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How About Mustafa Barghouti As An Alternative?

How About Mustafa Barghouti As An Alternative?

By Ramzy Baroud

Talks about national unity among various Palestinian factions, and the “opportunity” that might have emerged following the sudden death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have all faded into uncertainty. What remains is the most predictable, albeit consequential outcome of the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for January.

Islamic movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad, along with the socialist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) were undoubtedly interested in reconciling their differences with the mainstream Fatah movement that dominates the Palestinian Authority (PA). They remain firm on finding a formula that allows them to translate their popular support into political influence. And compromise they must.

But for these factions, the dilemma was very intricate. Nominating a candidate to run for ‘office’ — so to speak — would have suggested that Hamas, among others in the Palestinian “opposition” have finally come to terms with the premise upon which this political process was founded. The casual rejection of the Oslo accords would no longer suffice when a Hamas candidate strives to win the same office that would have not existed if it weren’t for Oslo.

This, in part, explains why Hamas is more fixated on the parliamentary and municipal elections, scheduled for a later date. By winning a substantial vote, Hamas will have achieved its goal in demonstrating its political popular influence in the occupied territories, without setting itself up as a politically, rather than morally or religiously motivated party. Winning the presidency without a parliamentary majority means an internal and external political deadlock, between a lone Hamas president and a disgruntled Fatah Parliament, and an international community that will not dare come near a badly reputed Hamas leadership.

Hamas is out of the picture for now, joined by less influential Palestinian factions. Moreover, Marwan Barghouti, who twice nominated himself for the contested position, once again withdrew his nomination, after giving a double scare to the traditional Fatah leadership who knew too well that the charismatic young man could have easily won the presidency from his prison cell.

Left is Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the PLO’s new boss and the favored candidate by the status quo party at the PA, in addition to the inundated support received from both Israel and the United States.

Even before his almost certain victory, Abu Mazen has insisted on providing a model of the PA’s political line under his leadership. His condemnation of armed resistance against the Israeli military occupation is by no means an indication of his leaning toward unarmed resistance. The man is neither a visionary nor does he have any meaningful alternative to armed resistance

Abu Mazen has made unqualified apologies, “to Kuwait and the Kuwaiti people for what they did,” referring to the PLO’s siding with Iraq during the 1991 Iraq war. While the PLO’s position was clear before and during the war, that no foreign troops should be allowed to get involved in an affair that must be resolved internally, the PLO should’ve kept its distance considering the fact that ordinary Palestinians have often been the scapegoat in such conflicts. The liberation of Kuwait brought a great deal of misery to tens of thousands of Palestinians whose human rights seemed the least of Abu Mazen’s concerns.

The Bush administration, despite its refusal to conform to much of the foreign policy doctrines of past administrations, understands the psychological importance of democracy rhetoric and insists on associating itself with democracy charades around the world: Afghanistan, Iraq and now Palestine. It has urged Israel to do all it can to help the newborn Palestinian democratic experience. Israel obliged, vowing to evacuate it troops from major Palestinian population centers for 72 hours during the election, with a subtle promise to return “to occupation as usual”.

Although this scenario is closer to travesty than democracy, the show must go on, so long as the New York Times reports with unending gratitude that Israel has done a great deed in aiding the first genuine democratic experience in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, in order to guarantee a sweeping win for Abu Mazen, Israel is resorting to its usual tactics of coercing other candidates who dare to challenge the man who seems more interested in Israel’s security than the security and rights of his own people.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is one. One of the most eloquent and dedicated Palestinians alive, Dr. Barghouti was beaten by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint during a campaign trip. He was “choked with his own necktie, and left with wounds on his hands, foot and nose.” It was neither the first, and dare I say will not be the last time that this courageous Palestinian will be bruised by Israeli occupation troops.

Dr. Barghouti is categorized as neither an old guard nor a compromiser. He was never a apart of a corruption scandal nor is he a fame seeker. The free medical services provided by an organization that he has established have reached tens of thousands of the poorest Palestinians, in villages that Abu Mazen hardly knows existed.

Not only does Dr. Barghouti believe in democracy and national unity, but also he is one of the most influential founders and leaders in the democratic opposition movement, Al-Mubadara, jointly established with the late Professor Edward Said and the respected Dr. Haider Abdul Shafi.

The clarity in this man’s political vision and respect for human rights and insistence on national unity is certainly a prerequisite to any successful Palestinian struggle.

I am proud to say that I am a signatory on Dr. Barghouti’s Mubadara, which seems to cater exclusively for the interests of the Palestinian people rather than the arrogant demands of their occupiers.

In a recent radio interview in Minnesota, the show host concluded with the question, “but if not Abu Mazen, then who? Is there really an alternative that can in fact benefit the Palestinians?” “Yes there is,” I answered without any hesitance, “and his name is Mustafa Barghouti.”


Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Arab-American journalist and editor in chief of and head of Research & Studies Department at English.

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