced Arafat to start the seocnd intifada.

I am not buying anymore the BS that we should help m14 by removing the reasons for Nasrallah’s arms. He is never going to give them up and no one in Lebanon is going to make him do it. Nasrallah’s arms are mostly a Lebanese problem now after the 2006 war. If he uses them against Israel, Lebanon may not survive as a state even though it is quite certain that whatever happens it will be a divine victory for Hizballah.

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July 19th, 2008, 5:27 am

 

69. rumyal said:

Enlightened,

Rumyal: “Therefore, I will have to squarely agree with my compatriot AIG that we should have no desire in reconciling at this point. (Maybe tactically we should, but not morally).”

Enlightened: Sorry I cant take you seriously anymore!

I think I understand where you’re coming from. It was an emotional remark that I don’t really believe in—why else would I spend my time here unless I was deeply interested in reconciliation? My first post yesterday was an emotional one, fueled by what seemed like a unanimous support for Kuntar’s “heroism” by the entire Lebanese society. Following the discussion and the post on Lebanese Bloggers I now realize that except perhaps for GEORGE pretty much all the commenters here are not at all Kuntar fans and that this position does represent a large (albeit very quiet) section of the Lebanese society. So while I do loath your leaders and the political culture that corners your leaders into solidarity-with-terrorists I do really appreciate the moderation and humanity of the individuals on this blog. This is where it will start: one person at a time, talking to another person from the other side…

I very much believe in:

“The good you do today may be quickly forgotten, but the impact of what you do will never disappear”

When I was a child in the 70’s, it was pretty much unfathomable that I could converse with Lebanese and Syrian folks about anything, let alone terms for reconciliation. I think that the fact that we’re engaging here directly with overwhelmingly positive intentions is a great charity we’re doing to each other and yes its impact at least on me will not disappear. I’m not at all optimistic about our societies’ ability to reconcile but at least we have control over our own personal choices.

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July 19th, 2008, 7:52 am

 

70. why-discuss said:

CWW, IAG, AP
Kuntar celebration is one of a victory on the Israelis who pounded Lebanon merciless and have still to give the maps of their mines that are killing lebanese children now. Whether Israelis want it or not, the return of Kantar is a huge victory for the resistance. If you, Isrealis, feel outraged by his reception in Lebaonon, why din’t you protest against this exchange? you claim to be a democracy no? How the lebanese receive their prisonners and who they consider as heroes is their prerogatives and none of your business. Noone in Lebanon it outraged that you have criminals, corrupted and ex-terrorists leading your country, it is your prerogative. What is clear is that the return of Kantar is a symbol for the justice and a reply for the thousands of palestinians children made orphans or killed by the IDF. Please spare us your moral outrage!

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July 19th, 2008, 8:44 am

 

71. george said:

Rumyal,

“Following the discussion and the post on Lebanese Bloggers I now realize that except perhaps for GEORGE pretty much all the commenters here are not at all Kuntar fans ”

I AM NOT A KUNTAR FAN. Actually I have never heard of him before the exchange took place. I have always been a critic of Hezbollah and its methods but lately especially after Hariri assassination and the aggressiveness of how the “opposition” in Lebanon attacked Syria, I started to sympathize with Hezbollah and wish him luck in everything he does.

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July 19th, 2008, 1:03 pm

 

72. ghat Albird said:

ONCE UPON A TIME Jewish guerrillas told the British: “quit Palestine or die”

A pamphlet warning Britons to leave the Middle East or face death has come to light in a stash of illicit propaganda.

The document does not hail from Basra or Baghdad, nor was it penned by the Islamists of al-Qaeda or the al-Mahdi Army. It was found in Haifa, about 60 years ago, and it was issued by the underground group led by Menachem Begin – the future Prime Minister of Israel and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The document, which surfaced at an auction house this week, is addressed to “the soldiers of the occupation army” and aimed at British soldiers serving in Palestine, then under the British Mandate, preceding the establishment of Israel in 1948. The print has faded and the paper has discoloured since it was unearthed from a grove of trees in Haifa in the summer of 1947. Yet the language and the concerns remain current.

Bombings and murders by underground groups, such as Begin’s Irgun, hastened the British withdrawal and the United Nations declaration that led to the founding of modern Israel.

Irgun propaganda targeted the British Army’s wavering morale, already dented by the bomb attack on the Mandate’s headquarters – the King David Hotel in Jerusalem – which killed 91 people.

In the document, Irgun tells British troops: “It is unavoidable that many Jewish soldiers and many British soldiers should fall. And it is only fair that these people know at least why they may be killed.”

It adds: “Most of you have been in this country for quite a long time. You have learned what the word ‘terrorist’ means, some of you may even have come into direct contact with them (and heartily desire not to repeat the experience). But what do you know about them? Why does a young man go underground?”

It then draws a parallel with what would have happened if, seven years earlier, Britain had been overrun by Nazi Germany. “Remember 1940. Then it seemed quite possible that your island country would be conquered and subjugated by Hitler hordes . . . what would you have done? Would you have gone underground?” The pamphlet says that the occupation is “illegal and immoral” and “parallel to the mass assassination of a whole people”, in language that echoes that used on a note pinned to the booby-trapped bodies of two British intelligence officers executed by Irgun that same summer.

The pamphlet came from a stash confiscated and burnt by cyptographers from the Royal Signals regiment. Corporal Raymond Smith found them buried in a secluded grove marked by a white Star of David and was ordered to destroy them, but took one as a memento. A collector acquired the document from Corporal Smith, and brought it to Mullock’s auctioneers in Shropshire.

Richard Westwood-Brookes, Mullock’s historical documents specialist, said the pamphlet was a remarkable find, which “ amounted to a manifesto for terrorist action”. He added: “It also raises the question as to who are ‘terrorists’ and who are ‘freedom fighters’. It’s a debate which raged through the troubles of Northern Ireland and continues in the Middle East.”

Irgun set aside its differences with Haganah, a rival underground Jewish group led by David Ben Gurion – the first Prime Minister of Israel, who once likened Begin to Adolf Hitler.

Begin forged a political career as a hardliner, but, after becoming Prime Minister, signed the Camp David agreement with Egypt in 1979.

The pamphlet, which is expected to fetch about £500, goes on sale at Mullock’s, in Shropshire, on August 6.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article4360655.ece

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July 19th, 2008, 1:08 pm

 

73. Enlightened said:

rumyal said:

Enlightened,

Rumyal: “Therefore, I will have to squarely agree with my compatriot AIG that we should have no desire in reconciling at this point. (Maybe tactically we should, but not morally).”

Enlightened: Sorry I cant take you seriously anymore!

I think I understand where you’re coming from. It was an emotional remark that I don’t really believe in—why else would I spend my time here unless I was deeply interested in reconciliation? My first post yesterday was an emotional one, fueled by what seemed like a unanimous support for Kuntar’s “heroism” by the entire Lebanese society. Following the discussion and the post on Lebanese Bloggers I now realize that except perhaps for GEORGE pretty much all the commenters here are not at all Kuntar fans and that this position does represent a large (albeit very quiet) section of the Lebanese society. So while I do loath your leaders and the political culture that corners your leaders into solidarity-with-terrorists I do really appreciate the moderation and humanity of the individuals on this blog. This is where it will start: one person at a time, talking to another person from the other side…

I very much believe in:

“The good you do today may be quickly forgotten, but the impact of what you do will never disappear”

When I was a child in the 70’s, it was pretty much unfathomable that I could converse with Lebanese and Syrian folks about anything, let alone terms for reconciliation. I think that the fact that we’re engaging here directly with overwhelmingly positive intentions is a great charity we’re doing to each other and yes its impact at least on me will not disappear. I’m not at all optimistic about our societies’ ability to reconcile but at least we have control over our own personal choices.
———————————————————–
Firstly Shalom:

Sorry for the delay in response, there is a bit of delay as I live in Sydney Australia.

Today Rumyal, the day is a little bit brighter, devoid of a fair bit of emotion. Never the less, it does not bring peace to the two soldiers (families) your country buried, hide the deep wounds about the release of Kuntar, nor bring solitude to the 1200 innocent Lebanese civilians who lost their lives, or the innocent civilians that your country lost.

Firstly, thanks for your clarification. I think that when we can all let go of our “little prejudices” we can go a long way to reconcile with our “personal choices” as you succintly put it. The fact that you can converse and interact with your enemy, is a giant step. Like you I think our societies have a long way to go (its will resolve itself when we tire of fighting each other). I think a great first step is when we can stop demonising each other.

I am happy that you didn’t respond with the blind rhetoric of some here. Sane voices, reason and humanity are invaluable and a god given trait. Today I have made a new friend. I have a few Jewish friends in Australia, and one here on this site (Shai).

Theodore Roosevelt once said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”

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July 20th, 2008, 3:08 am

 

74. rumyal said:

Enlightened,

Thanks. I’m honored! I too live abroad (in the US). Living in a very liberal and pluralistic community (somewhere on the West Coast) did it’s thing to me and helped me shed a ton of prejudice that people in Israel (and elsewhere in the ME…) are simply unaware they are harboring. HP asked AIG what would he do to bring peace. We can’t ignore the very realistic answer: “just leave and pursue your happiness elsewhere”. Many folks on this blog seem to be implementing this advice. It would be interesting to have a discussion some time about possible contribution of folks living abroad to the peace process, since on the one hand we seem to be at an advantage point due to not having blinders on, but on the other hand, we are also totally irrelevant, since we don’t actually “share the pain” with the folks back on the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean and cannot really engage “on the ground”.

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July 20th, 2008, 6:50 am

 

75. CuriousCanadian said:

Rumyal:
Interesting comment. I read this blog almost every day and often have to bite my tongue to keep from commenting, only reminding myself that my information comes from observing from a distance both literally and figuratvely. Not being on the ground in the ME it’s impossible to understand the depth of feeling on both sides, and I guess it’s too much to expect everyone to step back and try to look at things objectively.

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July 21st, 2008, 9:49 pm

 

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