In exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped in 2006, the Israeli government released five Lebanese prisoners on Wednesday, some of whom had been imprisoned for murdering civilians. Clearly averse to the resolution, the authorities posted videos on YouTube in both Arabic and English, to remind viewers that the men released are not the heroes that Hezbollah makes them out to be, but cold-blooded killers.
The most famous of the five is Samir Qantar, who was sentenced in 1979 for the murder of three Israeli civilians including a father and his four-year-old daughter. While famed as a hero in Lebanon, he is hated by the vast majority of the population in Israel. The Israeli videos were launched to counteract Hezbollah's efforts at glorifying Qantar as a national hero. There were also 190 Lebanese and Palestinian bodies handed over by the Israeli government as part of the deal.
Videos posted by the Israeli government
The Israeli Prime Minister's Office posted this video on YouTube the day before the Lebanese prisoners' release. Produced for an English speaking audience, a dramatic narrative reminiscent of Hollywood in the 40s tells the story of Qantar's murders.
The spokesman from the foreign ministry addresses web users in Arabic. Unlike the attempted high drama of the first video, this film simply shows Ofir Gendelman, sitting in front of the Israeli flag, calmly explaining to his audience who Qantar is and why the government had decided to go ahead with the exchange.
Extracts:For Hezbollah, Samir Qantar is a first-rate hero, while for Israel and the rest of the civilized world he is the most despicable of murderers. This is a child-killer who Hezbollah is welcoming with praises, cries, and parades. This is a savage murderer, who you extremists see as a hero. Hezbollah is a radical terror organization that is working under Iranian sponsorship. Hezbollah is proud of cold-blooded murder. (...) Respected viewers, just one last word, If Hezbollah tries to carry out another kidnapping, the Israeli response will be tougher than it was in July 2006."
"What would you feel if you were forced to watch your 4-year-old child's head banged against a wall?"
One of our Israeli Observers is a 23-year-old musician in Ra'anana. He wants to remain anonymous.The first movie (in English) expresses the emotional side of the tragic act that Qantar followed through. But it's not too hard-hitting and follows "western limits" in order to somehow create a balanced view rather than just using shock value. The problem is, that the movies have been produced for Arabs, who see the same kind of stuff from anti-Israel terror groups on a daily base. Those films are filled with blood, body parts, victims' pictures and full of shock value. They're designed to touch hearts while this movie is directed towards the mind.
The second movie (in Arabic) is more detailed but he doesn't say enough in order to create the necessary impact - they need to feature footage of the act, otherwise you've forgotten the message after 10 minutes. I would do it more in-your-face - "what would you feel if you were forced to watch your 4-year-old child's head banged against a wall bleeding until she died from the hands of a person in front of your eyes?""
"His return was celebrated by all Lebanese people, not just Hezbollah"
Bernard Mikael is secretary general for the Général Aoun Lebanon Movement (General Aoun is a Christian politician who signed an agreement with Hezbollah in 2006).The video in English is trying to stir up the emotions of Americans and Europeans while insisting on the murder of the child. It'll certainly work. The one in Arabic however, won't get through to anyone. Unlike their leaders, the Arabic people are favourable towards Hezbollah. You just have to see the way they reacted after the militant group's victory in 2006.
I don't consider Qantar a hero, because I'm against the death of civilians. But in Lebanon he's become a symbol of resistance against Israel. You have to remember that Qantar has no link to Hezbollah. He was arrested in 1979 and the movement wasn't even created until 1984! [it's generally assumed that Hezbollah was formed in 1982] At that time, he belonged to the FLP [Front for the Liberation of Palestine]. So his return was celebrated by all Lebanese people, not just Hezbollah.
These videos don't surprise me. In its arrogance, the Israeli government is always trying to depict Arab people as barbaric terrorists, while they practice terrorism through the state, which claims many more victims. Just think of the 2006 war with Hezbollah. The Lebanese movement attacked a military target. Israeli's response however meant that 1,200 Lebanese civilians lost their lives. It's double standards. Kuntar gets called a murderer, but the crimes committed by Israel are ignored."