Yesterday, Israel murdered Samir Kuntar, a Hezbollah militant involved with a terror attack that killed three Israeli civilians in 1979. Until he was freed in a prisoner exchange in 2008, he’d been the longest-serving security prisoner in Israeli jails.
In the years following the original attack, Kuntar became the embodiment of the bloodthirsty terrorist, supposedly personally bashing in the head of a little girl with a rifle butt. At least this is the story they told. But this narrative, like so many spun by Israeli military-intelligence circles, and lapped up so eagerly by an adoring Israeli media, is largely fiction.
According to Aviv Sela, a noted Israeli psychologist who served in that capacity for years with the police and Shabak, Kuntar did not kill the girl or her father. Instead, he claims he had left the boat to help his comrades who’d been attacked by Israeli security forces. The firing that killed the Israelis came via friendly (Israeli) fire and not the Palestinians. As with so many ugly facts Israel tries to conceal in such circumstances, it creates comfortable narratives that obscure the truth.
Something similar happened with the 300 Line bus hijacking in which the Israeli media initially dutifully reported that all the Palestinian hostage takers were killed in the bus assault. This concealed the fact that the Shabak chief personally approved the cold-blooded murder of the two surviving Palestinians. In this case, it was Israeli security forces who stove in their heads, this time with rocks instead of a rifle butt. The moral being: the only good Palestinian terrorist is a murdered one, the gorier the better.
Israel’s military is continuing the Kuntar charade to justify his execution in an Israeli air attack over Damascus, which destroyed the apartment building where he was living, killing eight others as well. He not only bashed a little girl’s head in way back. He continued his evil ways as a mastermind of terror in Assad’s regime. Read this fantasia:
Samir Kuntar, the notorious terrorist killed Saturday night near Damascus, was believed to be preparing a major terror attack against Israel from the Golan Heights, according to highly reliable Western sources.
According to these sources, last year Kuntar turned into a kind of independent terror entrepreneur and was considered by Israel and the West to be a “ticking bomb”. The sources said Kuntar had recently not been working on behalf of Hezbollah, but rather acting with increasing independence alongside pro-Assad militias in Syria.
The organization with which Kuntar was working was founded by the Syrian regime to replace the brutal Shabiha (an Alawite militia), which even the Syrian regime opted to reject. Assad’s regime therefore established a less vicious militia, the Syrian National Resistance Committee, which did not engage in the economic and criminal activities of the Shabiha. Farhan al-Shaalan, another senior leader killed Saturday night in the same building where Kuntar ran his secret operation, also belonged to the Syrian National Resistance Committee…
Western sources believe Kuntar was in the final stages of planning and carrying out another attack against Israel, which senior Hezbollah officials apparently did not know about…
Syria, Hezbollah, Iran and the Russians have no interest in a confrontation with Israel now, and certainly not a confrontation ignited by a “freelancer” such as Kuntar, driven by his hostility to Israel.
This suggests that Kuntar was eliminated because he was considered a ticking bomb by more than one entity in the Middle East.
One absolute trademark of Israeli disinformation is after such murders it always suggests the killing wasn’t necessarily Israel’s doing, but due to internal disputes within the ranks of the terrorists. It’s been used by Israel’s security apparatus from time immemorial (h/t to Joan Peters!).
I’ve often written about specific instances in which the Israeli security apparatus blatantly lies to cover up embarrassment or deflect from the truth of events. In the case of Kuntar, the IDF knows that I, and perhaps other journalists will begin calling this what it was, an extrajudicial execution. To pre-empt this inconvenient narrative, it puts forth yet another bubbeh meiseh portraying Kuntar as a revitalized terror mastermind. A man who had to die to save Israeli lives. He was a “ticking bomb.” Apparently, the ticking was in the ear of the beholder. What was he planning? A vague terror attack somewhere in the Golan. But it would’ve been big, trust me, or so they claim.
Note there is no proof whatsoever offered to support these claims. They are threads of narrative spun, not from gold, but from lead.
As I read the passage above, two possibilities struck me: one, the reporter really had a “western intelligence source” who offered this information. If that were the case, my money would be on the U.S. being the source. Since the Obama administration had placed Kuntar on a specially designated Global Terrorist list in September, it seemed entirely possible it would be monitoring his communications to keep track of him. It would be easy to share this information with the IDF thus enabling it to target him. If this were so, then the U.S. would be collaborating with Israeli targeted assassinations. Unlikely, but still possible.
Ronen Bergman claimed just such an intelligence collaboration enabled the Mossad to locate and track Imad Mugniyeh, who was similarly assassinated in Damascus in 2008.
But there was an even more probable scenario. Ron Ben Yishai, like most Israeli security reporters (and unlike most U.S. reporters covering the same beat) has only one set of sources: the military. Not only will he not question the veracity of these sources, he will not consult critics or skeptics in order to qualify the accuracy of his reports. So the chances were high that the story was entirely manufactured by Kuntar’s killers, the IDF.
Indeed, when I questioned an Israeli security source about the authenticity of the “western sources,” he replied “”They are as western as Bogie!” In other words, the source of this story is most likely Defense Minister Bogie Yaalon.
Another media stenographer for the IDF is Roni Daniel. His report on this story had a different spin. Kuntar was a demon-mastermind. But not for Assad. Rather for Iran. In Daniel’s report it is not a western source who defines Kuntar as a ticking bomb but Israel itself. So either the two different sources miraculously came up with the same locution independently of each other; or the same source told two different journalists the same thing and told each to attribute them differently (or the journalists did so on their own).
The truth concerning the Kuntar murder is closer to this: in order to justify the demonology developed around the persona of Kuntar, Israel had to assassinate him after it released him. It didn’t help Kuntar that he was likely attempting to relive his glory days and re-enter the militant game.
Samir Kuntar was a trophy for an Israeli general. The latter will be able to add the picture of his corpse into his scrapbook of heroic deeds on behalf of the moledet (“homeland”). When he retires or on his deathbed he can recite his version of the hypnotic words of the killer in Joseph Losey’s, The Assassination of Trotsky : “I killed Kuntar.” In that sense, Kuntar ceased having any personal usefulness or individual existence the moment he landed his boat back in 1979. From then till the moment of his execution he was a construct of the imaginations of both Lebanese militants and Israeli generals and spies. Now, in death he maintains this usefulness to both sides.
NOTE: No one should presume that anything I’ve written above means that I do not support accountability for acts of terror. I believe all terrorists (those who kill civilians), no matter what side, should be held responsible for their crimes: Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese, etc. But unlike Israel, I strongly believe in the rule of law and that no state has the right to make these decisions outside of courts and the justice system.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.