Palestine’s national hero

By Michael Evans

Marwan Barghouti, the first Palestinian prisoner to be tried in Israel since the signing of the Oslo Accords, has been convicted in the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek monk. He was originally charged with planning 37 terror attacks, which included 26 indictments for murder.

In handing down the decision, the Israeli judges stated that even though Barghouti was clearly involved in orchestrating the attacks, there was no concrete evidence to directly link him to the other cases. The Israeli court stressed that Barghouti could not be convicted simply because he issued a general call for brutal attacks against Israelis.

Following the decision, Haifa University law professor Emmanuel Gross denounced the decision: “In terms of current criminal law,” he said, “I don’t think the prosecution had to prove that the head of a criminal organization has to be aware of every single detail of his subordinates’ plans … it is sufficient that he directed his men towards the goals he wanted to reach, equipped them with the necessary means and trained them to achieve these goals.”

Ahmed Tibi, one of the Arab ministers in the Knesset, called the proceedings “illegitimate” and said, “Leaders should not be put in prison. Barghouti is a Palestinian national hero.”

Barghouti gained entrance to the terror cartel when he helped to found Shabiba, a Fatah youth organization under the umbrella of his role model, Yasser Arafat. He moved up the chain of command in 1995 when Arafat and Barghouti founded Tanzim, a paramilitary arm of Fatah. Barghouti was regarded as the Tanzim’s commander with Arafat’s full support – so much so, that when Barghouti lost a Tanzim election, Arafat negated the election.

As the head of Fatah, Tanzim and al-Aksa Martyr’s Brigade, Marwan Barghouti was the person directly responsible for planning, funding and selecting those to execute the deadly attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza.

The final verdict centered around one count of attempted murder for an abortive car-bomb attack, the death of a Greek monk (an Israeli citizen) in 2001, an attack at a Tel Aviv restaurant which left three people dead, and an attack on a settlement north of Jerusalem.

Now the court must decide Barghouti’s fate. He could be sentenced to life imprisonment for each of the five murders. Barghouti, who defended himself during the trial, apparently has no plans to appeal the decision. As he was led from the courtroom, he shouted in Arabic, “This is a court of occupation that I do not accept.”

Barghouti’s terrorist network, Fatah al-Aksa Martyrs’ Brigade, responded to the verdict by vowing that their “top priority” would be the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers to use as bargaining chips for their leader’s release.

Whatever the outcome of the sentencing, Barghouti, who was thought to be Arafat’s hand-picked successor, will likely spend the rest of his life in an Israeli prison. His will be a much more humane end than those who died at the hands of his terrorist organization.