Everybody saw how, immediately after the death of Nelson Mandela, the Palestinian Authority and it’s supporters jumped at the opportunity to invoke the legacy of apartheid and apply it to the predicament of the Palestinians. That was pretty bad. However, what goes further than that is trying to label Palestinian leaders with the legacy of Mandela. So-and-so “could be the Palestinian Mandela”, they say.
Regardless of how individuals may perceive Mandela and how they perceive what he did differently, his name is synonymous with “being a freedom fighter without physically fighting”. It is undeniable that he is the ‘Gandhi’ of this generation, if not certainly of my own generation. He was the leader of an oppressed people, and rallied them to protest against oppression through peaceful and political means as opposed to violent ones. Therefore, to label someone with being the “Mandela” of a people is to imply that they search peace through peaceful means.
As Mandela lay in state, an Al Jazeera writer published an Op-Ed called ‘Cut from the same cloth: Mandela and Barghouti“. It gives a heroic narrative of the Palestinian political figure Marwan Barghouti, a figure that the Western media often paints as being the ‘Palestinian Mandela’.
The BBC, among other institutions has tried to imply that Mr. Barghouti, through his ‘support for the two state solution on 1967 borders’ and his significant popularity amongst Palestinians (about 60% would vote for him) is somehow equivalent of him being the Palestinian ‘Mandela’. To quote the South African writer of the Op-Ed:
The 54-year-old Barghouti, who has widely been referred to as the Mandela of Palestine, is likewise “a fighter for freedom who avoided violence“, to borrow Netanyahu’s words.
This is immediately followed by a complete contradiction of what the writer then declares Barghouti to be in the next paragraph:
Barghouti too was faced with an intransigent state that answered legitimate, non-violent resistance with repression. By the time of the second Intifada, which began in 2000, Barghouti was in charge of Fatah’s armed wing. In 2002, he was arrested and later handed down five life sentences, spending three years in solitary confinement.
What? Israel answered legitimate, non-violent resistance with repression? Rocks and rockets aren’t violent? Where are the Palestinian peaceful protests, the banners saying ‘two states for two people’? What effort for a serious, plausible political solution has there been on the Palestinian side? And this is before the ‘Second Intifada’, so one may perhaps remember that there was a First Intifada to proceed that. This was an intifada that Barghouti of course, participated in. Was that, too, an act of ‘legitimate, non-violent resistance’?
Not only that but: Barghouti avoided violence yet acted as head of an armed wing? Umm… Ummm… Ummmm….
…he has been critical of attacks on civilians while holding firm to his belief in popular resistance; and he has called for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.
He has been ‘critical’. Not ‘condemned’, ‘abhorred’, ‘vilified’, but ‘been critical’. How frightfully groundbreaking. Here’s a newsflash- you cannot be ‘critical of terror’ when you are serving years in prison for committing terrorist offenses. This is ‘hypocrisy’. To prove that point, let’s hop back to around the time of the Second Intifada.
Barghouti was disillusioned and said that popular protests and “new forms of military struggle” would be features of the “next Intifada”.
Wait, what? Barghouti does not support attacks on civilians, yet headed Tanzim, a Fatah terror wing, and served as an architect of the Second Intifada just under 11 years ago? And he has not once renounced the violence that he used or the actions that he committed during the Intifada? When a mass-murderer is later critical of murders, should the government regard him as special and release him immediately? Because this is the exact case that is being faced here. A terrorist with blood on his hands has criticised other murders (but notably, not even his own) and is somehow as a consequence eligible for release.
Now to quote Avi Issacharoff on HaAretz…
Barghouti, who is likely to become the next Palestinian President, was convicted by the Israeli justice system of five counts of murder – four Israelis and a Greek monk – during the second intifada. There is no question he supported and encouraged violence.
We’ll get to the president point later. But for now, supported and encouraged violence? Five counts of murder? Back to the Mandela assertion- Mandela’s main charge was political (communism). Barghouti was convicted for the specific act of murders and terror and remains in jail for it. He is not a political prisoner. He got a lifetime in prison for each one of the murders he committed, and 40 years on top for good measure. He ordered the murders of people. To bespecific, these ones (The ones in italics he was convicted specifically for):
-The murder of a Greek Orthodox Monk, Maale Adumim.
-A shooting of 6 people at a Bat Mitzvah, Hadera.
-A shooting of 2 people in Jerusalem.
-A shooting of an Israeli policewoman in Neve Yaakov.
-A murder of an Israeli in Jerusalem.
-A shooting of 3 at a Tel Aviv seafood restaurant.
Which, in total, leads to a grand total of 13 dead people with many more injured. Their blood remains to be on Barghouti’s hands and it is blood that he does not even apologise for spilling. There is quite simply no escaping the fact that Marwan Barghouti is a murderer and a terrorist, convicted for murder and terrorism. This is regardless of what he ‘now believes.’
If only it were that simple. There are some that insist that “it’s him or Hamas”, some go as far as insisting that Israel keeps him in prison because he is indeed the “Palestinian Mandela”. However, does Israel have to negotiate with terrorists every time? If Barghouti is the next “Palestinian President”, that will be the second terrorist in charge of the destiny of the Palestinian people. Note how nobody called Arafat a Mandela figure.
Not only that.
There is no sign that any demands that Barghouti would hypothetically make as Palestinian President, would be more reasonable than those of incumbent President Mahmoud Abbas. There is a reason that he is so popular with Hamas. (that being one reason that his supporters pimp to the world as being a reason to release him because he can “bridge the gap between the factions”.) Not only because of his violent role in the intifadas and as a militant leader is he popular with the Gaza terrorist organisation, but also because of his role in the authorship of the 2006 “Prisoners’ Document”. This document was meant to be a breakthrough in terms of concord between the major factions of the Palestinian political spectrum, as they called for:
1. A Palestinian State on pre-1967 borders (there is no mention of the other bit of the 1967 borders or even of that ‘entity’)
2. The Right of Return (Yawn)
3. The ascention of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to the PLO.
4. The right of Palestinians to resist and ‘stick to the option of resistance in various ways’. (Singing Kumbaya is not one of those ways, assumedly)
5. A condemnation of the use of weapons (as a means to settle or solve internal Palestinian disputes)
6. Regulate and organise the ‘resistance forces’ and their weapons.
There is, naturally, no recognition of the Jewish state. The word Israel was not even used once. There is no recognition of even a State of Israel, an Israeli entity, a Zionist entity, Jew-state, the vicious swarm of Zionists- nada; such recognition is the real thing that is what is required to get the peace process underway on the Israeli side.
That said, there is, an affirmation of support for the ‘right of resistance in various ways’. Is the whole charter not the same narrative that we are hearing today with some concessions to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad (ie. their role in the PLO and their right to ‘resist in various ways’?) Is it worth accepting Hamas and the Islamic Jihad into the PLO, where they can influence the demands of the Palestinian side of the table and further sabotage any peace deals, making demands even more absurd and ridiculous than they are from the MODERATE Abbas? Is it worth releasing a terrorist leader and a murderer in order to hear more of the same?
If what he did in 2002 is not enough to convince you. To quote CBS just last year:
In a letter read aloud at a rally in Ramallah on Tuesday, the former head of Fatah’s Tanzim militia called on the P.A. to sever all ties with Israel, saying it is not a partner for peace.
“Launching a large-scale popular resistance at this stage will serve the cause of our people,” Barghouti wrote. People have an “absolute right to use all methods and means to resist occupation,” he added.
Barghouti praised Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all those who succeeded in carrying out terror attacks against Israelis, including Wafa Idris and Ayat al-Akhras, two female Fatah suicide bombers.
No further comment needed. There is no Palestinian Mandela. There is no Palestinian leader that has been produced by the last generation that is capable of making peace. We can but pray that one will appear, some young leader in my own generation. For now, there is no ‘great Palestinian hope’ for the peace process. And if there is, it is not Barghouti.
This great hope will not be a terrorist like Arafat. This great hope will be willing to give up the impossibility that is the ‘Right of Return’, and will at least vaguely understand the concerns of Israelis for national security. This hope will renounce violence as a means of resistance, condemn attacks on Israelis, and use the words ‘two states for two people’ openly and seriously. Oh, and for that, we hope that whenever he or she comes that this great hope won’t get shot down by fundamentalists. None of those almost-messianic level boxes are ticked by Marwan Barghouti, and as such the benefits of releasing him are minimal in comparison to the amount of human blood that still drips from his hand. And so, we keep on hoping.