Paul Greenberg

In 1979, Samir Kuntar led a raid that targeted civilians in Nahariya. His group entered the apartment of a young couple, Danny and Smadar Haran. They took Danny and his 4-year-old daughter, Einat, hostage and retreated to the beach. Trapped there, first, according to witnesses, they killed Danny. The murder of her father would be the last scene Einat would see. For then the raiders killed the little girl -- by bashing her head against a rock. Back at their apartment, Danny's wife, Smadar, had escaped execution by hiding in the crawlspace above a bedroom with their other daughter, two-year-old Yael. Afraid the child would reveal their hiding place, she had covered Yael's mouth with her hand. When she took her hand away, the mother realized she had smothered her child to death.

Nice man, Samir Kuntar.

Nice people, Hezbollah. Their record of atrocities is voluminous, including the bloody suicide bombing that destroyed the Marine barracks in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983, costing 241 American lives.

But 241 is such a large, impersonal number. Outside of their still grieving families, who now knows the story of each of those lives cut short?

To some of us, what says most about the character of Hezbollah, about its leaders and tactics, about its current demands and future plans, is that scene on the beach at Nahariya, with father, daughter and murderers.

What is at stake in this latest unpleasantness in the Middle East is made clearest by Hezbollah's demand that the sainted Samir Kuntar be set free. There's doubtless a hero's welcome waiting for him in Lebanon.

More than all the words being written about this latest crisis in the Mideast, what haunts is the image of a little girl's head being bashed against the rocks along a beautiful Mediterranean beach.

In his Bastille Day address last Friday, French President Jacques Chirac denounced Israel's response to Hezbollah's attacks as "totally disproportionate."


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.