An Associated Press article, "Jailed militant key to Mideast talk", published on Wednesday, is the latest in a series that paint Marwan Barghouti as a Mandela-like man of peace who, if only he were sprung from jail, would take his natural place in the pantheon of Palestinian Arab statespersons and blaze a path to wherever it is they believe the Palestinian Arabs are heading. (CIFwatch documented similar media efforts in an excellent analysis last year.)
We personally sat through the murder trial of Marwan Barghouti back in 2004. The hearing was in Tel Aviv, in the Magistrates Court complex that rarely gets the kind of lavish media attention in evidence that week. Aljazeera's TV crew were there along with reporters from all over. A motley assemblage of lawyers from Israel, the PA and overseas were too, intent on defending the 'great' man from the lowly offenses of which he was charged. Some of the most entertaining moments on the trial's first day involved one of those would-be advocates, an unusually boorish individual intent on making a splash, being physically picked up by the security people and thrown out the door of the court room and onto the floor of the adjacent lobby. (You dream of moments like that.)
Two main factors (among many) persuaded us to be there.
One: Marwan Barghouti had personally given post-massacre shelter and money to members of the Hamas gang that planned and carried out the bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in which our teenage daughter was murdered three years earlier. He was, in legal terms, an accessory after the fact to the terrorism.
And one of the five victims for whose murder Barghouti was charged was a very Jewish-looking, traditionally bearded man, driving his car in 2001 along one of Judea's intercity desert roads and shot dead from a distance by Barghouti's sharp-shooters and a volley of 13 bullets. Only this was no Jew. He was in fact a young, bearded Greek Orthodox monk, Tsibouktsakis Germanus, also known as Father Herman, from the ancient monastery at Wadi Kelt. Shot dead while looking Jewish.
One of lawyers in the defense counsel team was the self-parodying (and subsequently disgraced) Shamai Leibowitz, grandson of one of modern Israel's great religious philosophers.
Leibowitz proposed to the court, with chutzpah that brought some of us to point of choking with rage, that the cold-blooded Barghouti with those deeply blood-drenched hands ought to be viewed as a warrior in the service of freedom, challenging the Pharaohs of his time. The court ought to think of him as being like Moses, Israel's great Law Giver. There were less bizarre moments too.
Honest Reporting, whose comment brought us to notice this, asked today: How does the Associated Press describe Barghouti? This way:
...the Palestinians are seeking the freedom of Marwan Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences for his alleged role in killings of IsraelisAlleged role?