Top Menu

Where is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela?

Marwan Barghouti

A supporter of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti hangs his posters in Ramallah in 2004. Photograph: Muhammed Muheisen/AP


by Ilisha

Where is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela?

It seems he’s in an Israeli prison–and has been recently banished to solitary confinement.

After a decade of imprisonment, Marwan Barghouti at last called for an end to fruitless negotiations with Israel, non-violent popular resistance, and appeals to the international community.

For decades, Israel has played a game of “Let’s negotiate over how we divide the pizza while I eat the pizza,” carrying on the charade of a “peace process” while relentlessly building illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories. And why not?

Israel enjoys nearly unconditional support from the United States, and wherever huge settlement blocks are built,  Palestinian “leaders”ultimately agree to cede them to Israel as part of a final peace settlement. Often built on the choicest land, the settlements cut deep into the West Bank, carving a Medusa-like border and leaving dim prospects for a viable Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip languish in the world’s largest open air prison camp as the “international community” looks on, largely indifferent. According to an article published on Muslim Matters, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has concluded that Israel:

 “..has created a system of legally sanctioned separation based on discrimination that has, perhaps, no parallel any where in the world since the apartheid regime of South Africa.

A recently released report from the United Nations also said Israel’s policies in the Palestinian territories “exhibit features of colonialism and apartheid.”

Last September, Palestinians appealed to the UN, submitting a bid for statehood. The US immediately threatened to veto any vote to recognize Palestine as a state, and the bid remains stalled. When one agency, UNESCO, recently voted to accept Palestine as a member, the US continued its pattern of bullying the international body on behalf of Israel by cutting off funding, convincing many observers there is little hope of achieving the two-state solution enshrined in international law.

Prominent Palestinian philosopher Sari Nusseibeh has not only lost hope of an independent Palestinian state, but is s equally pessimistic about the prospects of a achieving a single, democratic state for both Palestinians and Israelis on all of the land in question. He has urged Palestinians to do the unthinkable and ignore their political rights in favor of securing basic human rights, because he believes there is no other option in the foreseeable future.

Yet despite this grim reality, Marwan Barghouti seems to have achieved the impossible from his prison cell in Israel: He has won the support of Palestine’s rival political factions, Fatah and Hamas, and both groups have publicly endorsed his recent statement. Barghouti also enjoys widespread support among the Palestinian people, and for many, he has become a national icon.

He should also be lauded for his commitment to non-violence. Instead, in a desperate move that is likely to backfire, Israel has responded to this latest “threat of peace” by banishing Palestine’s Nelson Mandela to solitary confinement.

Marwan Barghouti calls for popular uprising for statehood. Israel puts him in solitary confinement

by , Mondweiss

A week ago on March 26th Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian leader who has been imprisoned for ten years, called for a Third Intifada: a mass nonviolent uprising officially ending the charade of “peace negotiations,” and ending “all coordination with Israel” and turning “to the UN General Assembly and the rest of its agencies” to further Palestine’s bid for statehood.

Barghouti’s letter, read aloud during a rally in Ramallah, directly challenges the policy of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority for maintaining the occupation through their cooperation with Israel.

Yesterday the state of Israel punished Marwan Barghouti by placing him in solitary confinement.

Uri Avnery wrote The New Mandela on the eve of Land Day 2012. I urge everyone to read the entire article.

When the Oslo process died with the assassinations of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Marwan and his organization became targets. Successive Israeli leaders – Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon – decided to put an end to the two-state agenda. In the brutal “Defensive Shield operation (launched by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, the new leader of the Kadima Party) the Palestinian Authority was attacked, its services destroyed and many of its activists arrested.

Marwan Barghouti was put on trial. It was alleged that, as the leader of Tanzim, he was responsible for several “terrorist” attacks in Israel. His trial was a mockery, resembling a Roman gladiatorial arena more than a judicial process. The hall was packed with howling rightists, presenting themselves as “victims of terrorism”. Members of Gush Shalom protested against the trial inside the court building but we were not allowed anywhere near the accused.

Marwan was sentenced to five life sentences. The picture of him raising his shackled hands above his head has become a Palestinian national icon. When I visited his family in Ramallah, it was hanging in the living room.

He calls for a Third Intifada, a non-violent mass uprising in the spirit of the Arab Spring.

His manifesto is a clear rejection of the policy of Mahmoud Abbas, who maintains limited but all-important cooperation with the Israeli occupation authorities. Marwan calls for a total rupture of all forms of cooperation, whether economic, military or other.

A focal point of this cooperation is the day-to-day collaboration of the American-trained Palestinian security services with the Israeli occupation forces. This arrangement has effectively stopped violent Palestinian attacks in the occupied territories and in Israel proper. It guarantees, In practice, the security of the growing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Marwan also calls for a total boycott of Israel, Israeli institutions and products in the Palestinian territories and throughout the world. Israeli products should disappear from West Bank shops, Palestinian products should be promoted.

At the same time, Marwan advocates an official end to the charade called “peace negotiations”. This term, by the way, is never heard anymore in Israel. First it was replaced with “peace process”, then “political process”, and lately “the political matter”. The simple word “peace” has become taboo among rightists and most “leftists” alike. It’s political poison.

Marwan proposes to make the absence of peace negotiations official. No more international talk about “reviving the peace process”, no more rushing around of ridiculous people like Tony Blair, no more hollow announcements by Hillary Clinton and Catherine Ashton, no more empty declarations of the “Quartet”. Since the Israeli government clearly has abandoned the two-state solution – which it never really accepted in the first place – keeping up the pretense just harms the Palestinian struggle.

Instead of this hypocrisy, Marwan proposes to renew the battle in the UN. First, apply again to the Security Council for the acceptance of Palestine as a member state, challenging the US to use its solitary veto openly against practically the whole world. After the expected rejection of the Palestinian request by the Council as a result of the veto, request a decision by the General Assembly, where the vast majority would vote in favor. Though this would not be binding, it would demonstrate that the freedom of Palestine enjoys the overwhelming support of the family of nations, and isolate Israel (and the US) even more.

Parallel to this course of action, Marwan insists on Palestinian unity, using his considerable moral force to put pressure on both Fatah and Hamas.

To summarize, Marwan Barghouti has given up all hope of achieving Palestinian freedom through cooperation with Israel, or even Israeli opposition forces. The Israeli peace movement is not mentioned anymore. “Normalization” has become a dirty word.

Guardian  April 2, 2012 

Prisons Authority spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said Barghouti “has been placed in isolation for a week and denied visits and access to the inmates’ canteen for a month” as a punishment for issuing the statement.


“I call on the Palestinian Authority to end all forms of coordination, security and economic, with the occupation,” wrote Barghouti…..

“The job of the Palestinian security services is to provide security and protection to Palestinian citizens, not to protect the occupation,” said the man widely recognised as the driving force behind the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, and who still commands great respect among Palestinians.

The letter also called on Abbas to “stop marketing the illusion that it is possible to end the occupation through these negotiations.”


“We must affirm the absolute right of our people to resist occupation in all ways, and in the way appropriate to the situation — and at this stage, popular resistance serves our people,” he said.

Marking the tenth anniversary of his imprisonment, this is the first time Marwan Barghouti has called for a complete halt in ‘peace negotiations’.

, , , , , , , ,

  • Just Stopping By

    @Géji says, “> “The Hamas Charter seeks the genocide of the Jews.” Fake, fake, fake, and fake …”

    Géji, perhaps people who think that is true are influenced by Hamas’ decision to include the following in its charter:

    “For our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, …”

    “Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!”

    “[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement.”

    “I swear by that who holds in His Hands the Soul of Muhammad! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill”

    “The Nazism of the Jews does not skip women and children, it scares everyone.”

    “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.”

    “but more steps need to be taken by the Arab and Islamic peoples and Islamic associations throughout the Arab and Islamic world in order to make possible the next round with the Jews, the merchants of war.”

    These quotes are taken from a pro-Palestinian site, If you know of a more accurate translation, I am happy to consider it.

    While the Hamas charter does not have a line that calls for the genocide of the Jews, it’s hard to read it as rejecting peace talks and promoting war until the Jewish population of Palestine/Israel is mostly eliminated or perhaps somehow otherwise dealt with. The fact is that there are very peaceful Palestinians in the mold of Mandela and very violent ones as well; and the same can be said of any nationality.

    But if we’re talking about the Hamas charter, that organization is unabashedly pro-violence, so much so that they literally reject all peace initiatives, call for killing, and oppose there being a country with a Jewish population in Palestine. For me, it’s hard to see that as anything other than a somewhat veiled call for genocide (or at best ethnic cleansing).

    And I say that as someone who supports an independent Palestinian state, so this is not out of any desire to deny Palestinians their right to self-determination. But supporting Palestinian statehood does not mean that one has to deny the nature of any group that also supports that goal.

  • Believing Atheist

    WOW! What propoganda spewed from someone who has also sympathized with Hezbollah in the past.

    First lets get the facts staight. Hamas was created by Israel to counter the secular PLO and divide Palestinians.

    “Let us not forget that it was Israel, which in fact created Hamas. According to Zeev Sternell, historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “Israel thought that it was a smart ploy to push the Islamists against the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)”.

    Also read Uri Averny’s take on CounterPunch who reaches the same conclusion

    It backfired just as Western backing of extremist Muslims in Afghanistan backfired. It was a stupid move on Israel’s part and now they are paying the price for it.

    Not only does Hamas spew genocidal rhetoric it also employs anti-semetic conspiracy theories.

    For instance, it references the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    This is what Hamas says about Jews: The charter claims that the Jews deserve God’s/Allah’s enmity and wrath because they received the Scriptures but violated its sacred texts, disbelieved the signs of Allah, and slew their own prophets

    and regarding genocide this is what Hamas says it quotes a Hadith,

    The Day of Judgement will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, ‘O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews”(related by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

    And for the record. I never denied that The Jewish state committed ethnic cleansing of the Muslims by employing genocidal rhetoric. I have also cited the New Historians such as Benny Morris and Pape to prove this point. And that’s why I support the Palestinian right of return.

    Read the Charter here from Yale University translation:

    tisk tisk tisk.

  • Géji

    > “The Hamas Charter seeks the genocide of the Jews.”

    Fake, fake, fake, and fake, as it would be typical of hypocritical terrorism/occupation/apartheid/ethnic-cleansing atrocity apologist. Blaming the victim of oppression for his/her oppression is such tactic of apologist. — Hamas began as an outraged youth resistance movement in 1987 during the First-Intifada, and was born out-of decades of continuous repression and violence coming from the apartheid regime, and out-of frustration with the corruption of the bend-the-spine-to-apartheid so-called “Palestinian authority”. And Just like Mandela at one point advocated and led an armed-resistance wing of his organisation as a last resort to respond to the apartheid violence and liberate Africans, so does Hamas organisation have an armed-resistance wing known as “Izz al Din Qassam Brigades” that believe such tactics would work in their struggle. And the only reason they’ve used anti-Jewish rhetoric, is not because they hate Jews for being Jews solely practicing Judaism in peace, but because the people that administrate the policies of ethnic-cleansing, apartheid, violence, oppression and so on, towards their people, are claiming to be Jewish doing so in the name of Judaism and Jewish scriptures. Though they did employ unacceptable anti-Jewish rhetoric, they did change their position in time, as well as changing their position on territory lines accepting the 1967 border, they also claim that the charter have been grossly distorted by the perpetrators to make propaganda for their advantage. Although I absolutely believe that the militant wing of Hamas must be rejected to finally dissolved, even if they’re claiming it’s legitimate resistance only directed against the armed occupiers, and many me included are right to say that an armed-resistant will not help them in anyway to liberate their people, for responding violence with violence only aggravate things and only pushes the oppressors to commit even more violence against them. But to say that they want “the genocide of Jews”, is simply put, not only false and fake, but quite hate-filled statement towards those that are oppressed, and suggest an pro-apartheid/ethnic-cleansing stand, also akin to say that because the Jewish state employs anti-Muslim/Islamophobic policies and rhetoric, they also wants “the genocide of Muslims”.

  • NurAlia


    Second thoughts on that. Never mind. I just wont ever respond to you again. Maybe that is better.

  • NurAlia

    @B A

    You know…the law is a funny thing. It may give people rights, but in the minds of men, it means nothing.

    So…are you going to dispute that someone treating a whole group of people inhumaninly recognise them as human?

    Tell me how you justify what you claim is true, or calling me a liar.

  • Believing Atheist


    No you didn’t. You said I quote: “First, the Palistinians have to be recognised as people.”

    They are recognized as People by both the UN and Israel.

    Israel recognizes Palestinians as people via the PA and the Oslo Accords.

    What you are saying is false both ways.

  • NurAlia


    If the petition for Palistine to be recognised as an independant state by the UN, the alternative is to desolve the Palistinian authority, and make Israel bear full mesaure and expence frh fate of the Palistinian people.

  • NurAlia


    If the Palistinian bid to become recognised as an independant state is not granted…that is the plan….to desolve the Palistnian government, and become the Israeli subjugate.

  • NurAlia

    @beliving athiest…

    Did you actually READ my post? Notice I posted that they dont recognise Palistine as a STATE.

    I said the Israeli regime doent recognise Palistinians as people. READ before you COMMENT.

  • Believing Atheist

    “So it’s not that “it wouldn’t be right” to call Marwan Barghouti a Nelson Mandela, it’s that it would be WRONG not call All Palestinian people, Mandelas, Gandhis.”

    Wow! Based on that description we will have to include Hamas as Mandelas and Gandhis since they too are Palestinian people. Mandela and Gandhi never wanted the destruction of South Africa or Britain. Simply equal rights and independence. The Hamas Charter seeks the genocide of the Jews.

  • Géji

    > “Having said that I am not sure if it would be right to call Barghouti a Nelson Mandela like figure when in fact in several instances he has not indulged in nonviolent resistance but may have directed outright terrorism”

    That’s bogus, Nelson Mandela too was a militant anti-Apartheid freedom-fighter, he isn’t exactly seen as “non-violent” resistant figure like it’s seen about Mahatma Gandhi, and did indeed moved to armed struggle as a last resort because of the increasing repression and violence from the Apartheid-state, becoming himself in 1961 the leader of the armed resistant wing of the ANC-(African National Congress), abandoning his initial commitment to non-violent resistance. He was also called “terrorist” by the Apartheid-lords and their western cheerleaders, just like Palestinian resistant-fighters are called today. — So, although it’s easy for people who live afar and do not themselves go through such horror on daily-bases to pass judgment when the oppressed pick-up arms to resist, it is only perfectly natural in cases of unadulterated violence and oppression such as happened/ing in South-Africa and Palestine, that a portion of the violated and oppressed would respond to the violence with armed resistance, it is indeed only humanly natural to do so and expect that, when the enemy who invaded you, theft your land by means of terror, do all things inhumanly possible to suffocate life, freedom and peace out of you, your family and people. So it’s not that “it wouldn’t be right” to call Marwan Barghouti a Nelson Mandela, it’s that it would be WRONG not call All Palestinian people, Mandelas, Gandhis, and all those famous names that fought and resisted terror, racism, oppression and injustice. The terrorist, racist, oppressor and unjust here, in all sense of the meaning of those words, IS the oppressor NOT the oppressed. Saying otherwise would be putting the blame on those who are oppressed, suggesting the oppressed is responsible for his/her oppression, which then would imply complicity in support of unadulterated injustice and terror.

  • Believing Atheist


    Honestly Nur I don’t know where you get your information from. The UN does recognize Palestinians as a people. It’s called United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3236

    Being a people and being a state are two different things. Palestinians are a people but Palestine is not a state yet. You are mixing the two.

  • NurAlia

    @beleiving athiest.

    First, the Palistinians have to be recognised as people. Bottom line here, the UN stated only a few days ago, that the Palistinians dont have grounds to bring human rights charges aginst Israel…because they are not recognised by the UN as a ‘state’.

    So…to be real honest here…we need to stop depending on Israel to be anything but evil to the Palistinians, whom now have no parity to bring a legal case to the world court.

  • Believing Atheist


    1. I didn’t call Marwan a terrorist. I said “may have,” indicating that I wasn’t sure if he was.
    2. More importantly, I said his arrest was illegal indicating that I am not trying to deny him his rights. He should not be jailed under international law.
    3. There is no reason for you to lash out at me about the double standards of law when in fact we are in agreement on this issue. That is why I cited the fact that the ICC is not investigating Israel for war crimes, despite the fact that Amnesty and HRW have evidence of such war crimes. Why would I mention this if I didn’t want to highlight the double standard?
    4. I wish to make on minor amplification of a previous statement. Israel accused him of being in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and it may not be true. I’ll have to look into it.

  • tarig

    @believing atheist: you’ve completely disregarded the essence of my post, laws mean nothing if they are unjust. What right does the US have to deem any group as terrorists when they are in fact the biggest terrorists in the world today? I don’t agree with violence at all, I think it is primitive and counter productive, what I do believe in is the rule of law. However, when laws are applied to some (read black countries and Muslims), and not to others, (read white run countries, including Israel) then this is an unjust law, hence no law at all! You mentioning the fact that the ICC is not prosecuting Israel is proof of this double standard, the evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity is there for all to see! For you, or any other, to call Marwan a terrorist is to deny him his rights, he’s only a terrorist because he is fighting for the rights of him and his brethren, which goes against the policies of the true terrorists! And no he wasn’t a founding member of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, you are confusing this with Al Aqsa intifada (the second intifada, in which he was one of the leaders, but he was head of Tanzim, the armed wing of Fatah, which started of as a non-violent movement, this changed when Israel used a million bullets in the first few days of the second intifada, a movement that started off as a civil disobedience movement but was forced in to violence by the actions of the occupier.

    He always stated his opposition to attacks on civilians, and only advocated for acts of self defense towards IDF soldiers within the occupied territories, something well within the boundaries of international law, and identical to the stance taken by Nelson Mandela. Further to that he refused to speak at his trial because his detention was both illegal and illegitimate, as you showed earlier.

  • Believing Atheist


    Right, whereas ANC/Mandela took great pain to not harm civilians, I am not sure if Marwan did the same. That’s why I said he “may” have. The problem is that Marwan did not testify in court I believe, and that is why we only have one side of the story.

    Also correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t Marwan a founder of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade? That entity is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S.

    As for your comments on Gaza, I agree for the most part. Israel used cruel, excessive, inhumane amounts of force resulting in war crimes. Just read the Amnesty Report

    Or Human Rights Watch,

    It needs to compensate the victims and to bring the perpetrators to justice but I doubt that will happen.

    I say this because the ICC on Tuesday rejected Israeli war crimes probe


    No I don’t. But law and facts don’t change just because someone decides to ignore them. It would be like saying that the sun doesn’t exist if I close my eyes.

  • tarig

    @Believing Atheist, I think you kind of proved yourself wrong when you said “The Israeli court has found him responsible for…” Israel will find anyone responsible for anything if they want, just like they found those on the Mavi Mara to be ‘terrorists’! On top of that, Mandela was not against violence, he was against violence towards innocents, the ANC were responsible for numerous bombings, they just took extra care to make sure no civilians were ever harmed. Even Ghandi wasn’t against violence as an option, he just believed that it wasn’t as effective as civil disobedience, which I agree with 100%. Marwan is advocating for civil disobedience, which in my firm belief is the only way the Palestinians can gain what is rightfully theirs by law! It brings to mind the words of St. Augustine, “an unjust law is no law at all”, it then brings to mind what the kid in the great debaters said after that quote. What is the Palestinians crime? The entire family shot down in Gaza whilst carrying white flags, what was their crime? The 100 odd members of one extended family who were huddled into a building and bombed mercilessly, then denied access to medical attention whilst dehydrated children sat next to the decaying corpses of their mothers, what was their crime? No matter what justification you try to give, in those instances, and thousands of other like it that have been happening since 1948, the IDF were the criminals, and the law did nothing to protect the victims. Is this not an unjust law? And as it is unjust, does this not make it no law at all? The Palestinians have a right to resist, even under international law, be it through violence (only against the system, never against civilians, and only in self-defense), or through civil disobedience; and paraphrasing what that kid said, they should hope the Palestinians choose the later!

  • Pingback: Where is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela? | | Nelson Mandela()

  • Michael

    @Believing Atheist

    You think Ultra-Zionists like Netanyahu give a shit?

  • mindy1

    Will this ever get solved ?? 🙁

  • TheBig-T

    [shouldn’t be a problem] -admin

  • Al

    They can attempt to silence him all they want. At this juncture, as freedom fighters- we are all Marwan Barghouti.

  • TheBig-T

    such an inspirational story, i hope he makes it out Ok

  • Believing Atheist

    It seems like the arrest of Barghouti is illegal. (1). He was a member of the Palestinian Parliament and hence has diplomatic immunity. (2). He was arrested in an area where Israel has no legal jurisdiction. (3). His arrest violates the fourth Geneva Convention. One cannot transfer a prisoner from an occupied territory to the country of his/her occupier.

    Having said that I am not sure if it would be right to call Barghouti a Nelson Mandela like figure when in fact in several instances he has not indulged in nonviolent resistance but may have directed outright terrorism.

    This is a list of all the terrorist activities that this man may have directed

    The Israeli court has found him responsible for

    a June 2001 attack in Maale Adumim, in which a Greek monk was murdered, a January 2002 terror attack on a gas station in Givat Zeev, a March 2002 attack at Tel Aviv’s Seafood Market restaurant, in which three people were murdered, and a car bomb attack in Jerusalem.

  • Averroes’ Ghost

    Thank you for this piece Ilisha! Barghouti is a great man, calling for non-violence when you’re people’s are being mercilessly brutalized and degraded in all aspects by a nation such as Israel so adept at trying to play the victim card (they are ranked 4th militarily and receive increased US military aid every year) takes guts!

    Strategically it is the right thing to do!

    The comparison to Mandela is apt as well, Mandela wasn’t a Ghandi, many in his day, the Apartheid supporters and the Apartheid apparatus (jurisdicial, political, etc.) called Mandela a terrorist. Isn’t that one reason why he was locked up for 20 or so odd years by the racist South African regime?

    I won’t be shocked to see someone try and call Barghouti a terrorist, but that will just validate all I have said above, and in fact make more significant the comparison to Mandela!

Powered by Loon Watchers