ZOA Opposes Olmert Cabinet Decision To Release Five Convicted Terrorists, Including Haran Family Murderer Samir Kuntar, For Corpses Of Two Israeli Servicemen
June 30, 2008

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has opposed in the strongest terms the decision of the Olmert Cabinet to approve the release of five convicted terrorists, including Samir Kuntar, who in 1979 murdered members of the Haran family. The five terrorists would be exchanged for the corpses of Israeli servicemen, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who were kidnapped and murdered by Hizballah, an event that precipitated the 2006 Lebanon War.


Samir Kuntar, of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), is serving multiple life terms for the killing of three members of the Haran family and policeman Eliahu Shahar in Nahariya in 1979. Kuntar was captured in Nahariya and jailed in April 1979 when he and other PLF terrorists seized Danny Haran, 28, and his 4-year old daughter, Einat, in their home and removed them to the Nahariya beachfront where Kuntar shot Danny Haran in front of his daughter, then drowned him in the sea to ensure he was dead, before smashing the 4-year-old’s skull with a rock and crushing it with the butt of his rifle. Danny Haran’s wife, Smadar, managed to hide her with her other daughter, 2-year-old Yael, whom she accidentally suffocated in an effort not to betray their whereabouts while hiding in another part of their apartment when her husband and other daughter were seized by Kuntar. Kuntar has never expressed remorse, justifies his multiple murders and said that he will join Hizballah upon his release.


Smadar later described the events thus:


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 (Smadar Haran Kaiser, ‘The World Should Know What He Did to My Family,’ Washington Post, May 18, 2003).



The intended release was made possible by the Olmert government deciding to relax the already permissive criteria of ‘not having blood on their hands’ for considering releasing terrorists – a criteria that in reality allowed many terrorists who had planned fatal attacks, supplied the weaponry or otherwise facilitated specific terror operations to go free. The ZOA opposed this when it was first reported, saying, “It is clear that prisoners the Israeli government is defining as ‘not having blood on their hands’ often fall into that category simply because their terror plans failed, or because others pulled the trigger or detonated the bomb. This does not make them any the less attempted murderers or accessories to murder. We are fooling ourselves if we believe releasing such people will not lead to further murder and maiming of innocent Israeli men, women and children. It is also a travesty of justice that murderers and attempted murderers go free without serving their sentences. Now, even the flimsy and misleading criteria of ‘not having blood on their hands’ looks like being discarded by the Olmert government so that more multiple murderers can be freed.”


Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) has praised Kuntar as a hero, with PA TV broadcasting a picture honoring Kuntar depicted beside a map of Israel completely covered by the Palestinian flag. Various PA leaders have described Kuntar in recent weeks as, ‘Samir Kuntar, the warrior from Lebanon‘; ‘The brave warrior, Samir Kuntar’;

‘The Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership are standing behind you [Kuntar]’; ‘You [Kuntar] are an inseparable part of the action to free our homeland’; and ‘Your [Kuntar] patience and strength are a lesson for us.’ (Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, ‘PA leaders: Kuntar a hero,’ Palestinian Media Watch, June 29, 2008).


A 2006 detailed report issued by the Almagor Terror Victims Association (ATVA), shows that between the years 1993-1999, Israel released 6,912 terrorists within the context of “confidence building measures” and prisoner deals. Of that number, 854 (14%) were arrested subsequently for lethal terrorists acts which claimed the lives of 123 Israelis. The ATVA report concluded, “The mass killing due to these attacks included … a huge number of victims with disabilities due to the attack and many other victims. In all the previous death-bargains, the overwhelming majority of those released returned to terrorist activities, at the cost of a huge destruction of life.”


Col. (Res.) Meir Indor, Director of ATVA, disclosed in April 2007 that 177 Israelis killed in terror attacks in the last five years were killed by Palestinians who had been previously released from Israeli jails on the basis that they were “without blood on their hands” (Jerusalem Post, April 10, 2008). Also in April 2007, the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee Chairman, Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) said that 35 Israelis had been murdered by prisoners Israel released in exchange for Elchanan Tennenbaum, an Israeli businessman kidnapped by Hizballah (Independent Media & Review Analysis, April 13, 2007).


Col. Indor said today in response to the Cabinet vote that “Hizballah and Nasrallah have defeated the government of Israel, cleverly using terrorism and mass media, as well as the families of the captives, against the ministers.  This strategy brought about the total downfall of the government’s standing power, and a retreat from all its past promises not to cave in to the kidnappers… The government must now explain to the 117 families of the soldiers who were killed in the war in Lebanon, and the dozens of families of civilians who were killed, why we went to war altogether seeing as we could have just given in to the Hizballah demands from the very beginning, without losing any lives, if we would have just released Kuntar right away! The bottom line is that the 2nd Lebanon War ended in a total fiasco” (Hillel Fendel, ‘Fears that Terrorist-Release Deal Will Boomerang on Israel,’ Israel National News, June 29, 2008).


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “Prime Minister Olmert and his government are making a grave and costly error in deciding to proceed with this exchange of jailed terrorists for the remains of kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Considerations of justice, morality, prudence and security all dictate that exchanging jailed terrorists for kidnapped Israeli soldiers is liable to cause more kidnappings, strengthen terrorist groups and result in more innocent Jewish life being shed.


“The ZOA has consistently opposed the release of Palestinian Arab prisoners by Israel, not merely because doing so provides excellent incentives for kidnapping more Israelis and thus freeing more terrorists held by Israel, but because, as the ATVA report has clearly shown, such exchanges have been proved in the past to result in further massive loss of innocent Jewish life. Tragically, more innocent Jews may well be murdered in the not too distant future by some of the terrorists Prime Minister Olmert has decided to release this week. Samir Kuntar, for his part, has said that he will return to terrorism.


“A further vital consideration that arises from a case like this in which Israel releases live terrorists for the remains of dead soldiers is that the lives of other present and future kidnapped Israeli servicemen will be further jeopardized. Hizballah and other terror groups will draw the message that, as Israel will release the biggest murderers like Kuntar in exchange for corpses, then they have no incentive to keep kidnapped Israeli servicemen alive. It is not impossible, in fact it is even likely, that the two Israeli servicemen whose corpses are to be released were murdered by Hizballah after capture because of this sort of calculation.

“I want to make it clear, as I have on previous occasions, that the ZOA deeply sympathizes with Israeli families when their sons are kidnapped by bloodthirsty terrorists. We would support virtually any efforts to bring them home safely. But when the record clearly shows that prisoner releases bring only more terror, more murder and more kidnappings of Jewish people, we must painfully accept the fact that we will save more Israeli lives by not rewarding kidnappings through prisoner releases.”

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