Danny Haran. Einat Haran. Yael Haran. Eliyahu Shachar. These are the four victims of Samir Kuntar and his terror cell. All four were brutally murdered on April 22, 1979. Four year-old Einat had her skull bashed against a rock with the butt of his rifle. Her father Danny was shot at close range. Haran’s two year-old daughter was suffocated to death from her mother’s attempts to keep her quiet in their hiding place from the terrorists. Policeman Eliyahu Shachar was also shot.
Their murderer, terrorist Samir Kuntar was convicted of murder, attempted murder and kidnapping and was sentenced to five life sentences plus 47 years of imprisonment in an Israeli jail. He served 29 years of this sentence. During this time he was able to complete a bachelor’s degree in social studies and humanities and married an Arab-Israeli woman also serving a life sentence for terrorist activities. He has been a central figure for inmates’ struggles in jails and a leader of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails.
Elsewhere on Israel's border with Lebanon and some 27 years later, in 2006, with Israel having ended its occupation of Southern Lebanon for over six years, Israeli soldiers were on a routine patrol when Hezbollah terrorists infiltrated the border into sovereign Israeli territory, murdering eight soldiers and kidnapping two.
The two soldiers were Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev and their attack and subsequent kidnapping sparked the Second Lebanon War which claimed the lives of 44 Israeli civilians and 119 soldiers. Since their kidnapping, no signs of life had been given and they were denied proper rights to which every other prisoner of war is entitled under international laws and standards - a stark contrast to the humane treatment received by Kuntar and others imprisoned by the Israelis.
These two very different stories, one of a terrorist being tried by a legal process and serving a legitimate jail term, and the other of two soldiers being abducted and held against their will, have now intertwined, with Hezbollah and Israel, through international channels, exchanging Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev for Samir Kuntar and four other Lebanese prisoners. The swap officially took place last Wednesday at 9:00am (4:00pm AEST), two years and four days after the attack.
The IDF and intelligence sources had already determined that Goldwasser and Regev were no longer alive. The Israeli Cabinet had come to the same unfortunate conclusion. Their families, who are also victims of this shocking denial of human rights, have been held at ransom for the past two years, not knowing the fate of their boys, not knowing whether they were alive, and if so, what kind of condition they were in. Right up until the last moment when their coffins were laid out by Hezbollah to be handed over to the Red Cross, they had still held out hope that they were alive.
The moral debate within Israel will play out on its own accord and is not for us to question. But one must ask the citizens of the world, those that believe in freedom, peace and justice, whether they believe in the concept of swapping terrorists for the remains of two soldiers whose fate until now had remained unknown.
Kuntar and the other convicted terrorists arrived in Lebanon to a hero’s welcome as liberated prisoners. At the ceremony he declared, "I haven't for even one day regretted what I did. On the contrary, I remain committed to my political convictions." Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who never committed any crime, returned to Israel in coffins and have been buried.
One must ask in what warped sense of reality does this even approximate anyone's understanding of justice and in what sort of world does a criminal convicted of brutal and barbaric crimes walk free and the world applauds Hezbollah for their co-operation?
Kuntar was used four years ago as a bargaining chip for information about missing in action Israeli navigator Ron Arad. This information never arrived. As a part of this new deal, Hezbollah finally released a report, deemed “absolutely unsatisfactory”, on Arad but it appears to be too little, too late.
There are many victims in this saga: Danny, Einat, Yael, Eliyahu, Ehud and Eldad. Not to mention Smadar Haran, who lost her entire family in one terrible night, and the Goldwasser and Regev families, who have been tortured for the past two years with no knowledge of the condition of their sons, no real closure and whose torturous plight have still not been relieved upon their return last Wednesday; only the injustice of their witnessing unrepentant terrorists being welcomed as heroes in Lebanon.
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