Samir Kuntar and the apologists for terror

A lot has been written and said about the terrorist Samir Kuntar, exchanged in Lebanon last week for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, but I collect some of it together because it’s important to recognise apologists for terror.

Smadar Haran described the slaughter of her family in a 2003 Washington Post article.

“Outside, we could hear the men storming about. Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat. They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing there were more people in the apartment. I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space and we would be killed. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. “This is just like what happened to my mother,” I thought.

As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl’s skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.

By the time we were rescued from the crawl space, hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her.”

Lisa Goldman has translated Samir Kuntar’s interview with the Israeli journalist Chen Kotes-Bar published in the newspaper Maariv. The translation was also in The Guardian. Lisa Goldman:

“So what a shock it was to see Kuntar greeted as a hero in Lebanon. How could the head of state and the head of government line up alongside Hezbollah leaders and Druze leaders to kiss a child murderer on either cheek?

In our paranoid Middle East insane asylum, a lot of those people who greeted Kuntar with open arms didn’t believe he committed the crimes of which he was convicted in a court of law. In our paranoid Middle Eastern insane asylum, facts are dismissed as propaganda – or ignored because they distract from political agendas, which are far too often sacrificed on the altar of basic human compassion. And a psychopath is embraced by political leaders who are using him to gain or maintain power. Michael Young explains here.”

So, back to Kuntar, in fragments:

We were given political lectures and they showed us films about Israel. We lived for the stories about the Yom Kippur War in 1973 – how we succeeded in destroying the myth of the invincible Israeli soldier. We read about the fighters who successfully attacked Israeli towns like Kiryat Shmona and Maalot [in 1974 the DFLP attacked a school in Maalot, killing 21 high school pupils – LG]. We admired them.”

I am anti-Zionist, not anti-Jewish. I am against the politics of Zionism. I think the establishment of the State of Israel was a mistake, but I do not hate Jews.”

You say I am a terrorist with ‘blood on his hands.’ That is a cynical phrase. You have blood on your hands, too. Every Israeli citizen who pays taxes to the state has blood on his hands. All of you.”

Today I love Hassan Nasrallah very much.”

I knew that if they had released me in 2004, your soldiers would not have been abducted. There would not have been a war at all. You are responsible.”

Like so many anti-Israel public figures, Kuntar is two-faced. He presents himself as a moderate pragmatist to Western journalists, but to his anti-Israel constituency he speaks hatred. Arik Weiss, in an addendum to the Ma’ariv piece which never made it into The Guardian:

Over recent years Bassam Kuntar, Samir’s younger brother, established a website calling for his release [samirkuntar.org, but it’s been disabled since his release. – LG]. The site was translated into Hebrew, English and Arabic, but the texts in the different languages do not match. According to one of the articles on the site, “On the day I left the beach of Tyre I was sad, but at the same time I was bursting with happiness because I knew that I was going to fulfill my obligation: to kill Jews. I no longer had any patience. I knew that I had to sacrifice myself.”

“…to kill Jews”. And, in 2008 in response to the death of senior member of Hesbollah Imad Mughniyah:

[my] place has always been on the front lines of the battle…which is soaked with the blood of the dearest people. I will continue in my path until the final, complete victory.”

The state of Israel was established in hateful times to provide a home for a million Jews displaced by the Holocaust. Today as part (Coming Home, BBC Radio 4, 9.02am) of the Charles Wheeler season, an English woman who had hurried to Belsen to nurse survivors described how quickly the inmates of the camps ceased to be viewed as victims and became something of a nuisance, an albatross – they started to be referred to generically as ‘displaced persons’, and later simply ‘DPs’. They had nowhere to go. No great power would take them. They were a burden. But unlike the other displaced people, the Jews were displaced for genocide.

Jews who already lived in Palestine had been attacked a long time before the UN set up their state and they militarised themselves against the many of their neighbours who hated them. The acts of terror against Israeli Jews have been continuous since 1914. If you attack Israeli Jews for having the temerity to attempt to set up their own state after centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust (note that it is not particularly the occupation Kuntar hates, but Zionism, the idea of a Jewish state) then you also attack Jews collectively. Jews have a state, for the reasons above. That boat has sailed. Europe blew it, and then the post-War powers blew it again. Israel exists. People need to get over it and throw themselves behind the peace process – getting rid of the wrecker-terrorists and other aggressors, getting rid of the settlements, squashing the Israeli and Palestinian expansionists, building the Palestinian economy, tackling racism, and sharing resources equitably. And I’m coming to the conclusion that campaigners should butt entirely out of ‘criticism’ unless they are fully conversant with what is actually going on in Israel and Palestine.

And yet you will hear Kuntar’s kind of reasoning – making terrorist attacks on civilians the moral equivalent of the efforts of Israelis to defend their state – advanced by University and College Union activists, senior Green Party committee members, most of the Socialist Workers Party, and some writers in newspapers of quality like The Guardian. Like Kuntar, these are bourgeois people and there’s a certain flavour to what they say which, to borrow from Linda Grant, makes them appear addled by Marxism-Leninism (or a perversion of it):

“Kuntar fits no model of the impoverished refugee driven to despair by occupation. Nor can he be seen within the context of Iranian-backed Islamism. When he emerged from prison last week it was as a relic of a bygone age: of that era of self-appointed middle-class revolutionaries, like the Weather Underground and Baader-Meinhof Gang.”

“Kuntar invented himself as a revolutionary at an early age, and his ardour for the struggle has not dimmed after nearly 30 years in prison. Individuals like him – affectless, without empathy – have always played leading roles in revolutionary movements. Drawn to political organizations of the far left and far right, they are people who have the passion and the excitement for violence, the glamour of violence. Those who are motivated by a desire for the alleviation of poverty or the redressing of injustice, lack the thirst for blood.”

Some, like the affectless Alex Callinicos, see the world as a chessboard on which to apply their scientific socialism. There are others, like Ilan Pappe, who gush with empathy for Palestinians, but can only see bad in Israel. They are probably equally wrong.

It’s important to recognise apologists for terror.

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