Samir Kuntar’s Message to Prisoners Remaining in Israeli Jails
Source: Al-akhbar english version
Published Thursday, October 20, 2011
One of the longest serving and highly visible former prisoners in Israeli jails, Samir Kuntar, shares with al-Akhbar his reaction to the latest prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel.
Kuntar refuses to use the word “deal” to describe the exchange, because that word is used when speaking about business, and not about human beings
Buy Kuntar's Book "My Story"
The joy shared by the prisoners freed in Tuesday’s exchange may only be describable by those who have experienced captivity, like Samir Kuntar. A Lebanese fighter who was passionately dedicated to the Palestinian resistance, Kuntar entered Israeli prisons as a teenager and emerged in 2008 as a man, after having spent 29 years in prison.
Kuntar refuses to use the word “deal” to describe the recent prisoners exchange between Israel and Hamas, because that word is used when speaking about business, and not about human beings. He says Tuesday’s exchange occurred at the time it did because conditions were ripe on both sides. He calls the operation that captured Shalit a great achievement for the resistance, because it was the first of its kind to take place inside Occupied Palestine. He points out that Gilad Shalit was under indirect control of the Israeli occupation, but the Israelis could not secure his release. Moreover, the resistance was able to hold him for more than five years. Kuntar is optimisitc. He congratulates those who have been set free and sends a message of hope to those who remain in prison, such as PFLP Secretary-General Ahmad Saadat, Abdullah and Marwan Barghouti, Karim Younis, and Walid Daka.
Just a note
Over the past ten years samirkuntar.org served as an official Website reporting his news and messages from Israeli prisons.
3 days before his release the site was blocked by American hosting company. They said “We received complaints from Israeli government to close the site”.
3 years after his liberation, the site is coming back to continue the struggle for freedom to all Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons.
Updates will come soon!
In 1985, the PFLP carried out a prisoner exchange that secured the release of 1,150 individuals, but there were 36 whom Israel refused to release. After some negotiations, 16 prisoners remained in jail, among them Kuntar. He says that he and his fellow prisoners were not saddened by this. On the contrary, they saw it as a great achievement for the resistance. In the years that followed, there were many attempts to secure the release of the rest of the prisoners, such as the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, an Italian ship, in the 1980s. Kuntar says he also did not despair after the 2004 prisoner exchange failed to secure his release.
There’s an indelible bond between Kuntar and many of the prisoners released today, such as Nail Barghouti, Tawfiq Abu Naim, Rohi Mushtaha, Mohammad al-Kurd, Abdul Rahman Shehab, Wael Abu Fanounah, Jihad Ghaban, and others. Kuntar describes the hardships of imprisonment, saying that more than 200 men have perished in the prisons. They worked for decades to improve the prison conditions under the occupation. He speaks fondly of Abu Naim, with whom he served on a leadership committee struggling against Israeli prison guards in order to improve prison living conditions.
Kuntar has many experiences with hunger strikes and organizing committees alongside his fellow prisoners. He says, “I always thought that the imprisonment of these companions on a long journey of suffering had to end.” He adds that he felt his freedom was incomplete because many of his comrades were still in prison, “but they were sure that they would someday join me.” He met Nail Barghouti, another prisoner being released, in 1982 in Beersheba prison and then in Nafha at the end of the 1990s. Kuntar describes him as a “freedom fighter and man of principles, who is nice company.”
He mocks those that attempt to cover up the failures of the Israeli security and intelligence apparatuses, saying that this exchange exceeded all the limits set down by the Israeli state. They said, “we’re not going to release prisoners with Israeli blood on their hands or ’48 Palestinians or prisoners from Occupied Jerusalem, but now they’ve given in to the resistance.” He says that the Israeli state wanted to show their troops that their leadership does not abandon them. They used Shalit as a symbol to create consensus and attract attention, while symbolically demonstrating that one Zionist is worth more than 1,000 Arabs. Kuntar believes that this symbolism creates great racial and nationalist tensions in the region.
Kuntar was glad to see that Israeli prison guards were angered following the resistance victory. He says that they were in a very bad mood when releasing the prisoners. The guards always told the prisoners that they would rot in their cells; yet today the prisoners are emerging free and proud, with their heads held high.
The thing that most pleased Kuntar was seeing the face of Elon Purda on an Israeli TV station a few days ago. Kuntar struggles to hold in his laughter as he describes the look of sheer anger on Purda’s face the day the prisoners were released. Purda was the warden of the Nafha prison and today he is the director of Ktzi'ot camp, where they recently put all of the prisoners that were set to be freed. He was responsible for the torture and maltreatment of most of the prisoners.
Kuntar also mentioned the personal dimension of the exchange for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. The release of the prisoners opens an old wound for Netanyahu, whose brother did not come back alive from Uganda when he went to secure the release of passengers from a hijacked plane.
The release from prison is not the end of one’s hardship; there’s another type of struggle awaiting. Kuntar explains that “the prisoner must emerge from the prison of his soul before being freed and capable of living. Those who resist are most capable of overcoming this obstacle.” He says that a prisoner must maintain composure, expect more from himself, and lower his expectations of others. A prisoner must not expect anything from anyone. Kuntar did not do what he did because he hoped for compensation; rather, he was motivated by his deep commitment to a cause.
Samir Kuntar was freed after 29 years. The occupation stole the best years of his life, but he remains firmly with the resistance and optimistic. With his release, he received a new lease on life, starting a family. His son Ali is now 2 months and 19 days old and represents a new generation of struggle against the occupation. During his detention, Kuntar never lost hope. He awaited his eventual release so that he could build his beautiful family.
Samir Kuntar celebrates freed Palestinian prisoners
18/10/2011 3.30 p.m
Samir Kuntar praised today the release of his comrades and brothers from Israeli prisoners.
A majority of the 477 prisoners freed Tuesday, in exchange for Gilad Schalit, had been serving life terms, and their release is a good proof that the resistance is the way to liberate the land and the prisoners» kuntar said today.
"We shall spare no efforts to liberate the rest of our brothers and sisters. We urge the palestinian resistance groups to kidnap more soldiers to exchange them for the freedom of our loved ones who are still behind bars," Kuntar added.
Samir Kuntar spent nearly three decades in Israeli prison before being released on July 16, 2008 as part of an Israel-Hezbollah prisoner swap.
"I returned today from Palestine but believe me I will not return until I go back to Palestine".
Samir Kuntar left Israel's prisons on 16/7/2008 after three decades of imprisonment. He rejoins his family and the resistance.
Kuntar joined the Palestinian resistance as a teenager and has been now ransomed by the Lebanese resistance. With his release, Hezboullah celebrates the final humiliation of Israel after the 2006 defeat. It's a well deserved celebration. Let us soon see Israel's other 5,000 (yes, that is five thousands) political prisoners free!