The Institute for Middle East Understanding
From the Media
What Marwan Barghouti Really Means to Palestinians
Ramzy Baroud, Counterpunch, Apr 6, 2012
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). More, he claimed that following a unity deal he would be ready to submit candidacy for 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.
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