“A Very Close Friend has Died”

By Dario de Urra Torriente, former Cuban Ambassador to Lebanon on December 21, 2015


Samir el Kantar. Foto: Euronews.

Every day we wake up with our hearts in distress by the unfortunate events that hit the planet on a daily basis. Every morning there is news that announces a new violation of sovereignty to a country, a new injustice, aggression and a new murder. Yesterday there was one that particularly shocked me; the death of Samir el Kantar, the Lebanese resistance fighter, who was killed in an Israeli bombardment that targeted a building in the suburbs of Damascus, capital of the martyred Syria.

The story of the life of Samir prompted me to write these notes as a humble tribute in his memory.

Who was Samir el Kantar?

Samir was born 51 years ago in the heart of the Lebanese mountains, in Aley, Mount Lebanon.

His family was part of the forced migration of the Palestinian people that took place with the establishment of the State of Israel by the United Nations in 1948.  These are the people who were evicted from the land that they had lived on since biblical times expropriated. The sheer strength of the Zionists forced the Palestinians to flee to neighboring countries that welcomed them – such as Lebanon and Syria. Since its inception Israel’s expansionist and criminal policy has not been just against the Palestinians but against all Arab people.

This proximity or coexistence of the young Samir with the suffering of the thousands of Palestinians who, stripped of everything, began to settle in camps in Lebanon. He endured the constant attacks that his own country was subjected to by that same insatiable appetite of Israel for land and water. It is only natural that practically as a child Samir el Kantar joined the Lebanese Resistance.

When he was 17 he entered into the Palestinian occupied territory to be part of a command operation in Naharaya. In the confrontation members of his group, made up of Palestinians and Lebanese, against the occupying Zionist, six Israelis died and Samir was taken prisoner in the operation.

For the next 29 years Samir’s life was spent in the dungeons of Israel. He used his imprisonment productively by studying every book he could get his hands on. It was through this that he reached a political maturity and a vast knowledge of many subjects including teaching himself Hebrew. Also among the books he read were the speeches of Fidel Castro who he deeply admired.

Our Embassy in Lebanon linked into many actions and activities of solidarity bringing about awareness in the Lebanese public opinion about the imprisonment in the U.S. of our Five Heroes with the demand for the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails; in particular that of Samir el Kantar who was among the longest held political detainees.

We could never have imagine that the freedom of Samir would be so close in July 2006 after the savage invasion of the Israeli military into Lebanon. It was only because of the victory brought about by the resistance of the Lebanese people that Hezbollah was able to seize the opportunity to negotiate the release of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.

In an exchange for two Israeli soldiers that were in the hands of the resistance (according to Israel the two soldiers were the justification for the 2006 aggression in the first place) negotiations yielded the return of 199 Lebanese and Palestinian bodies killed by Israel and the release of four Lebanese prisoners including Samir el Kantar.

The Lebanese people received their heroes and martyrs with an indescribable outpouring of joy and honor. It seemed like a dream that Samir, after almost twenty-nine years in prison, had been released, as well as his other colleagues!

In those days the work in Lebanon for the release of the Five was growing and the Lebanese Committee in Solidarity with the Cuban Five was founded. Samir knew the case of the Five and had sent them letters that they never received at first but later some letters were exchanged.

The Lebanese people organized large and warm receptions in every corner of the nation, taking up most of  Samir’s time but never the less just fourteen days after his release, Samir el Kantar visited the Embassy of Cuba in Lebanon, in what was his first private visit in his country.

For us, Cuban and Lebanese who worked at our embassy, it was a pleasant surprise to know the interest that Samir had in visiting us. Despite all those years without his family and countrymen Samir made special time to visit us to show solidarity, sympathy and support to Cuba, Fidel and Raul, the Five Heroes, and our entire country.

During the visit on July 30, Samir evoked the words of Fidel, taken from his defense at his trial for the assault on the Moncada in 1953, and told us: “I am at the disposal of the Cuban Embassy in Lebanon and the Government of Cuba to perform any task that links with the struggle for the liberation of the Five Cuban prisoners in the United States”.

We were impressed by his strong personality, his joy, his charisma, his depth of thought; when he was leaving he said, “Israel has promised to go after me to end my life, I promise the same, I will not stop until we finish with Israel”.  As he was leaving we asked him to be very careful.

A few days later, Samir accepted the recognition of being the Honorary President of the Lebanese Committee for the Freedom of the Five and a year later he traveled to Cuba invited by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with Peoples. He also took advantage during his visit to celebrate his recent marriage with a short honeymoon.

The Lebanese resistance entrusted Samir with the political education of young people. Who better than Samir, a living example of someone who overcame obstacles through his resistance, to work with young people who would be the next generation to carry the banner of struggle against the usurpation and the Zionist aggression against the peoples of Palestine and the Arab world?

We concluded our mission in Lebanon and returned to Cuba and since then we’ve had indirect news about Samir and his work through his brother Bassam, who also worked effectively in the Liberation Committee for the Freedom of the Five and who had traveled to Cuba. We had also heard some news of Samir through our close Lebanese friends but in general information on him had been scarce.

We learned that last July, Samir had granted an interview with the program “Game of Nations” from the Lebanese television station “Al Mayadeen” in which he talked about the tasks that he was doing, without revealing where, but spoke of the resistance in the Golan Heights in Syria, and how the balance of power was favoring the struggle of the Syrian people. In this equation it is no secret that Hezbollah supports Syria in its fight against the invaders of the Islamic Army, the other fundamentalist factions and the continued attacks of Israel.

Samir was supporting the defense of the Syrian people and explaining to the inhabitants of Golan to reject the continuous actions of Israel. In the television interview he said, “I am a man who struggled and I got out of jail to continue the struggle. I don’t mislead anyone, even when I was in jail I said that when I leave the prison I will continue the path of resistance, but where am I? I can’t say that”.

The military security circles of Israel and its media did not stop repeating the name of Samir el Kantar; he was a living nightmare for them and was considered one of the pillars of the resistance of the Golan.

From the moment that Israel negotiated with the Lebanese resistance and the release of Samir they did not stop its efforts to hunt him down because they knew of his potential, his ideological and physical preparation, his courage and his determination to continue in the effort to liberate Palestine and the occupied Arab villages. Then finally we received the sad news on Sunday. On Saturday, December 19, eyewitnesses saw Zionist enemy planes bomb the building where Samir lived in a suburb of Damascus. Three missiles struck the building, reducing it to rubble and causing the deaths of between six and nine companions, among them the own Samir.

His confidence in the new generations, his conviction that the fighters of the Lebanese and Syria Resistance would follow his example, were reiterated by him during the interview granted to a Lebanese Television: “they will kill me, but nothing will change because the Syrian resistance is well formed; I could go, but there is a solid base.”

Go satisfied and in peace Samir, your short life given to the cause of the peoples ended prematurely, but your legacy will continue in the struggle of Palestine and the Arab people against Zionism!

La Habana, December 21, 2015.

Translated by Resumen Latinoamericano, North America Bureau

Source: Al Mayadeen