Tuesday, April 18, 2017

18-Apr-17: So what, in reality, is Marwan Barghouti?

Barghouti, convicted on multiple counts of murder by shooting,
is a candidate for the next Nobel Peace Prize [Image Source: Arab media]
There are serious efforts underway this week to re-engineer the public image of the convicted Palestinian Arab felon, Marwan Barghouti.

Those efforts, based on disinformation, partial information and lots of spin, are directed at concealing the facts of his crimes and imprisonment and putting some wind into the sails of this ambitious man's on/off political career.

Outrageously, the key thing to know about Barghouti, according to one of the world's most influential newspapers which provided him yesterday ["Why We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel’s Prisons", New York Times, April 17, 2017] with an invaluable op ed platform to megaphone his extreme views, is that
Source: New York Times
In the following 24 hours, the Times found itself in the midst of a storm of protest. We have little sympathy for how the NYT's public editor summed things up today.

A side issue: Barghouti's English is poor. Yet "his" op ed, datelined Hadarim Prison, is a slickly-written piece of eloquent self-promotion. We think there's a teensie-tiny possibility it was written by professional pubic relations people in his name. Ah, but truly, who pays attention to such trivia when the cause is so compelling?

Barghouti has an interesting group of admirers who help his self-promotion process move forward. Here are just a few.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the South African church leader who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, regularly sings Barghouti's praises. On one view, this is exceedingly odd, given how the Nobel committee specifically noted Tutu's own "nonviolent path to liberation" in its citation. So then is Tutu unware of Barghouti's lethal criminality, as widely outlined in the media for anyone who cares to look (for instance Dr Emmanuel Navon's cogently argued "Desmond Tutu is Wrong about Marwan Barghouti")? No, it does not seem that he is unaware. Instead, like many at that extreme end of the political spectrum, he seems to feel criminality of Barghouti's kind just doesn't count. And to show he means it, he has lately been touting the deeply offensive notion that Barghouti ought to get the same rich prize that Tutu himself did ["Bishop Tutu Nominates Jailed Palestinian Leader Barghouti for Nobel Peace Prize", Michael Friedson, June 8, 2016].

Al Jazeera, referring to the noble hero of the South African struggle to defeat apartheaid, calls Barghouti "the Palestinian Mandela". So do the Ma'an News Agency and a commentator at The Guardian. On the other hand, Le Monde, in the course of an interview with Barghouti, calls the comparison "debatable".

Adolfo Perez Esquivel, an Argentine human rights activist who received the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize and is a leader of the non-violent Latin American Christian group Servicio Paz y Justicia, is another supporter of a Barghouti Nobel [May 2016 source]. So is the parliament of Tunisia [source]. And so are sixteen mayors of towns in France [source] including Valenton and Bergerac (unfortunately we don't know the names of the other metropolises).

A cluster of Belgians, all of them involved in their country's national politics, followed suit and wrote to the Nobel committee in May 2016, improbably calling Barghouti "a peace activist":
“Peace requires the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and of the political prisoners, and more generally the freedom of the Palestinian people living for decades under occupation.”
Thinking logically, we might have surmised that the Belgians meant to exclude homicidal thugs from the list of those to be freed because what possible basis can there be to label such felons "political prisoners"? But then they do seem serious about wanting Barghouti to go to Oslo. So evidently they - like Tutu - don't see a conflict between being (a) a convicted murderer and (b) a peace activist. Sort of like being both a cheese-burger addict and an activist for veganism.

But for those to whom facts and realities still mean something, here's a brief excursion through the contemporary reports that accompanied his journey into the Israeli penal system. To emphasize the point, we refer to news reports carried by Haaretz which is much closer to Tutu's views than to ours.

The capture:
Wiretapping revealed that Barghouti was hiding in a safe house. The commander of the army’s Ramallah Brigade... told Haaretz: “When the intelligence arrived that he was in a building in the heart of a Ramallah neighborhood... an armored brigade surrounded the site and the baton was passed to me. The Duvdevan unit was under my command. We understood that he was in the building. One of the soldiers saw him through the window, taking cover close to what looked to us, at least, like an old woman who was lying on a bed. We removed everyone from the building... ["Will Marwan Barghouti be the Palestinian Nelson Mandela?", Haaretz, July 5, 2016]
The conviction
The Tel Aviv District Court convicted former West Bank Tanzim commander Marwan Barghouti in the deaths of five people on Thursday. Barghouti was convicted of three terror attacks in which the five were murdered, as well as in another charge of attempted murder, membership in a terror organization and conspiring to commit a crime. However, the court acquitted him of 33 other murders with which he was charged, noting that there was no evidence that he was a full partner to those incidents...  The court ruled that Barghouti was directly responsible for a January 2002 terror attack on a gas station in Givat Zeev in which Israeli Yoela Chen was murdered. The attack, the judges said, was carried out at his direct order in revenge for the assassination of Raed Carmi. Barghouti had admitted his responsibility for this attack. The attack in which a Greek monk was murdered in Ma'aleh Adumim on June of 2001 was also carried out at the instruction of Barghouti, the judges said. The former Tanzim leader, the court ruled, also approved the March 2002 attack at Tel Aviv's Seafood Market restaurant in which three people were murdered, as well as a car bomb attack in Jerusalem... [He] was charged with leading dozens of terror operations against Israeli targets since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising, including suicide and shooting attacks that led to the death and injury of hundreds of Israeli citizens and Israel Defense Force soldiers. According to the charge sheet, Barghouti headed the Fatah, Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade terror groups in the West Bank and was subordinate to Arafat... The state prosecutor said Barghouti funded and planned terror attacks and is not the political activist he claimed to be... Barghouti's supporters in the European parliament were expected to show up for the ruling... ["Barghouti Convicted in Deaths of Five People", Haaretz, May 20, 2004]
Barghouti was sentenced by judges Sarah Sirota, Amiram Benyamini and Avraham Tal to five consecutive life terms plus an additional 40 years. The judges observed that
Barghouti used to receive reports of the attacks carried out by his associates only after they were completed. This was an effort to preserve his image as a political leader not involved in armed attacks against Israelis... [Haaretz, June 6, 2004
And some occasionally overlooked points, via JTA:
When Israeli authorities chose to put Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti on trial in a criminal court rather than a military court, prosecutors may have set the stage for an even bigger prize: Yasser Arafat. That possibility was given a boost last week with Barghouti’s conviction on five counts of murder, for Israelis killed in three separate shooting ambushes... The judges said Barghouti could be convicted only in cases where it was proven that he had prior knowledge of imminent terrorist attacks and that he approved the attacks... [He] was acquitted on 21 other counts of murder for lack of evidence. Both outcomes bolstered the argument for putting Palestinian terrorists on trial in regular Israeli courts rather than in military courts, where the standards of evidence are not as strict. Barghouti’s conviction shows that there is sufficient evidence to put terrorists behind bars using standard criminal procedures, and his acquittal on the other counts lends legitimacy to the argument that even Palestinian terrorists will get fair trials in Israel... ["Barghouti conviction could foretell Arafat trial", JTA, May 24, 2004]
Some additional overlooked dimensions:
  • Marwan Barghouti publicly boasted of his role in igniting what many call the Second Intifada in 2000. We published his direct quotes (translated to English) here. This may come as a surprise to those who think of Ariel Sharon visiting the Temple Mount in September 2000 as being the real story. 
  • He personally laid out $500 [source (no longer on-line) and here via Wayback Machine quoting a November 30, 2004 Margot Dudkevitch report in the Jerusalem Post] for the making of the explosive-filled guitar case that was brought to, and exploded inside, Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria destroying it on August 9, 2001 and killing fifteen innocent people including our daughter Malki. The bombmaker was Abdullah Barghouti, a clansman.
  • When another clansman Bilal Barghouti, a senior Hamas operative, was on the run from the Israeli security forces because of his involvement in the massacre at the Sbarro pizzeria (he was later convicted for his part), Marwan Barghouti sheltered him for a time in his home. Bilal Barghouti said for the record that, during his stay there, "he saw a number of weapons, and when he left the house Barghouti armed him with a gun for his use." [Source: CAMERA] Marwan Barghouti is an unindicted accessory after the fact to the Sbarro murders.
Leader and parliamentarian, battler for non-violence and peace, candidate for the world's most important reward for bringing peace to the world. 

And also a cold-blooded thug closely directing other thugs. A man happy to appear in public gripping a sub-machine gun as he claims credit for the blood-drenched Intifadeh years from 2000 onwards.

We don't think it's all that difficult to distinguish between Barghouti the plastic-coated fantasy and invention of parts of the media, and Barghouti the loathsome killer of innocents. In the end, it seems to come down - tragically - to whom and what you want to believe.

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