Western readers heard much about Israel releasing its only Lebanese prisoner-a terrorist murderer-in the Hizballah prisoner exchange but not of 600 Lebanese held in Syria, some for 30 years without any trial, for nonviolent political offenses during Syria’s occupation of Lebanon. Hizballah, which went to war with Israel and inflicted billions of dollars of damage on Lebanon nominally to free one terrorist, doesn’t lift a finger to help them, a fact not lost on fellow Lebanese who acknowledge Israel’s concern for its own citizens. The exchange triggered a movement to get them back. One prisoner’s mother held a sign saying, ‘Not just in Israel…. In Syria also!’
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem’s response? ‘I say to the families of those missing and those detained that he who has been patient for 30 years can wait a bit longer.’
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).