a hero’s welcome

Last month when I was hanging out with a friend of mine in Al Quds he mentioned Samir Quntar. My friend was feeling reflective of the time he had spent in jail many years ago. He spent 11 years in an Israeli jail and from 1981-1984 he and Quntar were both in a prison in Beer Seba. He was bemoaning the fact that he has been out, has married, has children and Quntar and other Lebanese prisoners remained in jail. I recalled this conversation when I woke up today because of Quntar’s historic return to Lebanon after almost 30 years in an Israeli jail.

I woke up in great anticipation this morning and immediately turned on the television. This lasted for only a few hours, though, because our electricity goes out for 3 hours every day (though it is supposed to be a national holiday today and supposedly electricity is not supposed to go out on such occasions). So my friend and I had to leave our apartment where we were able to flip among Al Jazeera, Al Manar, and Tayyar television to our favorite cafe which only seemed to have Mustaqbal news (and unlike other news stations they seemed to think it was only worth covering a couple of hours–must get back to broadcasting those soap operas!). In any case, we watched and waited as we saw the coffins return home, the coffins of around 199 fighters–Palestinian, Lebanese, Tunisian. Most important of those resistance fighters leaving captivity is Dalal Moghbrabi, an amazingly brave and significant resistance fighter who is famous for coordinating and carrying out an extraordinary operation in 1978 when she and her comrades killed 36 Israeli Occupation Forces soldiers on a bus, though it seems that even Naharnet does not offer up that there were no “civilians” on that bus.Here is the Angry Arab’s description of her operation with important historical details you won’t find most media outlets:

And none of the Western coverage is pointing out the cruel and inhumane role of Ehud Barak in 1978: the man who shot Dalal Mughrabi while she was dead. He pulled her by the hair (only after she died as he would not dare do that to an alive Dalal) and mutilated her body before tearing her shirt off. Such are the sexual perversions of the former prime minister of Israel. And as for the details of the deeds of Dalal and her comrades, don’t ever believe Israeli accounts of “enemy” operations. The state consistently lies and consistently fabricates. And that saying from the Babylonian Talmud applies to Israel: the punishment of the liar is that he is not believed even when he tells the truth.

We watched the Red Cross workers move back and forth across the border at Naqoura. I had wanted to go to Naqoura but I heard that they were not going to allow people down there so I chose to stay in Beirut and attend tonight’s festivities. At one point we heard rumors that the Israelis were taking the bodies of their soldiers to Tel Aviv to do further DNA testing before releasing the prisoners–Quntar as well as Khaled Zidan, Maher Kurani, Mohammed Sarur, and Hussein Suleiman. We were worried that perhaps the prisoner swap may not take place today as planned. It would be fairly typical of the Israelis to go back on their word. But thankfully that did not happen; at around 5:30 we began hearing fireworks go off and sure enough we saw the prisoners coming home on television.

The fireworks were our cue to leave the house and head over to Dahiyya to welcome the prisoners home. Some of my friends were not sure they wanted to go because it was hot and the wait would be long. But I felt it was too historic to miss. That and the fact that I think they deserve a hero’s welcome. I’m sure it felt amazing to see so many thousands of people greeting them with such fervor. We weren’t sure what direction to go in exactly once we got the area around Dahiyya, but we saw a series of cars and buses with SSNP flags so we followed them to our destination. As we walked to the women’s entrance (seating was separated) we bought some flags and found our seats. It was already packed, but we managed to find a place to sit where we could see the stage and large television screens for close-ups. Shortly after we arrived a Hezbollah band began to play and the crowd went wild. Everyone was waving their flags, singing along, and chanting “Abu Hadi.” There were lots of young, teenage girls screaming–a sort of screaming and singing along I have not seen since I last attended an Ani DiFranco concert. And as with Ani concerts we were pushed and shoved as everyone tried to get closer to the stage. Or as close as women were allowed to get.

There were many flags represented in the crowd–Amal, Hezbollah, a few Aoun, SSNP, a few Communist flags, and far too few Palestinian flags. The stage was amazing. It had a doorway in the middle that looked like a cage, which the five released prisoners broke through when they arrived. But when they arrived they did so with a surprise: Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah made an appearance as well, though only for a few minutes. And this was when it really began to feel like an Ani concert as everyone screamed so loudly that it was difficult to hear him speak. But it was amazing to see him in person, especially because he so rarely comes out in public. After he left Quntar spoke and later we saw Nasrallah speak on the television (or what little we could glimpse of the big screen amidst the waving flags). The highlights of the speech were the elements that vowed continued resistance–especially with respect to Palestinians who remain in Israeli jails. We all cheered when we heard Nasrallah call out the rich Arab countries who have close ties with the U.S. for not doing their part to help liberate Palestinian political prisoners and Palestine. The solidarity expressed was rejuvenating to hear. As was Qutar’s promise to return to get his PhD in an Israeli jail (should he be caught again in another resistance operation–an allusion to his studies in the prison over the last three decades). Of course all over the Israeli, American, and British media is a smear campaign that is demonizing Quntar while also bending the truth to fit its will. Here is Angry Arab’s take on this:

Of course, the New York Times is busy producing propaganda and lies on behalf of the Israeli government. I was reading their accounts of the prisoner exchange and remembering the words of the late George Carlin: why are Israeli terrorists called commandos, and why are Palestinian commandos called terrorists. And there are always stories about the “victims” of Palestinian operations on Palestinian lands but never stories about the victims of Israeli crimes. Not one story about those Israeli “prisoners”: What were those Israeli occupation killers doing in Lebanon in the first place? And I hate how Israeli (and American and Saudi) propaganda keep referring to Israeli prisoners by their names, to humanize them. You will never see refer to them by their names here because I refuse to succumb to the media standards that distinguish between expensive human being, and the cheaper human beings. You want me to feel sorry for an Israeli pilot who was downed while dropping cluster bombs on villages and towns in South Lebanon? Are you kidding me? And then this by Dina Kraft: “Mr. Kuntar, who was formally pardoned by Israel on Tuesday as part of the swap agreement, gave a different version of the night of the attack in his court testimony in 1980, excerpts of which were published for the first time on Monday in Yediot Aharonot, an Israeli newspaper. He told the court that Israeli gunfire had killed Mr. Haran as soldiers burst in to free him and that he did not see what happened to Mr. Haran’s daughter.” First, tell Dina Kraft of the New York Times to do some research. Kuntar never belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He belonged to the Palestinian Liberation Front. Secondly, of course Israel never released the transcript of the trial before because Israel–like that character played by Jack Nicholson said–“CAN”T HANDLE THE TRUTH.” Why would Israel release the actual transcript of the court when they prefer their lies and fabrications to prevail, just as they lied about Munich and their precious athletes. I am more convinced than ever: this is a long struggle, and Zionism will not prevail on the land of Palestine, no matter what, and I don’t care how many Bush, McCain, and Obama come to the rescue of Israeli occupation and aggression.

As I write this at almost 2 AM there are still fireworks going off. I’m watching Al Jazeera listening to Israelis complain that we are celebrating today. I can’t imagine any other emotion other than celebration. Hezbollah returned two legitimate targets today in coffins to the Zionist state. They were soldiers. The resistance fighters who returned today should be honored and celebrated. They are resistance fighters because they fought the imperial, Zionist designs on Palestine and Lebanon. And with this closes a chapter as there are no more Lebanese political prisoners in jail. Al hamdulilah!

But I have one final word. While everyone is looking away at the celebrations in Lebanon we should never forget the 11,500 Palestinian political prisoners as Nasrallah reminded us. Addameer in Ramallah is an amazing Palestinian NGO that deals with prisoner’s rights and I encourage people to check out their website. But also, specifically today, (and I’m sure tomorrow and the next day) Israeli Occupation Forces invaded and kidnapped Palestinians in several areas:

The Israeli army invaded Jalqus village eastern of the West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday at dawn and kidnapped a civilian taking him to an unknown detention camp.

The Israeli army invades a number of civilian residences in Tulkarem

The Israeli army invaded on Wednesday at dawn Kabatia, Kuffer Raee’ and Barkeen villages in the West Bank city of Jenin

The Israeli Army kidnaps 8 civilians and confiscates an institution in Nablus

The Israeli army invaded on Wednesday morning Al Fara’ refugee camp south of the West Bank city of Tubas, with a huge military force, kidnapping at least 5 civilians and injuring a number of locals.

Lest we forget that whenever the world isn’t watching and whenever Israel empties its prisons a bit they are extremely quick about refilling them.


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