Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned by Israel in 2002, is serving five life sentences for his role in multiple terrorist attacks within Israel. He is one of the legendary leaders of what is widely known as the Second Intifada, in which more than a thousand Israelis were killed and many thousands were injured.
But Barghouti is a very charismatic figure. Some call him the “Palestinian Mandela.”
The Fatah Central Committee, of which Barghouti remains a member, is probably aware that “President” Mahmoud Abbas’s term officially ended nearly five years ago. Abbas will have to be replaced at some point by someone who is elected and not just serving as a matter of inertia. And despite Abbas’s frequent claims that he will not run for re-election and his coy, semi-regular “threats” to withdraw from public office, the real problem for Fatah is that if there is an election, Hamas will be the likely victor.
If Hamas wins the next Arab Palestinian election, they will win not just in Gaza, but in the area referred to as the “West Bank.” At least one major reason that would be a terrible result for Fatah members is because all that delicious foreign aid money would dry up.
Enter Barghouti. Or, rather, exit Barghouti.
At least that is the hope.
A new committee was formed in South Africa to campaign for Barghouti’s release from prison. That committee, launched earlier this week, includes the anti-Apartheid activist Desmond Tutu.
This group issued a declaration, referring to Barghouti as “the most prominent and renowned Palestinian political prisoner, a symbol of the Palestinian people’s quest for freedom, a uniting figure and an advocate of peace based on international law.”
Barghouti clearly is a symbol, but surely reasonable people may quibble about whether he is a symbol of the Arab Palestinians’ quest for freedom and an advocate for peace.
Nonetheless, it is said that Barghouti’s popularity transcends merely the Fatah party, and extends even beyond Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In 2006, when Hamas and Fatah split, Barghouti was in the forefront of reunification efforts. While those more brazen advocates of violence support Barghouti, yet Barghouti is still a member of Fatah, thus allowing the western aid spigot to remain open.
Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, believes her husband has not yet been a part of any of the prisoner swaps because she thinks the “old guard” of Fatah fears Barghouti’s political power. But it may be that the old guard is finally realizing that Abbas cannot keep up his long running tap dance, and without new blood Fatah is doomed.
Or maybe others in the party see the handwriting on the wall, and are prepared to allow Barghouti to take his place in the limelight in order to ensure the steady flow of western aid.
A delegation of Fatah officials is scheduled to visit Barghouthi in the Israeli prison, according to the Arab Palestinian media outlet, Al Quds.
Mahmoud Al-Aloul, a member of Fatah’s central committee, said “We have intensified our efforts to design a practical plan which puts pressure on Israel to release Barghouti.”
“If Barghouti is appointed as Vice President to Abbas, and with sufficient international, Palestinian and Arab pressure, then the Israelis must release him, being as he would be a senior Palestinian official.”
Will the West embrace Marwan Barghouti, convicted mass murderer and darling of the Hate Israel crowd, as a legitimate candidate for office, and then force Israel to release the elected leader of the Arab Palestinians?
Sounds like a plan. One likely to succeed.
Note: Barghouti’s role in numerous terrorist activities leading to the deaths of Israelis and others is not in dispute, but this article has been changed to remove the suggestion that his convictions were for two suicide bombings. H/T DG.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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