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Intifada on Trial

Kristen Ess
Date Published: 
September 14, 2004
    Free Marwan Barghouti! Hands cuffed and raised in the air in defiance, Palestinian political prisoner Marwan Barghouti shouts outside the Israeli courthouse in Tel Aviv, “I am willing to pay with my freedom for my people’s freedom, for its independence.”

The Israeli occupation government took Barghouti from Ramallah on 15 April 2002 into Israeli prisons, and held him without charge or trial until 7 June 2004 when they sentenced him to 5 times life plus 40 years essentially for being “the leader of the Intifada.” “It’s a political court. And there’s nothing legitimate under international law or otherwise about ‘trying’ Marwan in it,” says Fateh political party member and refugee, Abu Mohammad. Marwan Khatib Barghouti is a Palestinian Legislative Council member and elected Palestinian parliament member, and is considered a major leader of the Fateh political party and the Palestinian National Authority. He will not appeal the Israeli court sentence as both he – and international law – do not recognize the legitimacy of the occupation court. The trial was largely referred to as a “show trial.” The Israelis even hired professional publicists to orchestrate its details as is outlined in the court documents. Abu Mohammad lights a Palestinian-made Imperial cigarette and continues, “The Israelis put him in prison because he’s a public leader and he talked about the Intifada, our independence and freedom. He was encouraging our legitimate right to resist the occupation, so the Israelis didn’t like it. It made it harder for them. But even the PNA had reason to get rid of him because they didn’t have a clear strategy and he did.” Right to resist Barghouti is a prominent figure of defiance and as such from prison he negotiated a cease-fire honored amongst Palestinian armed resistance groups in 2003, despite the fact that the Israelis never stopped their targeted assassinations, daily home and land demolitions, and closures. He says that, “Israelis must abandon the myth that it is possible to have peace and occupation at the same time, that peaceful coexistence is possible between slave and master.” Born in Kobar Village near Ramallah in the West Bank, Barghouti is outspoken at every opportunity, is well educated, and has suffered exile, torture, imprisonment, assassination attempts and occupation. He has advocated resistance in many forms, including negotiations with the Israeli government when the Palestinians are considered of equal-import in the proceedings, and the legitimate right to armed struggle against Israeli occupation forces only inside the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the capital of the slated Palestinian state, Jerusalem. For talking about the legal right to armed resistance, or maybe for also being a staunch advocate of negotiations and peace, the Israeli government has charged him with murder. Abu Mohammad talks about the light in Barghouti’s eyes and his strength. “In the end, Marwan showed the international community that the Israelis don’t want peace because he spoke about negotiations and salaam [peace].” The charges against Barghouti are not specific, pinning on him “the deaths of hundreds of Israelis.” The court documents show there is no evidence linking him to any specific deaths. It becomes clear upon perusal that the idea of resistance was tried and sentenced, not Marwan Barghouti. Political trial His court papers, submitted on 4 October 2003 by lawyers Jawad Boulous and Anis Riad, are clear in outlining the lack of evidence and the kangaroo nature of the Israeli court system. “This court contravenes Israeli and international law…this court does not have the power to try him…the indictment itself is general and political, and is intended for [Israel’s] propaganda purposes in opposing the justifiable struggle of the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” Speaking about his advocacy of negotiations, Barghouti told the Washington Post on 15 January 2002, just a few months before his latest imprisonment, “For six years I languished as a political prisoner in an Israeli jail, where I was tortured, where I hung blindfolded as an Israeli beat my genitals with a stick. But since 1994, when I believed Israel was serious about ending its occupation, I have been a tireless advocate of a peace based on fairness and equality. I led delegations of Palestinians in meetings with Israeli parliamentarians to promote mutual understanding and cooperation.” Barghouti was illegally taken from his Area A home city of Ramallah where the Palestinians have sovereignty in all regards, including in prosecuting any crimes, under Oslo and the 1995 Palestinian-Israeli Interim Agreement. Additionally in contravention to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the transfer of occupied people to the territory of the occupier, the Israeli government took Barghouti from an Israeli prison set up in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank, into a prison in “Israel-proper” on 26 May 2002. General Director of the PA’s Ministry of Interior in Bethlehem, George Hazboun, says of Barghouti’s sentencing more than two years later, “He’ll stay in prison for a few years, and when there’s a political solution to the conflict he’ll be out. There is no way around the fact that this is a political trial, a political sentence.” ABOUT THE AUTHOR For more of Kristen Ess' diary entries, visit the Electronic Intifada's collection of eyewitness accounts from Palestine.