What is the role of Marwan Barghouti with the Palestinian Arabs?
The struggle of the independence of Palestine has given birth to some world class leaders who have outstandingly presented the case of Palestinian Arabs. Marwan Barghouti is one of such leaders who became as the voice of helpless Palestinians. Born in 1958 in the West Bank, Barghouti joined Fatah Movement at the age of fifteen and was one of the founders of the Fatah Youth Organization, Shabiba. He was sentenced to eighteen years of imprisonment by Israel in 1976 for his involvement in an uprising. He learned Hebrew during his time in the prison and went to study in Beir Zeit University where he gained his master’s degree and a post graduate diploma.
Barghouti became a major part of the first intifada in the Gaza Strip as its political leader. He got arrested in 1987 and was deported to Jordan, allowing his return only when he signed the Oslo Agreements in 1994. He became a member of the Legislative Council of Palestine in 1996 where he initiated the peace process between Israel and Palestine. He was not only one of the earnest defenders of the need for peace but also took active part in the cause of fighting against corruption and promotion of social and economic justice, equality and human rights. His efforts brought him a prominent position within Fatah and he was made the secretary-general of the faction for the West Bank. While he was becoming highly popular among Palestinians, the Israelis accused him for planning suicide bombings and that made him one of the most wanted Palestinians leaders by Israel.
Marwan Barghouti was frequently touted as a potential successor to Yasser Arafat because no controversy has affected his popularity unlike some other leaders of Fatah who had to deal with corruption accusations. His imprisonment also did no harm to him and he emerged as a strong political leader; someone with a talent to bring about the much-needed change in the region’s political and economic structure. He wrote to the Washington Post in 2002 presenting himself as a Palestinian leader with limited political aims; a supporter of renouncing terrorism and an advocate of the Palestinian’s right to self-defense. He stated, “And while I, and the Fatah movement to which I belong, strongly oppose attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel (emphasis added), our future neighbor, I reserve the right to protect myself, to resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom.” While expressing his opinion in the New Yorker Magazine, Barghouti stated, “We need one hundred percent of Gaza, one hundred percent of the West Bank, one hundred percent of East Jerusalem, and the right of return for refugees.”
Much to the dismay of Palestinians, Barghouti was arrested in Ramallah in 2002 by the Israeli security forces and was given a life sentence and 40 years in prison. Although Israeli legislation is insistent that Barghouti should never walk out free from the jail due to his alleged role in the second intifada and they have also put him in solitary confinement, there is a growing acknowledgement among Palestinians, human rights organizations and some Israelis that Barghouti’s ideas of social and economic reforms have prospects of peace. He is a living example of determination and endurance, and Palestinians are hopeful that their leader will soon be back to participate in the independence struggle from the frontline.