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For his supporters, he is the “Nelson Mandela” of the Palestinians, popular and unifying. For Israel, he is a murderer who continues to transmit orders from his cell.

Will Israel agree to release Marwan Barghouti? | Middle East, the ;eternal conflict

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A supporter of imprisoned Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti cleaning a poster of him in November 2004 in Ramallah, West Bank.

  • Marie-Eve Bédard (View profile)Marie-Eve Bédard

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Hamas calls for the release of imprisoned Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti, from Fatah, as part of a ceasefire and hostage release agreement that is still under discussion.

On Monday, the Palestinian prisoners' committee sounded the alarm: Marwan Barghouti would suffer torture in his Israeli prison, cut off from everything contact.

For Israeli justice, he is a terrorist. Marwan Barghouti has been serving five life sentences for 20 years.

For the Palestinians, he is a resistance fighter, a hero of the caliber of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

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Arab Barghouti is the younger son of Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti.

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For me, of course, he is a father, first and foremost. And he is my role model, says Arab Barghouti, son of the Palestinian activist, in the living room of the family apartment in Ramallah, in the West Bank.

The youngest of four children, Arab Barghouti was only 11 when his father was convicted. Since then, the 33-year-old has only seen him a few times a year.

Today, his father Marwan is at the heart of negotiations between Israel and Hamas, which demanded his release.

The question of post-war governance in Gaza remains unresolved and Marwan Barghouti appears , for many, as an alternative to Hamas and the corruption of Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority.

His place is with the Palestinian people. My father is not a violent person. At the same time, he will not compromise, he will never abandon the rights of the Palestinians.

A quote from Arab Barghouti, son of Marwan Barghouti

Israel accused Marwan Barghouti of founding the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's armed wing, in early 2000 and charged him with 26 counts of murder and attempted murder attributed to the group.< /p>Open in full screen mode

Marwan Barghouti, seen here in the Tel Aviv court in August 2002, is a Palestinian activist who joined Yasser Arafat's Fatah at the age of 15.

He never cooperated with the Israeli court. He did not recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli court to condemn him as a member of Parliament, explains Arab Barghouti.

Marwan Barghouti fell into politics at a very young age, serving the Palestinian cause. At age 15, he joined Yasser Arafat’s Fatah. He experienced prison for the first time, five years after the first Intifada of 1987, then forced exile in Jordan.

At the signing of the agreements from Oslo, he was able to return home. The charismatic young leader was tipped to succeed the aging revolutionary. He believed and still believes in peace with his neighbors, says his son.

It's not like overnight my father, a Palestinian leader, had decided that he wanted to kill the Israelis as people want us to believe. No. He worked with them, he met them, he traveled with them.

A quote from Arab Barghouti, son of Marwan Barghouti

Yossi Beilin, an Israeli politician, knew Marwan Barghouthi well when he was Minister of Justice.

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Yossi Beilin , former Israeli Minister of Justice

He was very supportive of the Oslo process, he believed in good neighborliness and the two-state solution, if I can put it like that, without bullshit, recalls Mr. Beilin.

Yossi Beilin believes that the failure of the Camp David negotiations in 2000 pushed Marwan Barghouti to toughen his tone. When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Esplanade des Mosques, the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, he ignited Palestinian resentment, he said. /p>

During our last meeting, two years before his arrest, he told me that he had believed in the Oslo Accords, that he had wanted peace with us, but that they had thrown him into the air . He warned me: "We are in competition with Hamas and if we demonstrate to our people that the path to peace was a failure, Hamas will prosper, because they have always said: don't trust the Jews, don't make peace with them."

A quote from Yossi Beilin, former Israeli Minister of Justice

Marwan Barghouti played a key role during the popular uprisings of the first and second Intifada. He led protests by giving inflammatory speeches.

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A woman throws rocks at Israeli soldiers during clashes in Hebron, West Bank, in October 2000.

Shortly before her arrest in 2002 , he survived an assassination attempt by the Israelis.

The guy is not innocent, I recognize that, says Yossi Beilin. I'm just saying it was stupid to arrest him and stupid to keep him in prison.

He was a friend, remembers Meir Chetrit, then Israeli Minister of Justice, with a smile. My impression of him is that he was against the corruption of the Palestinian Authority. He was against Arafat and he seriously supported peace with Israel. He believed that we should live in peace and he wanted to build a democratic state.

Mr. Chetrit likes to say that Marwan Barghouti spent an entire night treating him during a business trip to Italy. Victim of a feverish illness, he asked the Palestinian for help. He brought the blankets of the entire Palestinian delegation and lay on me all night.

Despite the friendship he maintained with Marwan Barghouti, he believed it was legitimate to arrest the Palestinian leader.

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Israel accused Marwan Barghouti for founding the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in early 2000. Brigades activists are seen here during a demonstration in Hebron, West Bank, in April 2006.

That saddens me because I think he’s one of the good ones. In my opinion, even today, even in prison, if there were elections within the Palestinian Authority, no one could beat him. He would win, from prison.

A quote from Meir Chetrit, former Israeli Minister of Justice

It is true that, from his cell, Marwan Barghouti has always weighed heavily on the political situation. People admire him, young people. And of course, the prison gives him even more importance, it makes him an obvious leader, describes Meir Chetrit.

According to a survey published in December 2023 by the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Survey, 57% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would vote for him, ahead of Mahmoud Abbas, the current president, and Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas.

He is accepted by many Hamas members; no Palestinian leader is so accepted by all parties and movements, argues former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin. If the question is whether the Israeli government should prevent him from being released, of course not.

The current government does not want this hope that it represents, according to Meir Chetrit, a former member of Benyamin Netanyahu's Likud. The current government will never let him out of prison.

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Since the Hamas attack on October 7, Marwan Barghouti has been placed in solitary confinement. His lawyers and family are concerned about the mistreatment he is suffering, they say. He is badly beaten, his collarbone is broken and he is deprived of care, says Arab Barghouti.

There is no food , they only give three spoons of rice and two small pieces of bread for a whole day. He had lost 20 pounds a few weeks ago. God only knows how many now, says Marwan Barghouti's son.

This Monday, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) also accused the Israeli authorities, through a press release, of subjecting the detainee to solitary confinement and torture and of waging a war against Palestinian prisoners.

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Banan Al-Qaddoumi is one of the last people to see Marwan Barghouti in prison.

From October 7, the policy of the Prison Service has been to use us as the object of their vengeance. They took revenge on the prisoners as if we were part of the war, as if we were responsible for it, says Banan Al-Qaddoumi.

He is one of the last people to see Marwan Barghouti in prison. Mr. Al-Qaddoumi was by his side on October 7, serving the final months of a 16-year sentence for terrorist activity. Free since December, he is now a police officer in the Palestinian Authority.

We were in a constant state of fear. We were helpless, we had lost all power. No food, no water, nothing to cover us, nothing. They broke into our cells every day as if we were threats, says Banan Al-Qaddoumi.

In the newspaper Haaretz, the spokesperson for the Israeli Prisons Service denied what he describes as false information. The service behaves in accordance with the law, he argued.

If Arab Barghouti and his mother Fadwa do not lose hope and have fought for more than 20 years to have him released, it is because Marwan Barghouti never allowed himself to give up and never gave up on a free state for the Palestinians.

I never saw him lose hope for the future. And that's the kind of power we Palestinians need, because we feel powerless. We feel like we no longer have hope. Political prisoners will change that.

A quote from Arab Barghouti, son of Marwan Barghouti

Arab Barghouti remembers his father's words: war is useless if it cannot lead to peace.

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