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Marwan Barghouti

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Marwan Barghouti
Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council
Assumed office
Personal details
Born (1959-06-06) 6 June 1959 (age 65)
Kobar, Jordanian West Bank
Political partyFatah (before 2005, 2006–present)
Al-Mustaqbal (2005–2006)
SpouseFadwa Barghouti

Marwan Barghouti (also transliterated al-Barghuthi; Arabic: مروان البرغوثي; born 6 June 1959) is a Palestinian political leader convicted and imprisoned for his role in deadly attacks against Israel.[1] He is regarded as a leader of the First and Second Intifadas. Barghouti at one time supported the peace process, but later became disillusioned after 2000, becoming a leader of Tanzim, a paramilitary offshoot of Fatah.[2][3]

Barghouti was born in the village of Kobar in the West Bank in 1959. At the age of 15, he joined Fatah and co-founded its Youth Movement, and was consequently arrested by Israel three years later. During his four-year first imprisonment, Barghouthi completed his secondary education and gained fluency in Hebrew. In 1983, Barghouti enrolled at the Birzeit University and gained his B.A. in History and Political Science in 1994, earning soon after an M.A. in International Relations in 1998. In 1984, Barghouthi married a fellow student, Fadwa Ibrahim, a prominent advocate for Palestinian prisoners, who later became the leading campaigner for her husband's release during his current imprisonment.

Israeli authorities have called Barghouti a terrorist, accusing him of directing numerous attacks, including suicide bombings, against civilian and military targets alike.[4] Barghouti was arrested by Israel Defense Forces in 2002 in Ramallah.[1] He was tried and convicted on charges of murder, and sentenced to five life sentences. Marwan Barghouti refused to present a defense to the charges brought against him, maintaining throughout that the trial was illegal and illegitimate. Barghouti still exerts great influence in Fatah from within prison.[5] With popularity reaching further than that, there has been some speculation whether he could be a unifying candidate in a bid to succeed Mahmoud Abbas.[6]

In the negotiations over the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Hamas insisted on including Barghouti in the deal with Israel;[7][8] however, Israel was unwilling to concede to that demand. Despite initial reports that he was going to be released in the 11 October 2011 deal between Israel and Hamas, it was soon denied by Israeli sources.[9][10] In November 2014, Barghouti urged the Palestinian Authority to immediately end security cooperation with Israel and called for a Third Intifada against Israel.[11]


Barghouti was born in the village of Kobar near Ramallah, and comes from the Barghouti clan, an extended family from Deir Ghassaneh. Mustafa Barghouti, a fellow Palestinian political figure, is a distant cousin. Barghouti was one of seven children, and his father was a migrant worker in Lebanon. His younger brother Muqbel described him as "a naughty and rebellious boy".[12]

Barghouti joined Fatah at age 15,[1] and he was a co-founder of the Fatah Youth Movement (Shabiba) on the West Bank. By the age of 18 in 1976, Barghouti was arrested by Israel for his involvement with Palestinian militant groups. He completed his secondary education and received a high school diploma while serving a four-year term in jail, where he gained fluency in Hebrew.[13]

Barghouti enrolled at Birzeit University (BZU) in 1983, though arrest and exile meant that he did not receive his B.A. (History and Political Science) until 1994. He earned an M.A. in International Relations, also from Birzeit, in 1998. As an undergraduate, he was active in student politics on behalf of Fatah and headed the BZU Student Council. On 21 October 1984, he married a fellow student, Fadwa Ibrahim. Fadwa took bachelor's and master's degrees in law and was a prominent advocate in her own right on behalf of Palestinian prisoners, before becoming the leading campaigner for her husband's release from his current jail term. The couple has a daughter, Ruba (born 1986), and three sons, Qassam (born 1985), Sharaf (born 1989) and Arab (born 1990).

First Intifada, the Oslo Accords and the aftermath

Barghouti became one of the major leaders in the West Bank of the First Intifada in 1987, leading Palestinians in a mass uprising against Israeli occupation.[1] During the uprising, he was arrested by Israel and deported to Jordan for incitement,[14] where he stayed for seven years until he was permitted to return under the terms of the Oslo Accords in 1994.[1]

Although he was a strong supporter of the peace process he doubted that Israel was committed to land-for-peace deals.[1][15] In 1996, he was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council,[1] following which he began his active advocacy of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Barghouti campaigned against corruption in Arafat's administration and human rights violations by its security services, and he established relationships with a number of Israeli politicians and members of Israel's peace movement.[1] The formal position occupied by Barghouti was Secretary-General of Fatah in the West Bank.[16] By the summer of 2000, particularly after the Camp David summit failed, Barghouti was disillusioned and said that popular protests and "new forms of military struggle" would be features of the "next Intifada".[1][14]

Second Intifada

A portrait of Marwan Barghouti on the wall by Qalandia.

Tanzim leadership

In September 2000, the Second Intifada began. Barghouti became increasingly popular as a leader of the Fatah armed branch, the Tanzim, seen as one of the major forces fighting against the Israel Defense Forces. Barghouti led marches to Israeli checkpoints, where riots broke out against Israeli soldiers and spurred on Palestinians in speeches at funerals and demonstrations, condoning the use of force to expel Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.[1] He has stated that, "I, and the Fatah movement to which I belong, strongly oppose attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel, our future neighbor, I reserve the right to protect myself, to resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom" and has said, "I still seek peaceful coexistence between the equal and independent countries of Israel and Palestine based on full withdrawal from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967."[17]

As the Palestinian death toll in the Second Intifada increased, Barghouti called for Palestinians to target Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza.[14] During the second intifada Barghouti was accused by Israel of being a senior member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, an organization which conducted numerous attacks and suicide bombings on civilians both within and outside of Israel proper,[18] and has been accused of having directed some of these bombings personally.[18][19] While some Palestinian militants advocated adopting tactics based on those used by Hezbollah to drive the Israeli army out of Lebanon, Barghouti was seen as less radical, supporting violent actions based on popular movements but exclusively within the Palestinian territories.[20]

According to National Public Radio, Barghouti "cut his ideological teeth as the political leader of Fatah's armed militant wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.[21]

Israeli trial and imprisonment

Barghouti being arrested by Israeli soldiers in Ramallah during Operation Defensive Shield

Israel accused him of founding the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and attempted to assassinate him in 2001.[1] The missile hit his bodyguard's car, killing the bodyguard.[1] Barghouti survived but was arrested by the Israeli Army in Ramallah, on 15 April 2002 and transferred to the 'Russian Compound' police station in Jerusalem.

Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz that Barghouti was arrested by soldiers of the Duchifat Battalion who had approached the building hidden in an ambulance to avoid detection: "The Duchifat soldiers were squeezed into a protected ambulance in order to arrive as quickly as possible at the house where Barghouti was hiding, and to seal it off."[22]

Several months later, he was indicted in an Israeli civilian court on 26 charges of murder and attempted murder stemming from attacks carried out by the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades on Israeli civilians and soldiers.[23][24]

Barghouti refused to present a defense to the charges brought against him, maintaining throughout that the trial was illegal and illegitimate.[25] The Israeli verdict against him in effect removed Arafat's only political rival.[26] Barghouti stressed that he supported armed resistance to the Israeli occupation, but condemned attacks on civilians inside Israel. According to the case argued by Israel at his trial, he had supported and authorized such attacks.[27] On 20 May 2004, he was convicted of five counts of murder: authorizing and organizing the murder of Georgios Tsibouktzakis (aka Father Germanos, a Greek Orthodox monk-priest), a shooting adjacent to Giv'at Ze'ev in which a civilian was killed, and the Seafood Market attack in Tel Aviv in which three civilians were killed. In addition, he was convicted of attempted murder for a failed car bomb attack near Malha Mall that exploded prematurely, resulting in the deaths of two suicide bombers, and for membership and activity in a terrorist organization. He was acquitted of 21 counts of murder in 33 other attacks as no proof was brought to link Barghouti directly with the specific decisions of the local leadership of the Tanzim to carry out these particular attacks.[28] On 6 June 2004, he was sentenced to the maximum possible punishment for his convictions: five cumulative life sentences for the murders and an additional 40 years, consisting of 20 years each for attempted murder and for membership and activity in a terrorist organization.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union reviewed the case and released a report that criticized Barghouti's arrest, treatment while in detention, and trial. It said his rights were violated and international treaties and norms were contravened.[29][30]

Campaign for release

A portrait of Marwan Barghouti at a demonstration at Kafr ad-Dik.

Since Barghouti's arrest, many of his supporters have campaigned for his release. They include prominent Palestinian figures, members of European Parliament and the Israeli group Gush Shalom. Reuters reported that some see Barghouti "as a Palestinian Nelson Mandela, the man who could galvanize a drifting and divided national movement if only he were set free by Israel".[31] According to The Jerusalem Post, "[u]nlike many in the Western media, Palestinian journalists and writers have rarely - if ever - referred to Barghouti as...the 'Palestinian Nelson Mandela.'"[32]

Another approach is to suggest that Israel's freeing of Barghouti would be an excellent show of good faith in the peace process. This view gained popularity among the Israeli left after the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Still others, operating from a realpolitik perspective, have pointed out that allowing Barghouti to re-enter Palestinian politics could serve to bolster Fatah against gains in Hamas' popularity.[33] According to Pinhas Inbari of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs,

"Hamas understands it needs to provide its supporters with some comfort, especially seeing the suffering of the Palestinian people. For this reason, Hamas is willing to accept Barghouti's release and to deal with him after he is free. Without the severe state of the Palestinian people, Hamas would object to the release of Barghouti."[34]

Following Barghouti's January 2006 re-election to the Palestinian Legislative Council, a debate over Barghouti's fate began anew in Israel, ranging from former MK Yossi Beilin's support for a Presidential pardon to the total refusal of any idea of early release. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom stated,

"We must not forget that he is a cold-blooded murderer who was sentenced by the court to five life sentences… It is out of the question to free an assassin who has blood on his hands and was duly sentenced by a court."[35][36]

However several MKs, including Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit, suggested that Barghouti will likely be released as part of future peace negotiations, although they did not specify when. In January 2007, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres declared that he would sign a presidential pardon for Marwan Barghouti if elected to the Israeli presidency.[37] However, despite Peres winning the presidency, a pardon was not issued.

Split from Fatah

A portrait of Marwan Barghouti at a demonstration at Beit Ummar.

On 14 December 2005, Barghouti announced that he had formed a new political party, al-Mustaqbal ("The Future"), mainly composed of members of Fatah's "Young Guard", who repeatedly expressed frustration with the entrenched corruption in the party. The list, which was presented to the Palestinian Authority's central elections committee on that day, included Mohammed Dahlan, Kadoura Fares, Samir Mashharawi and Jibril Rajoub.[25]

The split followed Barghouti's earlier refusal of Mahmoud Abbas' offer to be second on the Fatah party's parliamentary list, behind Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei. Barghouti had actually topped the list,[38] but this had not become apparent until after the new party had been registered.

Reactions to the news was split. Some suggested that the move was a positive step towards peace, as Barghouti's new party could help reform major problems in Palestinian government. Others raised concern that it could wind up splitting the Fatah vote, inadvertently helping Hamas. Barghouti's supporters argued that al-Mustaqbal would split the votes of both parties, both from disenchanted Fatah members as well as moderate Hamas voters who do not agree with Hamas' political goals, but rather its social work and hard position on corruption. Some observers also hypothesized that the formation of al-Mustaqbal was mostly a negotiating tactic to get members of the Young Guard into higher positions of power within Fatah and its electoral list.

Barghouti eventually was convinced that the idea of leading a new party, especially one that was created by splitting from Fatah, would be unrealistic while he was still in prison. Instead he stood as a Fatah candidate in the January 2006 PLC elections, comfortably regaining his seat in the Palestinian Parliament.

Political activity in prison

In late 2004, Barghouti announced from his Israeli prison his intention to run in the Palestinian Authority presidential election in January 2005, called for following the death of President Yasser Arafat in November. On 26 November 2004, it appeared he would withdraw from the contest following pressure from the Fatah faction to support Abbas' candidacy. However, just before the deadline on 1 December, Barghouti's wife registered him as an independent candidate. On 12 December, facing pressure from Fatah[39] to withdraw in favor of Abbas, he chose to abandon his candidacy for the benefit of Palestinian unity. On 11 May 2006, Palestinian leaders held in Israeli prisons released the National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners. The document was a proposal initiated by Marwan Barghouti and leaders of Hamas, the PFLP, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the DFLP that proposed a basis upon which a coalition government should be formed in the Palestinian Legislative Council. This came as a result of the political stalemate in the Palestinian territories that followed Hamas' election to the PLC in January 2006. Crucially, the document also called for negotiation with the state of Israel in order to achieve lasting peace. The document quickly gained popular currency and is now considered the bedrock upon which a national unity government should be achieved. According to Haaretz, Barghouti, although not officially represented in the negotiations of a Palestinian unity government in February 2007, played a major role in mediating between Hamas and Fatah and formulating the compromise reached on 8 February 2007.[40] In 2009, he was elected to party leadership at the Fatah Conference in Bethlehem.[8]

In April 2017 he organized a hunger strike of Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails.[41] He laid out the motivation[specify] behind the strike in an op-ed in The New York Times.[42] On 7 May, the Israel Prison Service released a video allegedly showing Barghouti secretly eating snacks in his prison cell, once on 27 April and again on 5 May.[43][44] According to Haaretz, anonymous sources in the prison service said food was made available to Barghouti as part of a setup to check his adherence to his hunger strike.[45] Barghouti's wife said that the video was faked and was intended to undermine the hunger strike.[46]

Barghouti remains popular among the Palestinian people. According to polling data in mid-2012, 60% of Palestinians would vote for him for president of the Palestinian Authority, beating both Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.[47]

In August 2023, Barghouti's wife Fadwa held meetings with senior officials and diplomats across the world, including Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, to advocate for her husband's release and position him as a successor to Abbas. According to Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Barghouti would run in Palestinian presidential elections and maintained a polling lead over all other candidates.[48] During the Israel–Hamas war in February 2024, Hamas called for Barghouti's release, but he has been placed in solitary confinement.[49]

Since 7 October 2023 Barghouti has been held in solitary confinement, and according to his lawyer, denied medical treatment sustained during beatings. An Israeli human rights organisation has described the conditions under which he lives as 'torture'.[50] In March 2024, Barghouti's family reported that he was beaten by guards in prison.[51][52]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Profile: Marwan Barghouti". BBC News. 26 November 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  2. ^ Anthony H. Cordesman (2006). Arab-Israeli Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric Wars. Praeger Security International. p. 315. ISBN 0-275-99186-5.
  3. ^ Bahaa, Sherine. "'Israel's enemy number one'" Archived 26 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Al-Ahram Weekly 18–24 April 2002. Issue no. 582. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  4. ^ Marwan Barghouti incitement. Accessed: 29 August 2010.
  5. ^ "An interview with Marwan Barghouti". IMEU. Archived from the original on 30 September 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  6. ^ Mort, Jo-Ann (14 August 2009). "Why a Jailed Dissident Is Palestine's Best Hope". Foreign Policy.
  7. ^ Nahmias, Roee (22 July 2008). "Report: Israel refuses to release Ahmad Saadat". Ynetnews. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  8. ^ a b "Labor minister: Israel must consider freeing Fatah victor Barghouti". Haaretz. Reuters. Archived from the original on 7 January 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  9. ^ Benari, Elad (12 October 2011). "Sbarro Female Terrorist Among Those Freed". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  10. ^ Keinon, Herb (11 October 2011). "Marwan Barghouti won't be released in deal, officials say". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  11. ^ Umberto Bacchi, Marwan Barghouti Calls Third Intifada Against Israel. 11 November 2014, International Business Times.
  12. ^ Bennet, James (19 November 2004). "Jailed in Israel, Palestinian Symbol Eyes Top Post". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Lisa Hajjar, 'Interview with Marwan Barghouti' in Joel Beinin, Rebecca L. Stein (eds.),The Struggle for Sovereignty: Palestine and Israel, 1993-2005, Stanford University Press, 2006 p.105.
  14. ^ a b c Joel Beinin; Rebecca L. Stein (January 2006). The Struggle for Sovereignty: Palestine and Israel, 1993-2005. Stanford University Press. pp. 105–106. ISBN 978-0-8047-5365-4.
  15. ^ Usher, Graham; Barghouti, Marwan; Jiab, Ghazi Abu (1994). "Arafat and the Opposition". Middle East Report (191): 22–25. doi:10.2307/3012712. ISSN 0899-2851. JSTOR 3012712.
  16. ^ Tobias Kelly (December 2006). Cambridge Studies in Law and Society: Law, Violence and Sovereignty Among West Bank Palestinians. Cambridge University Press. p. 159. ISBN 9780521868068.
  17. ^ Marwan Barghouti (16 January 2002). "Want Security? End the Occupation". The Washington Post.
  18. ^ a b "Profile: Marwan Barghouti". BBC. 2 June 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  19. ^ Navon, Dani (6 May 2002). "The Involvement of Arafat, PA Senior Officials and Apparatuses in Terrorism against Israel: Corruption and Crime". MFA Israel. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  20. ^ Gilead Sher, The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations, 1999-2001: Within Reach, Taylor & Francis, 2006 p.183.
  21. ^ Westervelt, Eric (17 July 2007). "Groups Call for Release of Marwan Barghouti". NPR. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  22. ^ "גורמי ביטחון: ברגותי מפגין יהירות בחקירה". Haaretz. 18 April 2002. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  23. ^ Full indictment, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  24. ^ Indictment appendix listing all charges
  25. ^ a b "Barghouti, Marwan". MEDEA. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  26. ^ Colin Shindler A History of Modern Israel, Cambridge University Press, 2013 p.337.
  27. ^ Issacharoff, Avi (26 January 2012). "In rare court appearance, Marwan Barghouti calls for a peace deal based on 1967 lines". Haaretz.
  28. ^ Barghouti Found Guilty of 5 Murders, Haaretz, 21 May 2004
  29. ^ Simon Foreman 'The trial of Mr. Marwan Barghouti,' Inter-Parliamentary Union 2003.
  30. ^ The Inter-Parliamentary Union report is widely cited, including:
  31. ^ "Marwan Barghouti: Peace talks with Israel have failed". Haaretz. Reuters. 19 November 2009.
  32. ^ Khaled Abu Toameh (26 November 2009). "Analysis: Marwan Barghouti - A Nelson Mandela or a PR gimmick?". The Jerusalem Post.
  33. ^ "The Blame Game". The Forward. 31 October 2003.
  34. ^ On the chances of the release of Gilad Shalit (Hebrew) Archived 24 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Pinhas Inbari, 20 December 2007
  35. ^ "Barghouti´s Popularity Spurs Campaign to Free Him". Arutz Sheva. 25 January 2006. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  36. ^ "Israelis may release jailed Fatah leader". The Daily Star. 28 November 2005. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  37. ^ Bloomfield, David (6 November 2009). "Marwan Barghouti could stand as Palestinian president". The Telegraph. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  38. ^ "Fatah splits before key election". BBC News. 15 December 2005. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  39. ^ "China's young greens stage a quiet revolution". The Independent. 5 June 2001. Archived from the original on 12 October 2017. Retrieved 12 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  40. ^ "article".
  41. ^ Hunger strike puts jailed Palestinian in spotlight, Fox news from AP wire, 21 April 2017
  42. ^ Marwan Barghouti, Why We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel’s Prison, 16 April 2017
  43. ^ Palestinian hunger strike leader Barghouti 'filmed eating', BBC, 8 May 2017
  44. ^ Did hunger striking Palestinian prisoner Barghouti just eat some cookies? Israel says he did., The Washington Post, 8 May 2017
  45. ^ Israel Releases Footage of Palestinian Hunger Strike Leader Barghouti Eating in His Prison Cell, Haaretz, 8 May 2017
  46. ^ Barghouti's wife: 'Recordings of Marwan breaking the strike are fake', YNet, 8 May 2017
  47. ^ Issacharoff, Avi (27 June 2012). "Poll: Barghouti Would Defeat Abbas and Haniyeh in Vote for Palestinian President". Haaretz. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  48. ^ Zboun, Kifah (2 August 2023). "Barghouti's Wife Leads Movement to Support Him as Possible Successor to Abbas". Al-Sharq al-Awsat. Retrieved 27 October 2023.
  49. ^ Al Jazeera Staff. (15 February 2024). "Will Israel release Marwan Barghouti, the ‘Palestinian Mandela’?". Al Jazeera English website Retrieved 15 February 2024.
  50. ^ Ruth Michaelson, Sufian Taha and Quique Kierszenbaum, Israeli abuse of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti ‘amounts to torture’ The Guardian 18 May 2024
  51. ^ Khoury, Jack; Breiner, Josh (19 March 2024). "Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti 'beaten with clubs' by guards, family claims". Haaretz. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  52. ^ "Marwan Barghouti beaten by Israeli prison guards, says detainees advocate". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 19 March 2024.

Further reading

External links