July 17, 2008

A word on Samir Kuntar

Samir Quntar, a Lebanese Druze, left Israel's dungeon today after three decades of imprisonment. He rejoins his family and, based on his words, the resistance. He is now being feted as a Lebanese hero. Kuntar is a Druze who joined the Palestinian resistance as a teenager and has been now ransomed by the Shite resistance. With his release, Hizbullah celebrates the final humiliation of Israel after the 2006 defeat. It's a well deserved celebration. Let us soon see Israel's other 11,000 (yes, that is eleven thousands) political prisoners free!

Ynet chose to quote another Druze (wonder why?) who thinks otherwise, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Majalli Whbee said:

"The large celebration in honor of the despicable murderer Kuntar is a shame to the Lebanese people, whose leaders choose to celebrate the release of a man who prides himself on smashing the skull of four-year-old Einat Haran," (Ynet July 16th, 2008)

According to the Western press, Samir Quntar is a monster who shot a hostage in the back and then smashed the skull of his 4 year old daughter. This is the account on the basis of which Quntar was sentenced to multiple life sentences. Check google and you'll see that 99% of news and blogs take this account as fact. Why bother with checking facts when the issue is an Arab accused of killing a child?

Now, if Quntar did what he was accused of, then he is no doubt a monster. But did he? The facts leave ample room for doubts. Quntar maintains he did not kill either of his two alleged victims. How much value should one place on his word? I'm not sure, but had Quntar been so consumed with hatred as to smash the skull of a child, would he then care to deny it? That sound to me somewhat unlikely. And Quntar had nothing material to gain from his denial. He also killed a police officer, which he didn't deny, and for which he would have been given a life sentence anyway. Furthermore, Quntar maintained his version even in private.

According to Quntar's version, his mission was to take hostages, not to kill people. This is credible since that was the modus operandi of the Palestinian guerilla at the time. The whole trial, amazingly, was sealed and the records kept "top secret". Only now parts of the file have been made public. The record shows he was convicted on the say so of the security forces who botched the mission to rescue the hostages.

However, in court, prosecution witness no. 4 testified that he saw Danny Haran stand up and shout, "Cease your fire, don't shoot. My little girl is here." Immediately thereafter he saw Danny shot by Kuntar. Testimony was also given in court by a doctor who ruled that Einat's death had been caused by a direct blow with a blunt instrument, something like a stick or a rifle butt.

"Kuntar went over to Einat Haran and hit her head twice with the butt of his rifle, with the intent of killing her," wrote the judges in their verdict. "The other defendant also struck her head forcefully."

Why no mention of forensic evidence regarding the distance from which Danny Haran was shot? And why would Quntar, under fire, for whom the hostages represent his best chance to survive, kill them? And how did BOTH he AND his mate find the time, while police was closing in upon him with guns ablaze, to hit the girl repeatedly, and in few view of the police? And finally why were the police shooting in the direction of Quntar, knowing that he had or might have had hostages with him?

In the end, it comes down to Kuntar's word against the word of unidentified police officers and a physician who works for the Israeli government. Quntar seems to have had no reason to lie. The police who botched their mission and might have been responsible for the death of the hostages did have a reason to lie. He was then convicted in an Israeli kangaroo court that makes the Guantanamo justice system look good in comparison, and the whole trial was so convincing that it was made "top secret."

This looks so far as a tale spun out of facile assumptions, potential lies, and blatant lies--and of course the willful credulity of journalists and commentators. For example, where does the Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel take the nostrum that Quntar "prides himself on smashing the skull of four-year-old Einat Haran"? Whbee can stick his tongue anywhere he pleases, but can he at least avoid lies that can be disproved in two minutes of surfing?

I don't know what happened on the beach that day. Perhaps Quntar did all that is attributed to him. Or perhaps the two victims were killed by "friendly" fire. I'll believe it either way when the evidence is stronger than the say-so of Israel's racist, corrupt and cavalier court system.

Whatever Quntar did however, Israel has no moral authority to judge him. Killing children is effectively legal in Israel as long as the child is Palestinian.

Take Imam al-Hams, for example, who took 17 (seventeen) bullets to her tiny body AFTER soldiers identified her on the radio as a ten year old girl. Her killer, who shot her from two feet away when she was lying on the ground, was cleared of all wrongdoing by an Israeli military court.

Or take the 948 Palestinian children killed by official state policy in the last eight years. There must be monsters all around in Israel. And what about the air-force pilots who dropped bombs on civilian targets in Lebanon two years ago? What about the pilot who dropped a bomb in Qana, killing dozens of children for example? Why isn't he and his commanding officer in jail with a 5760 years sentence?

By all means, Israel should be tough on child murderers. A good place to start is with the "culture of impunity" of its officers and pilots. Then we can talk about Samir Quntar.


Father Ted, who often ministers to the lost sheep that stray into our comment section, recalls the case of Hilmi Susha:

The Jerusalem District Court sentenced Nahum Korman, 36, to six months of community service and a 70,000 shekels ($17,500) fine for the killing of Hilmi Shusha, 11, in the West Bank in October 1996.

...The prosecution contended that Korman beat and kicked the child, knocked him down, put his foot on the boy's neck and struck him with a pistol. The boy suffered a head injury and a fractured spinal cord and died the next day in a hospital (CNN, January 22, 2001)

Unlike Kuntar, there is no doubt that Korman did kill Shusha and did get not only a fair trial but an exquisitely friendly trial. But CNN insists on describing what happened as 'the prosecution contends..' What Kuntar is alleged to have done is rarely attributed to the prosecution, even though the likelihood of a Palestinian guerrilla fighter getting a fair trial in racist Israel is pretty low.

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