Marwan Barghouti

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Marwan Barghouti


Marwan Bin Khatib Barghouti ( مروان البرغوثي born June 6, 1959) is a Palestinian from the West Bank and a leader of the Fatah movement. He is considered to be the leader of Fatah's Military faction, During prisoner negotiations at the end of 2006, Hamas demanded his release, along with many other Palestinians imprisoned for terrorism, in exchange for the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.[1]

Biography

Barghouti was born in Ramallah, and became active in Fatah at the age of 15. Marwan Barghouti should not be confused with fellow Palestinian political figure Mustafa Barghouti, a distant cousin. By the age of 18 in 1976, Marwan Barghouti was arrested by Israel for his involvement in Palestinian terrorist groups, and learned Hebrew during his time in Israeli prisons. After his release, he returned to Israel and became president of the student body at Birzeit University, where he received a bachelor's degree in history and political science and a master's degree in international relations. He is married to Fadwa Barghouti, a lawyer.

First Intifada

Barghouti was one of the major leaders of the First Intifada in 1987, leading Palestinians in a mass uprising against Israel. During the uprising, he was arrested by Israel and deported to Jordan, where he stayed for seven years until he was permitted to return under the terms of the Oslo Accords in 1994. In 1996, he was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council, following which he began his active advocacy of war with Israel. He was also a strong campaigner against the corruption festering in the Fatah movement, sometimes coming in conflict with Yasser Arafat. The formal position occupied by Barghouti was Secretary-General of Fatah in the West Bank.

By the summer of 2000, Barghouti and Arafat were increasingly at odds with each other, with Barghouti accusing Arafat's administration of corruption and his security services of human rights violations, and Arafat planning to fire him shortly.

Second Intifada

However, as the Second Intifada began, Barghouti became increasingly popular as a leader of the Fatah Tanzim seen as one of the major forces in the Palestinian murder of Israelis When asked towards which civilians were legitimate targets for terrorism, he clarified: Yes,yes....especialy everybody in the West Bank and Gaza—including Jerusalem, because it’s an occupied territory—they are occupation.[1]

Arrest

Barghouti's actions landed him on Israel's most-wanted list, and he escaped an Israeli arrest attempt in 2001. However, he was arrested by the Israeli army in Ramallah, on April 15, 2002 and transferred to the 'Russian Compound' police station in Jerusalem. Several months later, he was indicted in civilian court on charges of murder and attempted murder stemming from attacks carried out by the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades on Israeli occupation forces. .[2][3]

Trial

Israel chose to try Barghouti in an Israeli civilian court, rather than a military court as Israel does with Arab Terrorists.

Marwan Barghouti refused to present a defense to the charges brought against him, maintaining throughout that the trial was illegal and illegitimate. However, he continued to stress that he supported armed resistance to the Israeli occupation, but condemned attacks on civilians over the Green Line.

He was convicted on May 20, 2004 of five counts of murder. He was acquitted of 21 counts of murder in 33 other attacks. On June 6, 2004, he was sentenced to five life sentences for the five murders and 40 years imprisonment for the attempted murder.

Candidacy for Palestinian Authority presidency

In late 2004, Barghouti announced from his Israeli prison his intention to run in the Palestinian Authority presidential election in January 2005, called for following the death of President Yasser Arafat in November.

On November 26, 2004, it appeared he would withdraw from the contest following pressure from the Fatah faction to support the candidacy of Mahmoud Abbas. However, just before the deadline on December 1, Barghouti's wife registered him as an independent candidate.

On December 12, facing pressure from Fatah to withdraw in favor of Abbas, he chose to abandon his candidacy for the benefit of Palestinian unity.

Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouti

Since Barghouti's arrest in Ramallah on 15th April 2002, many of his supporters, Palestinian and otherwise, have campaigned for his release. They include prominent Palestinian figures, members of European Parliament and the Israeli peace bloc. Some focus on the illegality of Bargouti's arrest, pointing to his diplomatic immunity as a member of the Palestinian Parliament, as well as to the fact that he was arrested in an area over which Israel has no jurisdiction. They also point out that the transfer of a prisoner from an occupied territory to the territory of the occupier is in contravention of the 4th Geneva Convention. Another approach is to suggest that Israel's freeing of Barghouti would be an excellent show of good faith in the peace process. This view gained popularity among the Israeli left after the 2005 Gaza Disengagement. Still others, operating from a realpolitik perspective, have pointed out that allowing Barghouti to re-enter Palestinian politics could serve to bolster Fatah against gains in Hamas' popularity.[2]

Following Barghouti's January 2006 re-election to the Palestinian Legislative Council, a debate over Barghouti's fate began anew in Israel, ranging from Yahad leader and former MK Yossi Beilin's support for a Presidential pardon to the total refusal of any idea of early release. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said,

""We must not forget that he is a cold-blooded murderer who was sentenced by the court to five life sentences... It is out of the question to free an assassin who has blood on his hands and was duly sentenced by a court." [3], [4]


However several MKs, including Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit, have suggested that Barghouti will likely be released as part of future peace negotiations, although they did not specify when.

In January 2007, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres declared that he would sign a presidential pardon for Marwan Barghouti if elected to the Israeli presidency.

Split from Fatah

On December 14, 2005, Barghouti announced that he had formed a new political party, al-Mustaqbal ("The Future"), mainly composed of members of Fatah's "Young Guard", who have repeatedly expressed frustration with the entrenched corruption in the party. The list, which was presented to the Palestinian Authority's central elections committee on December 14 includes Mohammed Dahlan, Kadoura Fares, Samir Mashharawi and Jibril Rajoub.[5][6]

The split followed Barghouti's earlier refusal of Mahmoud Abbas' offer to be second on the Fatah party's parliamentary list, behind Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei. Barghouti had actually topped the list,[7] but this had not become apparent until after the new party had been registered.

Reactions to the news was split. Some suggested that the move was a positive step towards peace, as Barghouti's new party could help reform major problems in Palestinian government. Others raised concern that it could wind up splitting the Fatah vote, inadvertently helping Hamas. Barghouti's supporters argued that al-Mustaqbal would split the votes of both parties, both from disenchanted Fatah members as well as moderate Hamas voters who do not agree with Hamas' political goals, but rather its social work and hard position on corruption. Some observers also hypothesized that the formation of al-Mustaqbal was mostly a negotiating tactic to get members of the young guard into higher positions of power within Fatah and its electoral list.

Barghouti eventually was convinced that the idea of leading a new party, especially one that was created by splitting from Fatah, would be unrealistic while he was still in prison. Instead he stood as a Fatah candidate in the January 2006 PLC elections, comfortably regaining his seat in the Palestinian Parliament.

The National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners

On 11th May 2006, prominent Palestinian leaders held in Israeli prisons released the National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners. The document was a proposal initiated by Marwan Barghouti and leaders of Hamas, PFLP, Islamic Jihad and DFLP that proposed a basis upon which a coalition government should be formed in the Palestinian Legislative Council. This came as a result of the political stalemate in the Palestinian territories that followed Hamas' election to the PLC in January 2006. Crucially, the document also called for negotiation with the state of Israel in order to achieve lasting peace. The document quickly gained popular currency and is now considered the bedrock upon which a national unity government should be achieved.

Involvement in Unity Government negotiations

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Barghouti, although not officially represented in the negotiations of a Palestinian unity government in February 2007, has played a major role in mediating between Hamas and Fatah and formulating the compromise that was reached on February 8, 2007.article

Quotes

  • "And while I, and the Fatah movement to which I belong, strongly oppose attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel, our future neighbor, I reserve the right to protect myself, to resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom" (2002 Washington Post op-ed)
  • "I am not a terrorist, but neither am I a pacifist. I am simply a regular guy from the Palestinian street advocating only what every other oppressed person has advocated—the right to help myself in the absence of help from anywhere else." (2002 Washington Post op-ed)

External links and references

1. ^ Barghouti wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post on January 16, 2002, saying, And while I, and the Fatah movement to which I belong, strongly recommend attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel, (emphasis added) our future neighbour, I reserve the right to protect myself, to resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom.-- cited at [8]
2. ^ Full indictment, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
3. ^ Indictment appendix listing all charges
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