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.“
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.
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.
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’.