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Where is Palestine’s Mandela?

Alan Hart

The answer to my headline question is that he, Marwan Barghouti, is in an Israeli jail where he has been since his arrest in Ramallah by an IDF unit in 2002, a ter which, in 200!, he was sentenced to i"e li e terms in #rison$ %ome months be ore his arrest one o Israel&s security agencies tried and ailed to assassinate him$ ' missile was ired at his bodyguard&s car and (illed the bodyguard$ )I the attem#t on Barghouti&s li e had succeeded, his (illers would not ha"e been brought to justice because as well as bulldo*ing +alestinian homes and stealing +alestinian land and water, Israel (ills, murders, with im#unity,$ Barghouti, is in an Israeli jail where he has been since his arrest in Ramallah by an IDF unit in 2002, a ter which, in 200!, he was sentenced to i"e li e terms in #rison$ %ome months be ore his arrest one o Israel&s security agencies tried and ailed to assassinate him$ ' missile was ired at his bodyguard&s car and (illed the bodyguard$ )I the attem#t on Barghouti&s li e had succeeded, his (illers would not ha"e been brought to justice because as well as bulldo*ing +alestinian homes and stealing +alestinian land and water, Israel (ills, murders, with im#unity,$ Regular readers of my occasional thoughts and analysis will know that I am in favour of the dissolution of the impotent, corrupt and discredited Palestine National Authority (PNA) and handing back to Israel complete and full responsibility for the occupation As I have previously said, this could make calling and holding the !ionist monster to account for its crimes something less than a mission impossible "ut# If putting the PNA out of its misery is not an option, what the Palestinians of the occupied $est "ank and the besieged %a&a 'trip need, urgently, are elections to give them the opportunity to bring on a new and credible leadership If there were elections, and if "arghouti was pardoned,

released and allowed to run for the office of (President of Palestine), he would almost certainly win I*m also happy to speculate that in office he would do what collaborator Abbas, more or less under orders from the + ' , has failed to do , unite -atah and .amas, to enable the occupied and oppressed Palestinians to speak with one voice As I have written and said in the past, it bears repeating, there is no secret about .amas*s real position $hile it is not prepared to recognise Israel*s (right) to e/ist, nor should it do so, it isprepared, with Arafat0like pragmatism, to recognise and live with the actual e/istence of an Israel inside the pre01234 war borders with, probably, mutually agreed minor border changes, and 5erusalem an open, undivided city and the capital of two states Assertions about .amas*s real position to the contrary by %reater Israel*s hardliners and the neo0fascists to the e/treme right of them are !ionist propaganda (bs) (President 6arters code for bullshit), out of the same stable as Netanyahu*s nonsense about Iran representing a threat to Israel*s e/istence Now 78, and fully fluent in .ebrew, "arghouti 9oined -atah at the age of 17 .e co0founded the -atah :outh ;ovement on the $est "ank and became 'ecretary %eneral of -atah in that territory .e is widely believed to have been the leader on the ground of the first and second intifadas (<nce it was underway the oversight director of the first intifada was actually Arafat*s number two, Abu 5ihad, from the bedroom of his home in =unis> and that*s why Israel assassinated him, in his bedroom, on 13 April 12?? If he had not been assassinated, Abu 5ihad would have succeeded Arafat and the Palestinian cause would have been in the best possible hands at leadership level) At about the time of his arrest "arghouti*s position on ending the conflict was in this statement@ I, and the -atah movement to which I belong, strongly oppose attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel, our future neighbour I reserve the right to protect myself, to resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom I still seek peaceful coe/istence between the eAual and independent countries of Israel and Palestine based on full withdrawal from Palestinian territories occupied in 1234 In 9ail "arghouti has continued to condemn attacks on civilians in Israel but also stressed that he supported armed resistance to Israeli occupation (In international law all occupied peoples have the right to resist occupation by all means including armed struggle) Bven in Israeli political and media circles there has been some debate about pardoning and releasing "arghouti -ollowing his 5anuary CDD3 re0election to the Palestinian Eegislative 6ouncil (he was first elected to it in 1223), :ossi "eilin, a foreign policy specialist and former Israeli government minister, and a voice of some sanity, called for "arghouti to be pardoned And it was probably on advice from "eilin that in 5anuary CDD4 'himon Peres, then deputy prime minister, declared that if elected to the presidency he would sign a pardon for "arghouti .e has not yet done so and I think it*s reasonable to assume that Netanyahu said to him something like, (Fon*t even think about itG) =he last thing Netanyahu wants is a Palestinian leader who commands the respect of his people and will not accept crumbs from !ionism*s table In his tribute to Nelson ;andela at the memorial service in 'oweto*s -N" stadium, President <bama said that he, ;andela, (understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or e/tinguished by a sniper*s bullet ) "arghouti understands that, too $hat a real peace process needs is an Israeli leader who understands that an acceptable amount of 9ustice for the Palestinians is an idea that can*t be destroyed by military might and

oppression of all kinds 'uch a leader would pardon and free ;arwan "arghouti =o the !ionist argument that he can*t be freed because he is a terrorist, there can be only one response $hether "arghouti was or was not a terrorist is an irrelevance ;andela was described as a (terrorist), and so were many of those who became prime ministers and presidents of "ritain*s former colonies when they gained their independence And what about !ionism*s own, ;enachem "egin for e/ample, arguably the most successful terrorist of modern times if not all of human historyH ("egin had a leading role in driving out of Palestine by terrorism first the occupying "ritish and then three0Auarters of its indigenous Arab inhabitants) =o that response could be added the fact that Israel sometimes resorts to state terrorism =here is good reason to believe that if "arghouti was pardoned and freed and became the president of Palestine, he would pursue a ;andela0like path of reconciliation to the e/tent that he would be committed to the wellbeing and security of 5ews in a state of Israel inside more or less its borders as they were on the eve of the 1234 war 'o there is a case for saying that Israel needs "arghouti as much as the Palestinians do =here is now one thing (apart from NetanyahuG) that neither Israel nor the occupied and oppressed Palestinians need It was drawn to my attention in an article by Abdel "ari Atwan, the former editor0in0chief of Al Iuds, the only Arab newspaper while Abdel "ari was in charge of it that was reAuired reading in the foreign offices of the $estern world Abdel "ari is no longer with the paper because its principal %ulf Arab funders were not prepared to tolerate his truth0telling any longer and demanded his departure =hat didn*t come as a surprise to me because when three years ago I interviewed him for my .eart of the ;atter series for Press =J (which can be found on my web site www alanhart net), he told me that the chair in which I was sitting opposite him at his desk had been occupied some weeks previously by a 'audi royal who offered him a vast amount of money to take his leave of the paper Abdel "ari*s article which commanded my full attention was headlined Al0Iaeda Arrives In =he $est "ank It included this@ $hen I met 'heikh <sama bin0Eaden in =ora "ora caves in the 1223, I conveyed to him people*s criticism that the organi&ation focuses on fighting in Afghanistan, 'outheast Asia (=hailand and southern Philippines), ", 6hechnya, Faghistan, and elsewhere and that it did not carry out any operations against Israeli targets in and outside Palestinian territories .e told me the reason was the difficulty in crossing the border and the vicious security measures that the Arab security agencies adopted against his organi&ation# It appears (mainly because of the mayhem in IraA and 'yria) things have now changed, at least partially About how things are changing Abdel "ari wrote this@ =he ;u9ahedeen 'hura 6ouncil, which is affiliated with al0Iaeda, yesterday announced in a statement that the three young men killed by the Israeli army in .ebron on =uesday were members of one of its cells =he statement, posted on the internet, said@ (As we announce the martyrdom of this group, we bring to the ;uslim nation the glad tidings that, praise be to %od, global 9ihad now has a foothold in the proud $est "ank after everyone tried to foil every seed planted there )'hin "et (Israeli internal security) officials said the e/tremist network had established a safe haven in the $est "ank, stored weapons, and planned attacks against Israeli targets and against the PNA

If this information is true – and it appears to be true – it will shock both the PNA and Israel because al-Qaeda’s arrival in the occupied West ank is a ver! serious securit! breach that will have repercussions because" #ud$in$ from al-Qaeda’s activities in other re$ions" it means mart!rdom-seekin$ operations and boob!-trapped cars% I personall! do not rule out such a breach% Hamas has not carried out an! militar! attacks a$ainst Israeli tar$ets and settlements in the West ank because it has a sort of &truce' with both the Israelis and the PNA in the West ank and (a)a" and with it refrainin$ from launchin$ an! s!stematic operations in order to evade an Israeli incursion into (a)a" which it rules" I believe it is inevitable that al-Qaeda and its supporters will tr! to find a foothold* and that the! will likel! succeed in recruitin$ enthusiastic !oun$ men disma!ed at the state of deadlock and influenced b! the Arab revolutions% If al-Qaeda +and,or affiliates- did succeed in establishin$ enou$h of a foothold on the occupied West ank from which to launch attacks to kill Israeli .ews" that could tri$$er a final /ionist ethnic cleansin$% It also could be that a credible Palestinian leadership headed by ;arwan "arghouti after elections would represent the very last chance for stopping the countdown to catastrophe for all ;y plea to all who campaign for 9ustice for the Palestinians is , give a priority to calling and lobbying for the release of ;arwan "arghouti, the man who could become the Palestinian ;andela in terms of the reconciliation needed if the two0state solution is to be resurrected from its grave If it was, my guess is that that "arghouti would entertain the same hope as Arafat , that one or two generations of a two0state peace would lead by mutual consent to a one state with eAual rights for all -ootnote

5ames Robbins, the ""6*s diplomatic correspondent, made what I thought was a most perceptive comment a few days ago .e said words to the effect that maybe it was not ;andela who had been in 9ail for C4 years but most of 'outh Africa*s whites , in the 9ail of apartheid ideology In the case of ;arwan "arghouti, maybe it*s not him who is in 9ail but most Israeli 5ews , in the 9ail of !ionism*s ideology