Keep Marwan Barghouti Behind Bars

By David Bedein

Published December 09, 2005, issue of December 09, 2005.
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On this page last week, Yossi Beilin posited that convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti is the one Palestinian leader ready and able to fight Hamas (“Free Marwan Barghouti To Counter Power of Hamas,” December 2). Barghouti, however, would seem an unlikely candidate to take on that militant Islamist group.

On January 22, 1995, after Hamas massacred 19 Israelis at a bus stop in Beit Lid — a village near the coastal city of Netanya, located within the 1967 lines — Barghouti declared on the Saudi-owned MBC television network that “we cannot condemn such an attack, since this is an area that we have not yet liberated.” The video clip of that statement is readily available at our office at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem.

It was also Barghouti who from 1995 until his imprisonment in 2002 hammered out cooperative agreements in Cairo between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, according to the semi-official Egyptian daily Al Ahram, and who continues to do so today from prison. And according to Israeli intelligence sources and in the indictment issued against him, it was Barghouti who, on the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, became the head of a joint coordinating body of all Palestinian organizations in the West Bank — including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, all three of which are listed by both the American and the Israeli government as terrorist groups.

As for Beilin’s argument that Barghouti was only “indirectly” responsible for the murder of innocent people, it is surprising that a former Israeli justice minister saw fit to mention only in passing that Barghouti was convicted in May 2002 of first-degree murder for the cold-blooded killing of five civilians — in cases where the Israeli Justice Ministry provided incontrovertible documentation that Barghouti made direct payments to commission killers to commit wanton acts of murder.

The Marwan Barghouti who Beilin suggests should be released from prison so he can lead the Palestinian people is responsible for the murders of: Salim Barakat, 33, from the Druze village of Yarka in the Galilee, who survived by his wife, daughter, parents and seven brothers and sisters; Eli Dahan, 53, of Lod, who is survived by his mother Sarah, wife, Ilana, two daughters, two sons and three grandchildren; Yosef Habi, 52, of Herzliya, who is survived by his wife, son and daughter; Father Georgios Tsibouktzakis, 34, a Greek Orthodox monk from St. George’s Monastery in Wadi Kelt near Jericho, and Yoela Chen, 45, of Givat Ze’ev, who is survived by her husband and two children.

Nor are they Barghouti’s only victims. At his trial, people who were maimed as a result of Barghouti-sponsored attacks appeared as witnesses to the pain he caused them — pain they will experience for the rest of their lives.

Chicago-born Alan Bauer and his 7-year-old son Jonathan were among those witnesses. They were five minutes from their home in Jerusalem when a Barghouti-funded suicide bomber blew himself up three feet away from them on March 21, 2002. Two arteries in Bauer’s arm were severed. A screw went all the way through little Jonathan’s head. To this day, Jonathan walks with a limp.

According to the court protocols, Barghouti proudly admitted that he directed terrorist attacks in which scores of Israelis were killed and revealed how he directly allocated funds needed by terrorist cells to operate and purchase necessary weapons, and stated that Yasser Arafat personally authorized this funding for Tanzim activities, knowing that this money would be used to finance murderous attacks. Furthermore, protocols of interrogations of P.A. officials before the trial showed how the process worked: Names of Tanzim killers were submitted to Barghouti, who would routinely take them to Arafat for approval.

Why, Beilin implicitly asks, should Barghouti be kept in jail? The law would seem to be clear on this point: There is more than a slight possibility of recidivism — of Barghouti choosing to not abandon the path of violence if he were to be set free. He has shown no remorse for his commitment to liberate all of Palestine, nor has he revealed any second thoughts about his efforts to unite all Palestinian factions for that purpose.

The question for Yossi Beilin, who seems to ignore Barghouti’s direct responsibility for his indiscriminate murder of Israeli citizens, is how he would feel if Barghouti had bragged in an open court of law that he had murdered a member of Beilin’s family in the course of one of his terrorist actions “to liberate Palestine.”

Beilin is correct in writing that peace treaties are made between enemies, after the war has been concluded. Beilin is misguided in believing that Barghouti has shown any signs of leading a movement to stop the Palestinian militants’ war against the State of Israel.

David Bedein is bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency in Jerusalem.

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