Head of the Census Department at the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees, Abdul-Nasser Farawna, reported that the current number of elected Palestinian legislators imprisoned by Israel dropped to 22 after Israel released, on Thursday afternoon, two legislators, the Palestine News Network, PNN, reported.
The two legislators who were released Thursday are Khalil Ar-Rabaey from Hebron, and Nasser Abdul-Jawad from Salfit.
Farawna said that Israel released, over the past five days, five legislators identified as Anwar Zboun, Ayman Daraghma, and Mohammad At-Til, in addition to Ar-Rabaey and Abdul-Jawad.
He added that 22 legislators are still imprisoned by Israel, 19 of them are members of the Hamas Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, in addition to the Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, legislator Ahmad Saadat, legislator Marwan Barghouthi and legislator Jamal At-Terawi, both members of Fateh movement.
Farawna stated that the continued abduction and imprisonment of the elected legislators and officials is a direct violation of international law and basic principles of human rights, and a violation of the principles of democracy.
He added that kidnapping Palestinian officials is a rude Israeli meddling in internal Palestinian affairs, and called on Arab and international parliamentarian to act on obliging Israel to secure the release of all elected officials.
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RAMALLAH – Head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society Qadura Fares said Saturday that Israeli media reports on the interrogation of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi failed to prove he confessed to any charge.
Israeli daily Haaretz on Friday reported that records of the leader’s questioning by Israeli internal security service Shin Bet show Barghouti giving partial confessions of his awareness of attacks on Israelis, and late President Yasser Arafat’s tacit acceptance of attacks.
Barghouthi — a revered political figure and former presidential candidate — was convicted by Israel of five counts of murder in 2004, but refused to present a defense, saying the trial was illegitimate.
Fares on Sunday questioned the timing and content of the Haaretz report, ten years after the interrogation took place.
“The Israeli security services, which failed to make Barghouthi give any confessions during four months of interrogation using the ugliest ways of psychological and physical torture, come today with false claims and baseless lies,” Fares said.
“If there were such confessions, the Israelis would have disseminated them at that time, and they would have used them for political gains,” he added.
“I challenge any Israeli service to show any document or paper of any kind signed by Marwan Barghouthi.”
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Last week Marwan Barghouti, the prominent Palestinian political prisoner and Fatah leader, called on Palestinians to launch a ‘large-scale popular resistance’ which would ‘serve the cause of our people.’
The message was widely disseminated as it coincided with Land Day, an event that has unified Palestinians since March 1976. Its meaning has morphed through the years to represent the collective grievances shared by most Palestinians, including dispossession from their land as a result of Israeli occupation.
Barghouti is also a unifying figure among Palestinians. Even at the height of the Hamas-Fatah clashes in 2007, he insisted on unity and shunned factionalism. It is no secret that Barghouti is still a very popular figure in Fatah, to the displeasure of various Fatah leaders, not least Mahmoud Abbas, who heads both the Palestinian Authority and Fatah. Throughout its indirect prisoners exchange talks with Israel, Hamas insisted on Barghouti’s release. Israel, which had officially charged and imprisoned Barghouti in 2004 for five alleged counts of murder – but more likely because of his leading role in the Second Palestinian Intifada – insisted otherwise.
Israel held onto Barghouti largely because of his broad appeal among Palestinians. In late 2009, he told Milan-based Corriere Della Sera that “the main issue topping his agenda currently is achieving unity between rival Palestinian factions” (as quoted in Haaretz, November 25, 2009). Moreover, he claimed that following a unity deal he would be ready to submit candidacy for the Palestinian presidency. Barghouti, is, of course, still in prison. Although a unity deal has been signed, it is yet to be actualized.
Barghouti’s latest statement is clearly targeting the political class that has ruled Palestinians for many years, and is now merely managing and profiting from the occupation. “Stop marketing the illusion that there is a possibility of ending the occupation and achieving a state through negotiations after this vision has failed miserably,” he said. “It is the Palestinian people’s right to oppose the occupation in all means, and the resistance must be focused on the 1967 territories” (BBC, March 27).
Last December, Jospeh Dana wrote, “Barghouti is a figure of towering reverence among Palestinians and even some Israelis, regardless of political persuasion.” However he did not earn his legitimacy among Palestinians through his prophetic political views or negotiation skills. In fact, he was among the Fatah leaders who hopelessly, although genuinely pursued peace through the ‘peace process’ – which proved costly, if not lethal to the Palestinian national movement. Dana wrote, “Barghouti’s pragmatic approach to peace during the 1990s demonstrated his overarching desire to end Israeli occupation at all costs” (The National, Dec 23, 2011).
Although his latest message has articulated a conclusion that became obvious to most Palestinians – for example, that “it must be understood that there is no partner for peace in Israel when the settlements have doubled.” – Barghouti’s call delineates a level of political maturity that is unlikely to go down well, whether in Ramallah or Tel Aviv.
So it’s not his political savvy per se that made him popular among Palestinians, but the fact that he stands as the antithesis of traditional Fatah and PA leadership. Starting his political career at the age of 15, before being imprisoned and deported to Jordan in his early 20s, Barghouti was viewed among Fatah youth – the Shabibah – as the desired new face of the movement. When he realized that the ‘peace process’ was a sham, intended to win time for Israeli land confiscation and settlements and reward a few accommodating Palestinians, Barghouti broke away from the Fatah echelons. Predictably, it was also then, in 2001, that Israel tried to assassinate him.
Marwan Barghouti still has some support in Israel itself, specifically among the politically sensible who understand that Netanyahu’s rightwing government cannot reach a peaceful resolution, and that the so-called two-state solution is all but dead. In a Haaretz editorial entitled ‘Listen to Marwan Barghouti,’ the authors discussed how “back when he was a peace-loving, popular leader who had not yet turned to violence, Barghouti made the rounds of Israeli politicians, opinion-makers and the central committees of the Zionist parties and urged them to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.” The authors recommended that ‘Jerusalem’ listen to Barghouti because he “is the most authentic leader Fatah has produced and he can lead his people to an agreement” (March 30).
In his article entitled ‘The New Mandela’, Uri Avnery wrote that Barghouti “is one of the very few personalities around whom all Palestinians, Fatah as well as Hamas, can unite” (Counterpunch, March 30). However, it is essential that a conscious separation is made between how Barghouti is interpreted by the Palestinians themselves and Israelis (even those in the left). Among the latter, Barghouti is presented as a figure who might have been involved in the “murderous terror” of the second Intifada (Haaretz) but who can also “lead his people to an agreement” – as if Palestinians are reckless multitudes desperate for their own Mandela who is capable, through his natural leadership skills, of uniting them into signing another document.
For years, but especially after the Oslo peace process, successive Israeli governments and officials have insisted that there was “no one to talk to on the Palestinian side.” The tired assertion was meant to justify Israel’s unilateral policies, including settlement construction. However Barghouti is a treasured leader in the eyes of many Palestinians not because he is the man that Israel can talk to, and not because of any stereotypical undertones of him being a ‘strong man’ who can lead the unruly Arabs. Nor can his popularity be attributed to his political savvy or the prominence of his family.
Throughout the years, hundreds of Palestinians have been targeted in extrajudicial assassinations; hundreds were deported and thousands continued to be imprisoned. Marwan Barghouti is a representation of all of them and more, and it’s because of this legacy that his messages matter, and greatly so. In his latest message, Barghouti said that the Palestinian Authority should immediately halt “all co-ordination with Israel – economic and security – and work toward Palestinian reconciliation,” rather than another peace agreement.
Most Palestinians already agree.
- Marwan Barghouti: A Decade of Defiance (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Despite spending the past 10 years in prison, Marwan Barghouti remains at the forefront of the Palestinian liberation movement.
In mid-April 2002, Israeli occupation forces invaded Palestinian cities under Operation Defensive Shield.
The Israeli government at the time was after Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who managed to disappear for three weeks before he was arrested under circumstances that remain unclear to this day.
Barghouti is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Secretary-General of Fatah in the West Bank, but the Israeli state accused him of leading al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and deemed his arrest a great success.
The verdict of five life sentences and 40 years in prison that Barghouti was handed is a clear indication of Israel’s recognition of the “threat to Israel” that he represents. This was expressed by one Israeli leader who described Barghouti as a “young Abu Ammar,” Yasser Arafat’s nom de guerre.
For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once said that he prefers to see Barghouti dead rather than in prison, because he is the engineer and the brains behind the intifada, and he is a symbol of Palestinian national unity and resistance.
Despite his forced absence from the Palestinian public arena, Barghouti is still at the forefront of the political scene. An opinion poll revealed that 55 percent of Palestinians would elect Barghouti if he were to run for the presidency and president Mahmoud Abbas does not run.
The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which conducted the poll, explained that Barghouti swept other Fatah candidates by a big margin, receiving 55 percent of respondents’ votes, while other candidates did not receive more than 3 percent each.
Palestinian political analyst Khalil Shahin refers to three main factors to explain Barghouti’s popularity.
The first is the struggle factor: “Barghouti was always at the forefront of the leaders standing with the people. He had been exiled and detained and with the start of the second intifada, he led the protests,” says Shahin.
“The decisive factor of the legitimacy of any leader,” he adds, “is joining the ranks of the people and that is what Barghouti did.”
The second factor, according to Shahin, is “the nature of the discourse adopted by Barghouti as it is nationalist par excellence. It is not factional and it is not Fatah-centered. Barghouti walked in the footsteps of national leaders like the late Arafat, George Habash, Abu Iyad, Abu Jihad, and others.”
The third factor has to do with “the staunch positions” held by Barghouti and “represented in the last message he issued from prison in which he spoke about the political process, the senseless negotiations, reconciliation, and corruption which might push for the adoption of an new path in the Palestinian strategy for the next phase.”
In addition, the vision proposed by Barghouti, says Shahin, “scares Israel because it might represent the opening of new path in Palestinian resistance against Israel in order to isolate it internationally, which Israel considers a grave danger.”
Despite his imprisonment, the Israelis could not stop Barghouti’s continued struggle as he issued a series of messages to the Palestinian people from inside his prison cell.
On the 10th anniversary of his arrest, Barghouti called for an end to all forms of security and economic cooperation with Israel and for launching wide-ranging popular resistance.
“Experience has demonstrated that there is no partner for peace in Israel. Even worse, settlement building multiplied three or four times over the course of two decades of negotiations and the Judiazation of Jerusalem is accelerating in an unprecedented manner,” his message read.
“We must confirm the absolute right of our people to resist the occupation by all forms, means, and methods, and concentrate this resistance in the territories occupied in 1967 while highlighting the importance of choosing the appropriate form and method for the current phase,” he added.
Barghouti also spoke in his letter about the importance of achieving reconciliation and national unity, and the need for the Palestinian leadership to deal seriously and responsibly with this issue.
He urged pairing resistance with work at the level of diplomacy, politics, and negotiations, as well as struggle and popular activism.
He called for a complete official and popular boycott of Israeli products and goods, and for encouraging people to purchase Palestinian products. He also called for renewing efforts to achieve Palestinian membership in the United Nations.
Barghouti did not forget the most important issue and that is battling corruption which he saw as another face of the occupation. He said “the symbols of corruption who have not been held accountable yet must be held to account.”
Palestinian public opinion might differ on the question of reconciliation but there is an agreement on Barghouti’s strong presence and his nationalist discourse.
Despite him being in prison for 10 years, he has the final word on many sensitive matters having to do with the issue of prisoners, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority.
Exist to Resist
The Palestinian prisoner and MP Marwan Barghouti was born in 1959 in the village of Kobar to the northwest of Ramallah. He joined Fatah at the age of 15.
He was arrested and put in prison by the Israeli occupation forces in 1976 when he was only 18 years old.
After his release, Barghouti headed the Birzeit University Student Council and graduated with a degree in History and Political Science and an MA in International Relations.
He was arrested again in 2002 and has been in prison since then.
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