One of the questions I am frequently asked in lectures or interviews is where is the Palestinian and Israeli De Klerk and Mandela when it comes to ending the nearly 70-year conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Where is that equivalent of brave leaders willing to make the tough sacrifices to forge peace under circumstances that finds little traction amongst their supporter-base? This invariably leads to the debate about what kinds of concessions need to be made to achieve peace. While the South African experience is not a “one size fits all” solution, it is clear that to achieve peace, both sides will have to commit to negotiations and make painful sacrifices.
South Africa seems to hold a special place of both fascination and significance when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from both a positive and negative perspective and very often the South African experience is used by Israel’s detractors to suit their more nefarious agendas.
Stealing South African narratives, its symbols and its icons is a ploy used by the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement to falsely portray Israel as a pariah nation and call into question her legitimacy as a sovereign state. The latest is the hijacking of the esteemed persona of Nelson Mandela by arch-terrorist and Palestinian prisoner, Marwan Barghouti. Mandela astutely once declared: “If you want to make peace with your enemy you have to work with your enemy. Then your enemy becomes your partner”. This is sound and inspiring counsel. However, it’s as far a cry from Barghouti’s position as the continent apart separating him sitting in an Israeli prison for multiple convictions of murder than from where Mandela once sat in Robben Island leading the liberation against the racist Apartheid regime.
Marwan Barghouti, the aspiring successor to President Mahmoud Abbas, is positioning himself as the “Palestinian Mandela”. Apart from being a convicted murderer, he is also a petty thief! He has no qualms of stealing an identity of one of the greatest persons of the 20th century for political millage. Who exactly is Marwan Barghouti?
Murder most Foul
Marwan Barghouti is a former leader of “Tanzim”, the armed wing of Fatah, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, both terror organisations responsible for the murder of many Israeli civilians. Barghouti is serving time for the planning and directing of the murders of five Israelis including a Greek Orthodox monk who was jogging at the time he was gunned down in cold blood. Barghouti’s henchmen must have thought the monk was a Jew!
Hardly an image Mandela’s would like to be associated with!
Some have opined that in the early days of the struggle, Mandela advocated terrorism but the fundamental difference was that the ANC adopted a policy of sabotage, mainly targeting utility institutions, while Barghouti is on record as saying: “We must take revenge. We must kill Israelis. Yes. We have bullets. We have rifles, and they will be aimed at the occupation.”
Mandela, who is a symbol of reconciliation, would never have countenanced such appalling actions. Barghouti, the murderer who could be earning up to 12,000 Israeli shekels or R45,000 per month from the PA has initiated a hunger strike – between chocolate breaks!
This is no Mandela!
‘Hunger’ for Power
Why are Palestinian prisoners going on a hunger strike? True, they do not want to be in prison but they have been convicted in courts of law for serious offences – notably terrorism including murder. So, they are not striking over their legal incarceration, for that they have a legal right of appeal. Also, they receive regular visits from families as well as the Red Cross; have access to medical care, TV, education, religious rights, meetings with their attorneys as well as a multitude of other comforts, not enjoyed by prisoners abroad, let alone in Gaza or the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority, which carries the death penalty. In Gaza, prisoners are regularly executed, with no-one in South Africa going on a hunger strike in support! One would think that there is some great inalienable right that they are striking for. A strike that is garnering similar solidarity initiatives, such as the one supported by a whole bunch of South African politicians, celebrities and ne’er do gooders. No ladies and gentlemen, the prisoners are striking for – “Access to satellite channels tailored to the needs of prisoners.” *
No wonder Barghouti was so stressed he felt compelled to sneak into the lavatory of his cell for a chocolate and tortilla break on two occasions!
Well; a murder, a liar, a thief – why not a cheat!
The one thing he is not – he is no Mandela!
The Man He Wants To Be
With all the controversy surrounding the strikes one would think that the voices of true victims in our region would be heard. If Barghouti was a fraction of the man he wants to be identified with, he would go on a hunger strike to raise awareness for:
– the rights of women in the Middle East, notably the scourge of honour killings, genital mutilation and second class citizen status of our sisters.
– the wholesale persecution of Christians and gays
– the lack of freedom of expression and the right of a free press
– the treatment of political opposition in Gaza and the territory under the PA.
Striking a Pose
The only genuine thing Barghouti is striking about, is positioning himself in the popularity stakes to take over the P.A. leadership from Mahmoud Abbas. To this end, it would be convenient to have select TV channels in prison to mount his political campaign. When one recalls how Mandela, incarcerated for 27 years, would not compromise on any issue of principle, Barghouti has the cheek to think he could even walk in Madiba’s shadow.
As I said, Marwan Barghouti is no Mandela!
*Reference NGO Monitor