WASHINGTON (Sep. 19)
The Rev. Benjamin Weir, who was released last Saturday after being held for 16 months by Lebanese terrorists, said Thursday that the United States should “re-examine” its policy toward Israel.
The 61-year-old Presbyterian missionary made this statement in response to a question at a press conference here at which he said he told President Reagan that his captors, in releasing him, made one demand — that the U.S. put pressure on Kuwait to release 17 prisoners.
He said his captors said that if the prisoners, responsible for bombing the U.S. Embassy and other facilities in Kuwait, were released the six other Americans being held hostage in Lebanon would be let go. But the terrorists warned that if this did not happen soon they would kidnap other Americans and would begin executing them, Weir said.
“I do not identify myself exactly with what they (his captors) are asking nor with their point of view,” Weir said when asked whether he identifies himself with his captors’ view of Israel.
“But I do feel that there is need to reexamine U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and specifically regarding matters relating to U.S. policy with respect to Israel and the effect of that policy upon Lebanon and neighboring countries in the Middle East. I think there is great need to reexamine that policy and to seek where that is leading us.”
CITES HIS CAPTORS’ POINT OF VIEW
Earlier, Weir said that his captors, while stressing their main objective of freeing the prisoners in Kuwait, continually said that “they were very much opposed to the Israeli invasion of south Lebanon and to the continuing effect spilling out from the occupation of south Lebanon. And most especially, they were angry and committed against U.S. policy in support of Israel. They aim ultimately in the long run toward bringing about a greater system of justice to oppressed people in the Middle East and in Arab lands and ultimately establishing what they saw as a more just Islamic government.”
In response to a question from Jeremy Levin of the Cable News Network, also a former kidnap victim in Lebanon, Weir said he does not believe he is a victim of the “Stockholm syndrome” where captives are brainwashed to accept the views of their captors. Weir, who had lived in Beirut since 1953, said that his first five years there were spent among a largely Shiite community and he understands that Shiites, like others, have different viewpoints.
“I do not believe that my attitude has changed in any way, “Weir said. “I deeply resent the injustice of my being kidnapped.” But Weir urged the U.S. to accept the offer of his captors to negotiate for the release of the six Americans still being held. He said that “opportunity for negotiations should be seized” because time is short and the chance may not come again.
Although Weir was released on Saturday, it was not made public until President Reagan announced it Wednesday. Weir said the reason for the secrecy was the hope that the other Americans might also be released. When this did not happen he decided to hold a press conference although he refused to go into detail of his captivity.