Tony Greenstein | 25 April 2017 | Post Views:

Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian Mandela, on why the prisoners
have no other option

On April 16th 700
Palestinian prisoners began a hunger strike. 
Israel reacted in the way that you would expect a State of Terror to
react.  It declared that the hunger
strike, a weapon of last resort used by prisoners the world over to fight
against their jailers, was an act of ‘terrorism’.  This comes from a State which butchered 2,200
Palestinians in Gaza two years ago when the latest F-I5 airplanes unleashed
high explosive missiles at schools, clinics, hospitals and above all peoples’
But ‘terrorism’ in the world of Trump
and May is never perpetrated by states unless those states have fallen out of
favour with the West.  The actions of
Israel and the United States, however horrific are ‘peace making’,
proportionate and designed to quell terror. 
The bombing of civilians is an accident, collateral damage to use the
Palestinian prisoners are incarcerated
for most of their natural lives in horrific conditions, denied access to
contact with the outside world, mobile phones or the most minimal conditions
that a civilised society accords to those incarcerated.  Their only crime has been the international
law recognised right of opposition to a military regime.  Most Palestinian prisoners were convicted in
Military Courts that have a conviction rate of 99.7%. 
Marwan Barghouti
The leader Marwan Barghouti was
convicted in an Israeli court which he refused to recognise.  Israel is a colonial power and it metes out
colonial justice.  Barghouti is accused
of killing Israeli soldiers.  Even were
this is true then that is not a crime. 
Resistance to an occupying power is never a crime.  The treatment of Barghouti contrasts with
that of Israeli soldiers who kill.  On
the rare occasion that they are convicted, then like Elor Azaria, who was
recently convicted of manslaughter, not murder, for shooting a prone
Palestinian prisoner in the head at short range, he received 18 months
imprisonment, most of which he will never serve.
Israel’s accusation that Marwan Barghouti is a ‘terrorist’ should carry as much weight as Apartheid South Africa’s accusation that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist.  It is the accusation that was levelled by Britain against all Africa’s colonial leaders, from Nkrumah to Kenyatta.  European colonial powers who were bathed in blood always characterised their opponents as ‘terrorists’.  The Nazis too described armed opposition from the Serbs, Greeks and others as coming from terrorism so Israel’s charges should carry just about as much weight as their Nazi predecessors.
Below are 3 articles including one in
the New York Times by Marwan Barghouti. 
Needless to say Israel’s defenders in the United States screamed about
the fact that he was able to present the prisoners views.  So the NYT added at the end a short
postscript about the fact that Marwan had been convicted of 5 counts of murder
and belonging to a ‘terrorist organisation’. 
Suffice to say that belonging to the main terrorist organisation in
Israel, the Israeli Army, is not a crime.
Tony Greenstein
boys take part in a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger
strike in Israeli jails, in the West Bank city of Nablus, 20 April.  Ayman Ameen
APA images
Thousands of Palestinian prisoners have threatened hunger strike over
past several weeks in campaign spearheaded by imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan
Yaniv Kubovich and Jack Khoury 
Ha’aretz Apr 17, 2017 9:27 AM
700 Palestinian prisoners currently held in Israel announced
the start of a indefinite hunger strike in prisons on Sunday, according to a
statement released by Israel’s Prison Service. Imprisoned Fatah official Marwan
Barghouti spearheaded the campaign, though Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners
held at Hadarim prison will join the campaign largely associated with Fatah.
The hunger strike is expected to expand Monday morning, with
over 2,000 prisoners participating. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah
announced his support of the strike, as did leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Qadura Fares, director of the Palestinian Prisoners Club and
an ally of Barghouti, told Haaretz that the Prisoners Club, the prisoners and
their families will work to bring the prisoners’ cause to the forefront over
the next few days. According to Fares, Israel could have prevented the hunger
strike had it entered into real negotiations with the prisoners and not ignored
the situation.
Nearly 2,900 Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel and
affiliated with Fatah have threatened to launch a hunger strike over the past
several weeks. Barghouti, the campaign’s organizer, has often been floated as a
possible successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The fate of more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israel,
whose number has grown considerably in the past 18 months due to the wave of
stabbing and car-ramming attacks (the “lone-wolf intifada”), affects nearly
every family in the territories. A hunger strike, if it is widely observed and
well managed, could immediately turn up the heat in the Israeli-Palestinian
arena. If down the road a threat to the strikers’ lives develops, it could lead
to another wave of violence.
The April 17 date was originally chosen with an eye on the
start of Ramadan, which is toward the end of May. A full hunger strike during
Ramadan, when Palestinians fast by day and break their fasts at night, could be
religiously problematic. Setting a potential strike period of a little over a
month will allow the struggle against Israel to escalate, but also limits it in
time so as to prevent a total loss of control. It also marks the annual Palestinian
prisoners day anniversary.
According to the Israel Prison Service regulations, it is an
offense for a prisoner to refuse his or her meal and the striking prisoners
will be subect to disciplniary measures accordingly. “Prisoners who decide
to [hunger] strike will face serious consequences,”
the Prison Service
said in a statement. “Strikes and protests are illegal activities and will
face unwavering penalization.”
The statement added that “In
accordance with the policy set by the minister of public security, the Prison
Service does not negotiate with the prisoners.”
The prisoners drafted a list of demands approximately two
weeks ago, which includes the revoking of detention without trial and solitary
confinement. The hunger strikers also demand the reinstatement of a number of
rights that had been revoked, in addition to demanding the installation of a
pay phone in each wing, more frequent family visits and the possibility of
being photographed with family members during visits.
MK Dr. Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) called on the government
to meet the prisoners’ demands. “The prisoners agree to have their calls
monitored by the Prison Service, so that the alleged security reasons given by
the Prison Service and the Shin Bet against installing telephones are
He said. “Israel is holding prisoners within its territory,
breaching the rules of the Fourth Geneva Convention. One of the immediate
circumstances of this violation is a perpetual difficulty with family visits to
the prison. The delivery of mail is also limited and hardly takes place.
Keeping in touch with one’s family is an essential matter for every
Last year, about 260 Hamas prisoners went on hunger strike
for two days in response to the Prison Service dispersing the wings in which
they were imprisoned, while 40 Prisoners of the Palestinian Front for the
Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) went on hunger strike in solidarity with the
administrative detainee Bilal Kaed, who had been in captivity for 70 days.

Peter Beinart, Forward, April 19 2017
In the
April 16 New York Times, Marwan Barghouti announced that he and 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners
were launching a hunger strike. It’s easy to understand why.
West Bank
Palestinians are colonial subjects. Even though the Palestinian Authority has
some power, it is not a state, and the Israeli military can freely enter the
West Bank and arrest anyone anytime it wants. The prisoners now refusing food
were mostly tried in military courts where proving your innocence is nearly
impossible. As the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem noted in 2015, “A Palestinian charged in a military court
is as good as convicted.”
officials, and their American Jewish allies, responded to Barghouti’s op-ed
with fury. The reason: Initially, The Times did not say why Barghouti sits in
an Israeli prison. (It appended the information later). He was convicted in
2002 — in a civilian court not a military one — of murder. Thus, Deputy
Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren tweeted, Barghouti is not the
Palestinian Nelson Mandela
, as he’s sometimes described. He’s actually the
Palestinian Dylann Roof.”
implication is clear: Because Barghouti was convicted of terrorism, his cause
is illegitimate, even monstrous. The problem with this argument is that it
doesn’t only explain why Marwan Barghouti isn’t Nelson Mandela. It explains why
Nelson Mandela isn’t Nelson Mandela either.
denies the specific charges on which he was convicted. (He
did not defend himself on the grounds that the proceedings were illegitimate).
But at the time of his trial, he did support violence. A decade earlier, when
the Oslo Peace Process began, he had declared the era of military resistance
over. “The armed struggle,” he claimed in 1994, “is no longer an option for us.
But when
Israel kept entrenching its control of the West Bank during the Oslo years,
Barghouti changed his mind. “How would you feel if on every hill in territory
that belongs to you a new settlement would spring up? he
declared. “I reached a simple conclusion. You [Israel]
don’t want to end the occupation and you don’t want to stop the settlements, so
the only way to convince you is by force.”

shift, which led him to play an active role in the second intifada, constituted
a tragic mistake, even a crime, against both Palestinians and Israelis. I’m not
justifying it. But he’s not the only national leader to have embraced armed
struggle after losing faith in non-violence. Mandela did too.
For a
half-century following its birth in 1912, the African National Congress
practiced peaceful resistance to white rule. That resistance culminated in 1952
in a “defiance
” — partly inspired by Gandhi — consisting of mass protests,
boycotts and strikes. When South Africa’s newly elected government responded
with even harsher apartheid laws, however, Mandela demanded a different
As detailed
in the book, “The Road to Democracy in South Africa”, Mandela began
advocating armed resistance in 1953, and was reprimanded by ANC leaders. But
when South African police murdered 69 protesters in the township of Sharpeville
in 1960, and its government declared the ANC illegal, Mandela began pressing
his case more aggressively. He met substantial internal resistance, especially
from longtime ANC leader Albert Luthuli, who found it awkward that the ANC was
considering violence when he had just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Still,
Mandela, backed by other young militants, won the day.
One can
imagine how Oren might describe Mandela’s actions today. Mandela did not merely
support violence. In 1961 he became the head of the ANC’s new military wing,
and began receiving funds from the Soviet Union. At the famed 1963
Rivonia trial, he was convicted of “recruiting persons for training in the
preparation and use of explosives and in guerrilla warfare for the purpose of
violent revolution and committing acts of sabotage,”
as well as of supporting
Mandela a terrorist? The U.S. government thought so. As late as the 1980s, it
still classified the ANC as a terrorist group.
A critic
might object that the circumstances under which Mandela and Barghouti turned to
violence were different. Mandela argued for it in the early 1960s, after the
South African government declared the ANC illegal. Barghouti advocated it in
the early 2000s, after Israel had accepted the PLO as a legitimate negotiating
problem with this distinction is that Mandela kept supporting violence even when
South Africa’s government grew more conciliatory. Six different times the
authorities in Pretoria offered to release Mandela from prison if he accepted
conditions including the renunciation of violence. Six times he refused. When
President P.W. Botha asked him to renounce violence in 1985, Mandela shot back, “Let him renounce violence.”

A year
later, the ANC detonated a bomb that killed
three, and injured 69
, at a bar in Durban. It did not suspend its armed struggle until after Mandela was released unconditionally from jail.
isn’t the equivalent of apartheid South Africa. Inside the green line, where
Palestinians enjoy Israeli citizenship and the right to vote, it certainly is
not. Nor am I claiming that Barghouti is Mandela’s equal. After leaving prison,
Mandela brilliantly stewarded South Africa toward reconciliation. Barghouti, by
contrast, remains an enigma. He has long supported the two-state solution. But who knows what
he would do as a free man?
argument isn’t really about Barghouti at all. It’s that acts of violence, even
horrific violence, don’t necessarily invalidate the cause of the people who
commit them. America firebombed Dresden and dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki; World War II was still a just war. In 1938, Irgun leader David
Raziel detonated bombs in Haifa’s Arab Market, killing 21 people. His crimes
didn’t invalidate the struggle for a Jewish state. (Oren’s government certainly
doesn’t think so; Raziel’s face adorns an Israeli postage stamp).
deserve to be citizens, not subjects. And against an Israeli government that
rejects a Palestinian state near the 1967 lines, and every day entrenches its
brutal and undemocratic control of the West Bank, Barghouti and his colleagues
have the right to resist. I’m glad that they’ve chosen a hunger strike, which
inflicts violence only upon themselves. I hope they never take up arms again.
But to the extent that they still desire what Barghouti demanded the year he
was convicted — “the end of the occupation” and “peaceful
” between Palestinians and Jews — their cause is just.
I was
called a terrorist yesterday,”
Mandela once said, “but when I came out of jail,
many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell
other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country
are terrorists.”

Do you
hear that, Michael Oren? He’s talking to you.
Beinart is a Forward senior columnist and contributing editor. Listen to his
podcast, Fault Lines with Daniel Gordis here or on iTunes.

The Opinion Pages New York Times Op-Ed Contributor
Photos of prisoners during a demonstration demanding the release of the Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, in Ramallah, West Bank, this month. Credit Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images
PRISON, Israel — Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have
been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary
arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other
options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a
hunger strike.
1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to take part in this hunger strike,
which begins today, the day we observe here as Prisoners’ Day. Hunger striking
is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on
those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty
stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines
of their dark cells.
of experience have proved that Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and
military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to
which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them
from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel
subjugation. In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.
the occupying power, has violated international law in multiple ways for nearly
70 years, and yet has been granted impunity for its actions. It has committed
grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions against the Palestinian people; the
prisoners, including men, women and children, are no exception.
I was
only 15 when I was first imprisoned. I was barely 18 when an Israeli
interrogator forced me to spread my legs while I stood naked in the
interrogation room, before hitting my genitals. I passed out from the pain, and
the resulting fall left an everlasting scar on my forehead. The interrogator
mocked me afterward, saying that I would never procreate because people like me
give birth only to terrorists and murderers.
A few
years later, I was again in an Israeli prison, leading a hunger strike, when my
first son was born. Instead of the sweets we usually distribute to celebrate
such news, I handed out salt to the other prisoners. When he was barely 18, he
in turn was arrested and spent four years in Israeli prisons.
eldest of my four children is now a man of 31. Yet here I still am, pursuing
this struggle for freedom along with thousands of prisoners, millions of
Palestinians and the support of so many around the world. What is it with the
arrogance of the occupier and the oppressor and their backers that makes them
deaf to this simple truth: Our chains will be broken before we are, because it
is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.
has built nearly all of its prisons inside Israel rather than in the occupied
territory. In doing so, it has unlawfully and forcibly transferred Palestinian
civilians into captivity, and has used this situation to restrict family visits
and to inflict suffering on prisoners through long transports under cruel
conditions. It turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under
international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger
strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us
prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading
treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention.
According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200
Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such actions. Palestinian
prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel’s policy of
imposing collective punishments.
Opinion Today

weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times
editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.
our hunger strike, we seek an end to these abuses.
Over the
past five decades, according to the human
rights group Addameer
, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned
or detained by Israel — equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian
territory’s male population. Today, about 6,500 are still imprisoned, among them
some who have the dismal distinction of holding world records for the longest
periods in detention of political prisoners. There is hardly a single family in
Palestine that has not endured the suffering caused by the imprisonment of one
or several of its members.
How to
account for this unbelievable state of affairs?
has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that
provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians,
while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel’s courts are a
charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation. According to
the State Department
, the conviction rate for Palestinians in the military
courts is nearly 90 percent.
Among the
hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are
children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights
defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members
of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an
entire nation.
though, Israel’s prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for
Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once
more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the
struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in
our long walk to freedom.
has tried to brand us all as terrorists to legitimize its violations, including
mass arbitrary arrests, torture, punitive measures and severe restrictions. As
part of Israel’s effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an
Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a
political show trial that was denounced by international observers.
Israel is
not the first occupying or colonial power to resort to such expedients. Every
national liberation movement in history can recall similar practices. This is
why so many people who have fought against oppression, colonialism and
apartheid stand with us. The International Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouti
and All Palestinian Prisoners that the anti-apartheid icon Ahmed
and my wife, Fadwa, inaugurated in 2013 from Nelson Mandela’s
former cell on Robben Island has enjoyed the support of eight Nobel Peace Prize
laureates, 120 governments and hundreds of leaders, parliamentarians, artists
and academics around the world.
solidarity exposes Israel’s moral and political failure. Rights are not
bestowed by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights that are
inherent in humanity, to be enjoyed by every nation and all human beings.
Palestinians will not be an exception. Only ending occupation will end this
injustice and mark the birth of peace.
Note: April 17, 2017

This article explained the
writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating
the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and
membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a
defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction
and legitimacy.
Barghouti is a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.

See also Israel
punishes hunger strikers for demanding their rights

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