Francis Vierboom's Blog

A blog about things. Mostly news, ideas, and Sydney

Barghouti to be freed?

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Interesting and exciting reports in the Guardian today that there could be a prisoner swap involving the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and popular Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti. As the article explains, Barghouti, despite being in jail for most of the past decade, leads Palestinian opinion polls and, given Abbas’ announcement that he will not run for President again, could win an election fairly handily.

I had read about Barghouti before (this fantastic interview from 2001) and he comes across as a clever man and a potentially great leader. And it is easy to imagine his popularity in the current dire situation in Gaza and the West Bank; ‘Abu Qassam’, as he is known, represents a nostalgic time of relative unity and at least visible, even if horribly violent and not effective, resistance to the occupation.

The Guardian suggests that there are those who think his return could even heal the rift between Fatah and Hamas. That would be great, and it even worries some hardline Israelis, who see that the current split weakens the Palestinians. But the obvious thing to say is that on being released he might find that reality on the ground in the occupied territories – the true scale of the division between Hamas and Fatah, which by all accounts has been highly exacerbated by violence and abductions in the last year – has moved on a little further than even leader of his stature could turn back.

Still, given the total failure of the last eight years of violence and negotiations, it is elusive figures like Barghouti and the compelling ‘mythology’, as it were, of the Palestinian cause that could still make a big difference. Even though what I know about him is almost entirely on that interview and the snippets I have read since – while being fully aware of the charges of terrorism he was convicted of – I hope he is freed soon. It would be the first good news for the peace process in many years.

Written by Francis

November 29, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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