There are many reasons why Marwan Barghouti should eventually be released from jail so he can run for office. But the Left should, even as it supports him, take into account his past — and why he’s in prison.
Marwan Barghouti has shaken headlines by leading a hunger strike among Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, calling for improved conditions, and by publishing an op-ed in the New York Times explaining why. Over 1,100 Palestinian prisoners have so far joined the hunger strike.
The Israeli establishment is frothing at the mouth against what they call his lies, denying his allegations that he was tortured in earlier prison stints, denying that Israel even has political prisoners — implying that all 6,500 Palestinians in Israel jails, including 500 administrative detainees, are security prisoners — and bashing the New York Times.
Marwan Barghouti has been a charismatic Palestinian leader for decades and a committed and consistent two-state supporter, before and after the second Intifada. He was a serious rival to Yasser Arafat’s leadership and possibly a mortal political threat to Mahmoud Abbas. Surveys have long shown that he is the most likely to win a presidential election among Palestinians of the region; they also consistently show that nearly two-thirds of Palestinians wish for Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to resign.
Moreover, Barghouti has previously taken on the punishing task of criticizing human rights abuses by the PA against Palestinians — a sign that he might commit himself to a more democratic form of governance were he to enter office. He has been in jail for 13 years, where his popularity has only grown among Palestinians, and has been a leader of the struggle for Palestinian prisoner rights.
I am familiar with the path of certain leaders from violent struggle against political oppression, to statesperson. Every Israeli should be: It is the path of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Barghouti is more commonly compared, with no small controversy, to Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, or Nelson Mandela — both served jail time for charges related to violence.
For all these reasons, in my personal analysis and opinion Barghouti should eventually be released so that he can run for Palestinian political office, in the (unfortunately) unlikely event of Palestinian elections. He might bring more accountable governance to an increasingly rotten political system for Palestinians.
He has...Read More