Reactions to the prisoner exchange deal:

Ismail Haniya

Ismail Haniya

Samir Kuntar

Samir Kuntar

Khabar TV, July 16

Khabar TV, July 16

Khabar TV, July 16

Khabar TV, July 16

Ismail Haniya   Samir Kuntar

Ismail Haniya celebrating Samir Kuntar’s release (Al-Jazeera website, July 16).


An Al-Jazeera TV report sympathetic to Samir Kuntar, broadcast July 21. Al-Jazeera’s website featured dozens of talkbacks, all of them supporting of Kuntar and praising his murderous actions (Al-Jazeera website, July 21).


1. Syria , Iran , Lebanon and the PA joined the propaganda campaign produced by Hezbollah around the exchange deal, representing it as a great achievement for Hezbollah and the "resistance” (terrorism) in general. In the pan-Arab arena Al-Jazeera TV joined the joyous propaganda campaign of support for Hezbollah. On the other hand, the Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi Arabian government-controlled media played down the issue, although those same newspapers, as well as the independent or opposition press, continue to praise Hezbollah.

Khabar TV, July 16   Khabar TV, July 16

Video glorifying Hezbollah broadcast by Iranian TV (Khabar TV, July 16).


2. Egyptian reporting of the prisoner exchange deal was laconic. Most of the government-controlled papers did not give the issue prominence and reporting was informative. Al-Ahram was the only paper to devote editorial content to the deal. A column called it "a victory over the enemy” and called upon Palestinians to learn from it to achieve the release of the Palestinian prisoners and the establishment of an independent state (Al-Ahram, July 17). The independent and opposition press was also informative in its reports of the deal.


3. Reports in the Jordanian media were informative and not rate large headlines. The independent pro-Palestinian dailies emphasized the joy in Lebanon , comparing it with the mourning in Israel . Some of the columns noted that Hezbollah had been strengthened by the deal and had become an important factor in Middle East politics. Official Jordanian television did not broadcast the festivities produced by Hezbollah in Lebanon . The state daily newspaper Al-Rai gave the issue minimum coverage.

4. The opposition and pro-Palestinian papers reacted to the deal as follows:

i) The pro-Palestinian daily Al-Dustour represented it as the successful realization of every goal Nasrallah had set for himself in July 2006, and which had untied Lebanese everywhere. An editorial stated that the deal sent Israel the message that recognizing the Palestinians’ rights was the only way to end the conflict. Yasser Zaatra , an Islamist journalist, wrote that the deal was another step on the path to Israel ‘s final defeat and "wiping it off the face of the earth” (Al-Dustour, July 17).

ii) Taher al-Adwan , editor in chief of the daily Al-Arab al-Youm , wrote that the deal changed the rules of the game and that now the players tended to avoid frontal confrontations, preferring to negotiate on the basis of their own interests. Pro-Syrian journalist Nihad Hatar wrote that the deal expressed the new balance of power which had come into being in 2006 (Al-Arab al-Youm), July 20). Ahmad Abu Khalil claimed that Hezbollah had shown it dealt with more than its own organizational interests and had succeeded in carrying out the deal despite the entire world (Al-Arab al-Youm), July 17).

iii) Jamil al-Nimri , writing for the leftist Al-Ghad , said that Hezbollah’s popularity had risen after the deal because it had succeeding in providing the Lebanese public with a feeling of pride, as opposed to the humiliation felt in Israel. He was of the opinion that the deal was another blow for the moderate Arab camp and a prize for Hezbollah (Al-Ghad, July 17).

iv) With regard to the opposition organizations and the Muslim Brotherhood: Laith Shbilat , chairman of an organization the so-called association for the struggle against Zionism and racismpraised Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah, saying that their victory showed how moral they were. The Jordanian Writers Union sent messages to the Lebanese president and Hezbollah general secretary expressing its pride in the "historic victory” (Al-Arab al-Youm, July 18). The Higher Coordinating Committee of the Opposition Parties congratulated the Lebanese "resistance” on the deal. The committee’s spokesman sent a message to Hassan Nasrallah saying that "the era of defeat has ended and the era of victory has arrived” (Website of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan , July 19).

Saudi Arabia

5. The Saudi Arabian media did not grant the prisoner exchange deal much coverage. The daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (one of the most popular papers in the Middle East, published in London , with a Saudi Arabian orientation) criticized the festivities in Lebanon , exceptional in the Arab world. The column reporting the deal stated, among other things, that despite the joy at the return of the prisoners to Lebanon , it should be remembered that Lebanon suffered great financial losses in the war, estimated at $5.2 billion, and that the price in human suffering was 1,200 dead and 4,400 wounded (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, July 17).


6. The Syrian media continue praising the exchange deal. On the day of the deal itself it was the top item on all the Syrian TV news programs, and all the Syrian media relate to it as a victory for Hezbollah.

7. Issam Dari , the editor in chief of the Syrian daily Tishrin , exploited the opportunity to publish a hate-article with strong overtones of incitement against Israel , praise for terrorism and anti-Semitism. It stated that the anger and humiliation felt by Israel did not prevent it from "continuing its terrorism” and it would try in the future to kill Samir Kuntar. He noted that the losses suffered by Israel in the deal made it imperative for the "resistance” (terrorism) to continue, because the age of defeat had ended and the age of victory had begun. It also claimed that most Israelis were "murderers and terrorists, some of whom became members of the Israeli parliament and prime ministers.” He said that the Israeli "street” was full of racist ideas and religious precepts ( mitzvot ) from the Talmud, which were often repeated by Jewish religious sages (rabbis), especially Ovadiah Yosef, who regarded Arabs and Muslims as "insects and cockroaches which should be destroyed” (Tishrin, July 20).

8. Syrian political commentator Rajaa al-Nasser said that the prisoner exchange deal might lead to a proposal to disarm Hezbollah on the claim that the "resistance” had realized its goal. Such a proposal, he said, was "part of an attempt to impose a blockade on Iran or to attack it by cutting off its branches in the region, or as part of a deal that will include Iran , in accordance with the current American administration’s capabilities in the last months of its rule” (Ilaf, July 17).


9. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt , despite his central position in the anti-Syrian camp (the March 14 Forces), praised the release of Druze Samir Kuntar and the "resistance” (i.e., Hezbollah and the terrorist organizations in general). He said that "we should not forget that Palestinian is one big prison and we must complete the struggle for its liberation” Jumblatt noted that the day the prisoners returned was also the day of the first meeting of the new Lebanese government, which "expresses genuine national unity” (Al-Hayat, July 17).

1 Update of our July 16, 2008 Bulletin, "Two years after the second Lebanon war the bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were exchanged for five Lebanese prisoners, including the terrorist murderer Samir Kuntar…,”