September 2, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 2038

Condemnation of Al-Jazeera Celebrations of Al-Kuntar's Release

September 2, 2008
Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 2038

On July 23, 2008, MEMRI released a video clip of celebrations held by Al-Jazeera in honor of Samir Al-Kuntar, the Lebanese prisoner who spent 30 years in Israeli jail for committing a terrorist act in Israel. The clip can be viewed at

The clip prompted harsh criticism and condemnation of Al-Jazeera in Israel and in the Arab world. Al-Jazeera director-general Waddakh Khanfar, apologized, explaining that the celebrations of Al-Kuntar's release had "violated Al-Jazeera's ethical code."[1] However, Al-Jazeera deputy editor-in-chief Ahmad Jadallah denied that the channel had apologized.[2]

Arab columnists argued that these celebrations were indications of a lack of objectivity on the part of Al-Jazeera, and even rejected the hailing of Al-Kuntar as a hero.

Following are excerpts from two main articles on the issue that were published in the Arab press:

Arab Columnist: Kuntar Is Not a Hero But a Terrorist

In an article in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida, columnist Hamed Naif Al-'Anzi criticized the media description of the Hizbullah-Israel prisoners exchange deal as a "national victory" for Hizbullah. He argued that the attacks carried out by Samir Al-Kuntar and Dalal Al-Mughrabi had been terrorist acts – not acts of glory:

"One of the reasons that we, as an Arab nation, have repeatedly suffered defeat is our excitement with ourselves, which borders on arrogance, preventing us from acknowledging defeat in front of the world. We imagine that we are always victorious over our enemies, even when our defeat is as clear as day. This is the reason why we [never] win – for the acknowledging of defeat is the first step towards victory!...

"Pray tell me what is the meaning of this overflowing and unreasonable jubilation, and of all that talk of 'victory'; how come the return of Lebanese prisoners – Samir Al-Kuntar and his friends – is being extolled using all kinds of heroic terms?

"I can say almost for sure, gentlemen, that 90 percent of the brothers who are rejoicing and loudly cheering the return of the prisoners don't [even] know who Samir Al-Kuntar is, nor [are they familiar] with the particulars of his inimitable 'glorious' deeds. They know nothing about them, nor do they want to [know]. The only thing that interests them is that Mr. Hassan Nasrallah has a part in it – since he always 'wins,' and his name is associated with power, honor, and steadfastness. As long as [Nasrallah] is a factor in the release [of prisoners], there is no doubt that they are 'heroes' and 'victors,' and that their return is a wonderful 'victory' that only agents, traitors, and knaves would deny.

"Below are the stories, in brief, of some of the 'heroes' who were returned.

"Samir Al-Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze, was born in 1961. Until he was arrested, he was a member of the Palestinian Liberation Front and belonged to the cell which, on April 21, 1979, carried out a violent terrorist attack in the [Israeli] city of Nahariya.

"In the middle of the night, Al-Kuntar's cell reached the Nahariya beach by an inflatable dinghy. [The cell members] broke into the home of the Haran family, and took hostage the father, Dani Haran, and his little daughter, Einat, tying them up. All that time, the mother of the family, with her two-year-old baby daughter, hid in the bedroom.

"The kidnappers took the father and Einat to the beach, but were [prevented from embarking and setting out] by the arrival of the police and the army. Samir Al-Kuntar shot the father at close range, in front of the child, and then killed her as well (although he [later] denied this) by smashing her skull with the butt of his gun.

"In the meantime, the two-year-old baby suffocated to death, as her mother tried to silence her lest the kidnappers discover them [in their hiding place].

"Such is the 'glorious' saga of Samir Al-Kuntar!

"As for the 'martyr' Dalal Al-Mughrabi, whose body was returned along with others, [as part of the prisoner exchange deal] she was born in 1958. She commanded an operation that has come to be known as 'the Coastal Road Massacre,' that took place in 1978.

"In this violent operation, 37 Israeli civilians of various ages were killed, young and old. Dalal Al-Mughrabi and her group hijacked the bus carrying 37 passengers and shot them all, one by one!

"No one in his right mind would call these two terrorist attacks acts of glory. Indeed, they are more like, if not actually, terrorist attacks, no matter what their justifications or reasons were.

"Terrorist operations have no national identity, and anyone with an intellect and a heart denounces them and scorns their perpetrators, whether Arabs, Israelis, or nationals of any other country.

"Anyone who harms innocent civilians must never be viewed as a hero, and their 'victorious' return must never be presented as a victory of the Arab nation. This can only happen in the imagination of some desperate people, whose hearts are as hard as stone and for whom human life is totally devoid of value.

"Too many in our Arab homeland seek 'puny' victories, even in the form of prisoner exchange deals – and what prisoners!"[3]

Saudi Columnist: Al-Jazeera Slaughtered Objectivity Live on TV

In an article in the London daily Al-Hayat, Saudi columnist Daoud Al-Shirian criticized Al-Jazeera and other Arab media outlets for their lack of objectivity and professionalism. He wrote: "Al-Jazeera's problem in Al-Kuntar's case is not the lack of neutrality, but the overstepping of the boundaries of objectivity. Instead of interviewing Al-Kuntar, Al-Jazeera celebrated his release from prison as a [political] party would celebrate [the release] of its members.

"They wanted to present him as a hero, and could have achieved this goal had it not been for the low professional [standards] of the program. The meeting turned into a party at a private home, and as a consequence, objectivity was slaughtered live on TV.

"[Nevertheless,] some good has come of all this. The Al-Kuntar event aired by Al-Jazeera has presented an opportunity to discuss the [lack of] professionalism on the part of some Arab journalists, who fail to distinguish between their leanings and their job. Thus, instead of providing information and reporting facts, they become tools for controlling and overseeing others. They believe that professionalism in journalism means being a fighter and a slogan-chanter.

"In this way some of the Arab media outlets have turned into unauthorized political parties."[4]

[1] Haaretz (Israel), August 7, 2008.

[2] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), August 9, 2008;, August 10, 2008.

[3] Al-Jarida (Kuwait), July 25, 2008.

[4] Al-Hayat (London), August 11, 2008.

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