Joshua B. Dermer/TPS
Jerusalem (TPS) – Israeli officials expressed outrage on Wednesday over former South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s nomination of Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist, for the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday. Barghouti was convicted in 2004 of ordering the murder of five Israeli citizens and is now serving five life sentences.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister of public security, and Eli Ben-Dahan, the deputy defense minister, blasted Tutu’s nomination of Barghouti in remarks to Tazpit Press Service (TPS) on Wednesday.
“The attempt to make the arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti a legitimate nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize is ridiculous and poses a moral contradiction for anyone who wants peace,” Erdan told TPS in a statement communicated through his spokesman, Shai Mordov. “Barghouti is an abhorrent terrorist who is responsible for the murder of innocents and belongs in jail for the rest of his life. Presenting him as a candidate for the [Nobel] Prize is an unethical, illegitimate act that will only distance any chance to achieve true peace in our region.”
“Shame on religious figures who support the murderer of women and children as a Nobel Prize candidate,” Ben-Dahan, himself a rabbi, told TPS. “Barghouti is a convicted terrorist, who even today still calls for the murder of Jews. Barghouti’s way leads to the death of innocents.”
“The very mention of his name in the same sentence as the Nobel Peace Prize is a ridiculous insult to the prize,” added Ben-Dahan.
Tutu, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts in ending South African apartheid, wrote a letter on Monday to the Norwegian Nobel Committee nominating Barghouti for the prestigious prize, describing him as “a symbol of the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom.”
“Marwan is also an active advocate and defender of democracy and human rights, including women’s rights, and of pluralism, both religious and political, in a region and a world that desperately needs such advocates,” Tutu wrote.
Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role in leading terrorist activities during the first and second intifadas that included dozens of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. He is a former leader of the Tanzim, a militant faction of the Fatah party currently headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, that took credit for many of the murders during the bloody Second Initfada in the early 2000’s. In 2014, he called for the launch of a third intifada.
Roger Friedman, Tutu’s spokesman, declined a request by TPS to comment.
Tutu is a frequent critic of Israel and outspoken proponent of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel. During a visit to Israel in 2009 he argued that Jews should “forgive” the Nazis and that Palestinians are “paying penance for the Holocaust” – remarks that earned censure from Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
Tutu was affiliated in the past with the Peres Center for Peace, the organization of Israel’s former president and prime minister Shimon Peres – himself a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
As of Wednesday morning Tutu’s name still appeared on the Peres Center’s website as an honorary board member, TPS discovered, but the page containing his name appears to have since been removed. A spokeswoman for the Peres Center declined to comment on Tutu’s remarks or the website.
Barghouti is regarded by PA Arabs as a political prisoner and potential successor to President Abbas, as he consistently garners widespread support in polls for potential Palestinian Authority elections. Yet to Israel – and to the families of the five victims for whose murders he sits in jail, as well as dozens of others for which Barghouti was acquitted on account of insufficient evidence – he is an arch-terrorist.