Barghouti's a political prisoner. On May 20, 2004, he was wrongfully convicted of involvement in three terrorist attacks killing five people. Acquitted on 33 other charges, he received five consecutive life sentences plus 40 years.
A three-judge panel ruled that although he didn't fully control local Brigade leaders and wasn't directly involved, he had "significant influence" over their conduct.
In other words, no evidence existed. A legitimate court would have acquitted him. Israel's military one judged him guilty by accusation. Due process and judicial fairness were absent. Virtually all prosecuted Palestinians face the same fate, including children.
Barghouti calls himself "a political leader," an elected PLC member. Israel had no right to accuse, try, and judge him, he maintains. Doing so violates international law. It affirms the right to resist lawless occupations. Israel's is the longest in memory.
Avinoam Bar-Yosef is president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. Last November, his New York Times op-ed headlined, "Release Marwan Barghouti," saying:
"The Israeli peace camp" wants him released. He's "regarded as the sole Palestinian leader who enjoys the full trust of Fatah and the Palestinian public."
He "never denied the right of the Jewish people to a Jewish state." He also "expressed contempt for Islamic fundamentalists." Above all, he's uncorruptable, he added. Many Israelis support him for good reason. He wants Palestinian sovereignty respected, as well as even-handed diplomatic peace talks.
He's also a realist. He knows ending decades of Israeli repression requires resistance. He urges Palestinians to persist nonviolently.
On April 20, Haaretz headlined "Grilling of top Palestinian militant exposes Arafat's link to terror attacks on Israelis, papers show," saying:
So-called Barghouti interrogation records "published here for the first time" allegedly link him to Intifada violence. They include Shin Bet memoranda and detailed transcripts. They suggest Barghouti gave "partial confessions."
They "indicate that PA Chairman Arafat issued a general directive to carry out terror attacks, but made sure not to get personally involved in any way that might incriminate him."
Israeli authorities also claim they implicate Barghouti despite no evidence produced at trial proving it.
At the time, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) international organization of parliaments and sovereign states published a legal assessment of his proceedings based on case notes, prosecutorial member and defense team interviews, as well as others with international NGO trial observers.
IPU concluded that:
"From the beginning of the investigations until the final day of the trial, the prosecution put almost as much effort into staging a media event as it did into working on the legal aspects."
Theatrics and publicity substituted for judicial fairness. Barghouti never had a chance. His legal rights were violated. Numerous international laws were breached. The entire process was illegitimate. Guilty as charged damned him to five consecutive life sentences plus 40 years.
Eight years later, he faces new charges after the fact. They're just as spurious as what got him convicted. Putting him away for life isn't enough. Beating up on him relentlessly continues.
Shin Bet claims Barghouti said achieving sovereign Palestine depends on bloodshed. If anything close to that was said, it was that Israel sheds Palestinian blood. In October, 2002, Barghouti indicted Israel on 54 counts, including:
"specific acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing....uprooting Palestinians by military attacks, arbitrary arrests and illegal imprisonment, administrative detention, attacks on women, children and the elderly, systematic and wanton destruction of property and homes, (and) systematic expropriation and dispossession...."
He added "(v)iolence to life and person (including assassinations), confiscation of lands and property, creation of separate reserves and Bantustans, disruptive public life and terrorizing a whole population (including collective punishment and reprisals), " and much more.
On September 29, 2000, Palestine's Second Intifada erupted. Ariel Sharon provoked it. On September 28, accompanied by 1,000 Israeli troops and police, he staged a provocative visit to Islam's third holiest site - the Haram al-Sharif sacred shrine and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The following day, the Second Intifada began. Sharon got what he wanted, a chance to reign terror on Palestinian civilians. Institutionalized violence followed. Palestinians responded defensively. Israel calls self-defense terrorism.
In April 2002, Jenin's refugee camp was attacked. It was isolated from outside help. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed. Palestinians were buried under rubble. Water and power were cut off. Food, medical aid, and other essentials were kept out. Unknown numbers of civilian men, women and children were slaughtered in cold blood.
IDF violence targeted other areas. Palestinians never had a chance. When the five-year Intifada ended, 4,166 Palestinians died, including 886 children and 271 women. Thousands more were injured or disabled. Hundreds of targeted assassinations occurred. Thousands were imprisoned, including 288 children and 115 women.
In addition, another 2,329,659 dunums of Palestinian land were stolen, thousands more razed, and over 1.3 million trees uprooted. Nearly 7,800 homes were demolished. Another 98,800 were damaged.
Israeli crimes were extreme. Palestinian victims were blamed. Justice was denied. It always is. Israel calls self-defense terrorism. International law legitimized it. From its earliest times to now, self-defense was widely recognized as inviolable. In 1965, the General Assembly affirmed it.
It recognized "the legitimacy of struggle by the people under colonial rule to exercise their rights to self-determination and independence." It also urged "all States to provide material and moral assistance to the national liberation movements in colonial territories."
In 1977, Geneva's Protocol I (Act 1 C4) declared that armed struggle may be used as a last resort to exercise the right of self-determination. Doing so affirmed the Second Uprising's legitimacy. It also justified those engaging in and supporting it, including Barghouti.
He's no terrorist. He's heroic. It's why he's Palestine's most respected leader. It's also why Israel wrongfully put him away for life.
Now further accusations surface after the fact. Having him behind bars isn't good enough. So-called Shin Bet transcripts can say anything. Barghouti can't respond.
Haaretz played Israel's game. Publishing one side only compromises truth and full disclosure. It also omitted explaining the right to resist, legitimate self-defense, and Israel's illegal occupation.
With or without Barghouti, Palestine's liberating struggle continues. Millions worldwide support it because it's the right thing to do.
It's true for all long-suffering people. They bear the burden to live free. Support from others is vital, including for wrongfully imprisoned figures like Barghouti. They deserve that much and more.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|