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The Palestinian Mandela?

To his Israeli backers, Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti is the "Palestinian [Nelson] Mandela."  That image—of a principled, graying freedom fighter with the courage to move his people toward reconciliation—is promoted by political and cultural figures on the Israeli Left, from Uri Avnery and Amos Oz to the politicians Haim Oron, Benjamin Ben Eliezer, and Amir Peretz.  To these men, when Mahmoud Abbas leaves the scene, Barghouti is the redeemer to lead "Palestine" to peace with Israel. 

Relevant Links
Climbing a Very High Tree  Jackson Diehl, Washington Post. Does the Palestinian leadership know what it wants?
An Anti-Hamas Bulwark?  Sarah Honig, Jerusalem Post. Barghouti’s numerous left-wing Israeli fans think that he alone can revive the moribund peace process.
Smooth Criminal  Lindsey Hilsum, YouTube. Speaking from prison to a sympathetic journalist in 2006, Barghouti invokes the South Africa and Mandela analogies.  (Video)

Who is Barghouti?  He belongs to a prominent Palestinian clan and was a youthful activist in the first intifada that beginning in 1987 sought to force Israel out of the West Bank and claimed nearly 200 Israeli and over 1,300 Palestinian Arab lives.  Israel jailed and deported Barghouti twice, only to see him return as a senior Fatah leader after the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed. Fluent in Hebrew, he was a favorite participant at Israeli "peace camp" events (the New York Times once described him as "charming, articulate and intelligent, even if a bit of a showboat"). 

Barghouti served as a ranking member of the Al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigade and provided West Bank terror gangs with cash and guns to stoke the second intifada that began in September 2000. Still, he never stopped insisting that he opposed terrorism, especially within pre-1967 Israel.  Even while proclaiming his commitment to peaceful coexistence (contingent on an Israeli withdrawal to the vulnerable 1949 armistice lines), he led openly violent demonstrations against the "occupation" and clandestinely co-founded Tanzim, a new Fatah-aligned terror faction.  Culpable in the murder of tens of Israelis (and a Greek Orthodox monk mistaken for a Jew), he is now serving a life sentence in an Israeli penitentiary.

In prison, Barghouti has honed his gift for dissimulation, swiftly reinventing himself as a "dissident" and a scholar. In a recent interview, Barghouti, master of the oxymoron, called for "peaceful resistance . . . at this point in time." For Time's Karl Vick—who corresponded with Barghouti through his lawyers—the "setting" (which the reporter could only conjure up) recalled Robben Island in apartheid South Africa. Having disingenuously smeared Israel with the analogy, Vick promptly backpedaled: "Comparisons with Arafat are more apt." 

Unsurprisingly, prison has made Barghouti ever more popular with the Palestinian masses who—like him—are ambivalent about the utility of yet another paroxysm of intifada violence. Barghouti is a strong advocate of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and would defeat Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh in any Palestinian leadership contest. He also is adept at telling Palestinians what they want to hear: that they are the "generators of the longest armed revolution in modern history" facing a colonialist enemy whose cruelty "is unparalleled"; that peace talks are futile in the quest to push Israel back to the old armistice lines; that Palestinians should march in the millions this September to demand the UN unilaterally declare a Palestinian state on the PLO's terms.

In point of fact, there was never much evidence to substantiate the notion that the Palestinian Arabs want a Mandela-like leader. Certainly, their xenophobic war against Zionism is no parallel to the African struggle against apartheid. As for the straw man argument that Israelis reject Barghouti because of his violent history, it's worth recalling that in shaking hands with the insalubrious Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin calculated (wrongly, it turned out) that "you make peace with your enemies—not the Queen of Holland." 

But there is no evidence that Barghouti has shown a capacity for being able to move from enemy to peace partner. His two-state solution is ominously reminiscent of Arafat's 1974 scheme for the phased destruction of Israel—which underpinned the PLO's approach to Oslo.

Two years after Barghouti's capture, Oslo architect Yossi Beilin recounted Barghouti's telling him that his purpose in unleashing an orgy of violence against Israel was to capture the Palestinian street, which would otherwise fall to Hamas.  Beilin found Barghouti's explanation "cynical" and "frightening."  But, having evidently gotten over  his sense of betrayal, he has joined other Israeli leftists in advocating Barghouti's release.

The truth, as most Israelis realize, is that  the Palestinian Arabs have no realistic plan forward and Barghouti is incapable of providing them with one. Rather than leading his people to a sustainable two-state solution, coexistence with Israel, and, ultimately, reconciliation, he trails behind them toward one more dead end.  In The Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela wrote that "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner." By this and other definitions, Barghouti is no partner.

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Ellen on August 9, 2011 at 8:51 am (Reply)
Good piece, Mr. Jager. More to the politically incorrect point - Arab culture could never produce a Mandela or a Gandhi, as some on the infantile left have dreamed of for decades. Why they cannot produce such a person from the cultural milieu in which they are embedded, should be pretty obvious after watching 60 years of 18 Arab states producing nothing but leadership composed of squalid, tyrannical and thieving hereditary dictatorships.

Even more decisive is the current wave of Arab revolts, misnamed the Arab Spring by deluded Western journalists. So far, what we are seeing is revolts aimed at overturning horrible dictatorships (a good and justified action) be followed by sectarian civil wars or - in the cases of Egypt and Tunisia - the revolt of the backward mobs against the internet savvy elites who have no plan and no power to reconstruct these societies after 60 years of scorched earth.

The Palestinians, as Arafat once opined to Oriana Fallaci, cannot jump out of their Arab skins. What he meant was, why should anyone expect them to be more civil, more competent and more realistic in their political behavior than 18 other Arab states that have produced such poor results? They can't and won't change their spots, like the proverbial leopard, just because legions of Western leftists and Arabists are desperate to vindicate 40 years of supporting a failed cause.
DF on August 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm (Reply)
The engineer of the intifada which cost so many lives and stooped to sending even pregnant women and mentally handicapped children to blow themselves up in crowded marketplaces and restaurants is no Mandela.

Beyond that, there are many Palestinians who have proposed workable plans for a two state solution. To cover this up with political rhetoric like "realistic", meaning "good-to-go-just-sign it as is" is cynically calculated to support the delusion that Israel can hold on to the West Bank, rule over 4 million Arabs who hate them and still be a Jewish state.
Ellen on August 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm (Reply)
DF, There are 1.6 million Arabs on the West Bank (real numbers, not the make-believe PLO population statistic) and yes, Israel can rule over that population as it has ruled for 45 years over 200,000 Arabs in East Jerusalem as resident aliens with Jordanian citizenship.

As Caroline Glick has written, the challenge Israel faces with this population is no different than the challenge democratic European states face with their non-citizen Muslim populations who pose a potential security and demographic threat to them. Perhaps that is why European rulers have ceased to wag their fingers and give so many lectures to Israel about how it treats its Muslim minority, as they used to do in the 1980's.
Madel on August 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm (Reply)
Letting someone with Israeli blood on his hands not only go free, but represent the Palestinians in a two-state solution (which is critical to both parties) will validate once more Numbers 33:55, for, like Arafat, he would come to be for Israelis "stings in [their] eyes, and thorns in [their] sides."
daat y on August 9, 2011 at 8:23 pm (Reply)
The Israeli left practices "psychotic denial."It does not matter what terrorism the Palestinians do ,the left lives in a fantasy world.The sad part is they control the newspapers,TV,and radio.
The Supreme Court run by leftists has the power to control the country.
Smee on August 10, 2011 at 3:27 am (Reply)
This article is so tendentious as to be useless. The 1949 armistice lines the author refers to are of course the 1967 lines, which this government has now accepted as a starting point of negotiations. To refer to them as "1949" lines betrays an anti-peace agenda of the author. More than that, to call "peaceful resistance" an oxymoron is to betray an ignorance of the difference between peaceful and violent resistance. Apparently the author missed the Ghandi era and the period of the American civil rites movement as well as the peaceful resistance to the Vietnam war. Indeed for someone who has such a woeful understanding of what peace is, the author really has chutzpah to write about it's prospects.
df on August 10, 2011 at 9:17 am (Reply)
I do not know where you get the 1.4 statistic. The number corrected for discrepancies within PA agencies that is relied upon by the World Bank, Zionist population researchers and the CIA is about 2.5 give or take plus or minus .1. Add to that approx 1.5 million Arab citizens of Israel, you get 4 million. And this does not include Israelis who identify with the Jewish state but are not Jews by Halacha. If the West Bank becomes part of Israel you get - to use two terms that are not politically correct in our circles - either a bi-national state or an apartheid state. Reinforce that with population growth of 1.5 among Jews and 2 among Arabs.

It is a waste of time to make comparisons with Europe: no European country, including Spain, Ireland and Belgium have no internationally recognized border and jurisdiction over such a large proportion of the population with such a large discrepancy between their legal and political status and their aspirations.

What, exactly are those aspirations? Better that answering that question should be their problem than Israel's problem. What about their potential for violence? There are better ways of managing that than occupation, as Salam Fiad has shown.
Scorpio on August 10, 2011 at 9:30 am (Reply)
Love your readership. The above letters testify to the fact that there are still sane people (Jews) left who have no difficulty discerning a murderer from a saint (Mandela's blind anti-Zionism gives me trouble) and their clear vision of reality gives me hope for the future.
Ellen on August 10, 2011 at 10:28 am (Reply)

You obviously have not done your homework. The CIA and World Bank, as with the Israeli left, are simply photocopying the phony statistics fabricated by the PLO over the last 15 years that have been refuted by professional demographers as well as mounds of anecdotal evidence. These false numbers were created to support a false argument that Arab population in Israel and the West Bank would surpass the Jewish population at some unspecific date. That is not going to happen according to recent updated (from source data, not PLO data) analysis by Mr. Faitelson, which is confirmed by many other people knowledgeable about demography. The Arab fertility rate in the West Bank is now virtually the same as the Israeli rate and trending downward still.

All of these predictions were based on phony data and erroneous projections. One can still argue against keeping the West Bank on various grounds, but the Arabs are not going to outnumber the Jews. The binational state that you describe already exists given a 20% Arab population within the state of Israel. West Bankers are Jordanian citizens and should be treated as such. When the Hashemite monarchy is overthrown, Jordan will become a predominantly Palestinian state and that is where their political aspirations belong.
Ellen on August 10, 2011 at 1:05 pm (Reply)
You are mistaken, Ellen,I have done my homework. Faitelson, if that is where you get the number is by no means the only and last word on use of demographic source material, no matter how many times the number is presented on Jewish websites without a source reference. His estimates are based on extrapolation as much as any others, no matter how he phrases his method. As a matter of fact, any figure on population of the West Bank has to be based upon extrapolation.

On the other hand, there is no reason to automatically assume that the 2.4 figure is a fabrication of the left, although it supports the left-wing agenda. As a matter of fact it is corrected downwards and lower than the PA and others would like you to believe. It is also relied upon by bodies who have no interest in who wins but do have an interest in the bottom line.

Now, I don't need to talk about a plausibility gap in the 1.5 figure to notice that it does not support the political views that it is supposed to imply. A geopolitical space with close to 40% of the population being non-Jews, the vast majority of them not wanting to live in a Jewish state, is not a Jewish state.

I am not certain what you mean to imply by your Jordanian comment. Assuming the overthrow of the Hashemites reflects political reality (I think it does not), people determine where their own political aspirations belong, bloggers and talkbackers only observe and comment. It is nowhere near clear anymore that Palestinians on the East Bank would want political association with their cousins on the West.
Ellen on August 11, 2011 at 10:11 am (Reply)
Sorry DF, you'll have to do better than that. Nicholas Eberstadt, the premier political demographer in the US - who correctly predicted the demographic catastrophe going on in post-Soviet Russia when no one was looking at the real numbers - agreed with the original Bennet-Zimmerman analysis from 2005 that came up with the estimate that the West Bank/Gaza population was overestimated by 1.3 million people. They put the West Bank population at 1.5 million in 2005, which makes sense given the long-term trajectory of this population dating back to the 1980's when the Israeli Census Bureau was the official counter of heads, not the agitprop division of the PLO.

Furthermore, your favorite nonbiased source - the World Bank - did a study of enrollment in West Bank schools in 2006 and concluded that it was 1/3 less than what it should have been, based on the PLO population statistics for the territory. This 1/3 figure (meaning the population was inflated by 50%) exactly corresponds to the estimates of Bennet, Zimmerman and Faitelson. That's good enough evidence from multiple sources for me.

Whether or not the East Bankers want to be associated with the West Bankers is not entirely relevant. Arab countries are all fictitious creations of the post-colonial world. Every Arab country contains groups that hate other subgroups of the same country. Ummm....that's why these societies are all currently in a state of breakdown. Too bad. The West Bankers are Jordanian citizens since the Hashemite power grab in 1948, and they will have to settle their fate in the future Jordan, under whatever rule emerges.
DF on August 11, 2011 at 3:53 pm (Reply)

You have raised a question that I did not want to debate, namely the level of expertise of the authors of opposing views. Should we debate Dellapergola's credentials against Zimmerman's? This has already been a matter of discussion in appropriate fora. I have my opinion about this and you can have yours. The same can be said about what qualifies as multiple sources.

Suffice it to say that both views have been widely publicized in the most prestigeous circles for about 5-6 years now. Anyone who believes that some of the most powerful decision making institutions of the world do not have fairly bright people reading reports of both views before writing their executive summaries is mistaken.

My reacton to your quote statement that the West Bank/Gaza population is overestimated by 1.3 million is not the same as saying that the West Bank population is overestimated by a million. That being said, I don't think it makes sense to discuss every detail on which the dispute is founded any more than it made sense to do more name dropping in the first paragraph of this message. You just can't do that in a talk back productively. For people who want to take it to that level, there are a number of papers available on open sources and places were debate can take place.

What troubles me about the 1.4 million estimate is that it reflects a process that is the mirror image of the one that generated the inflated Palestinian figures. Firstly, figures are a result of a project whose purpose was to produce results that would mitigate the demographic case for the withdrawal from the West Bank. It was not motivated to correct the Palestinian figures, suspicious as they may be. The people who launched the project then mobilized their contacts to promote their results within circles that they knew in advance would welcome them.

Even more troubling is that even if if you accept the Zimmerman figure and note the decline in Arab fertility rates, the numbers are not reassuring except if you already believe that a Jewish state with close to only a 61% Jewish majority is sustainable.

A Medinat Yisrael with a 25% Arab population is a Jewish state with an Arab national minority, not a bi-national state. But a Medinat Yisrael from the Mediteranean to the Jordan is a state that would include close to 35% Arabs according to that figure, more if Gaza would be included, which is a likely scenario. And although DellaPergola would consider all but a few percentage points of the remaining 65% as Jews, most people would not count Hebrew-speaking children of migrant workers and immigrants whose fathers are Jewish but have no interest in converting. So bump the figure down to less than 60% Jews. Now subtract from that Charedim who do not identify with Zionist institutions are symbols except for welfare and subsidies and subtract 'Canaanim', Israel Jews who do not identify with anything Jewish and what's left?

Now imagine a bi-national state in 'Abar Nahara. Its name would not be Israel, you could not assume that the language of business would be Hebrew, the rhythm of celebrations, religious or secularized, would not be rooted in Jewish tradition, the Jewish struggle for national rebirth would no longer part of the national consciousness, symbols of national presence are no longer distinctly Jewish; forget about a Jewish army, protection of Jewish holy sites and operations like Entebbe.

DF on August 11, 2011 at 4:22 pm (Reply)
Another last word on the Jordanian option, which I think is a different subject. All states in the middle east are artificial creations of the post-colonian world, but the Arab states are no more fictitious than Israel. They all determine who their citizens are, issue identity and travel documents, make and enforce laws, police their borders, maintain armies, impose taxes, etc. In the case of Arab states, many have had their governments overthrown and replaced by others.

The Jordanian option would be a great one if it existed. Historically, the Hashemites began a process of Jordanization on two sides of the river after the end of the war with Israel. This was put to an end by Moshe Dayan after 1967, when he connected the economy of the West Bank with Israel and the population became re-"Palestinianized". The final nail in the coffin was nailed early during the Madrid process when Arafat characteristically broke promises that he made to King Hussein with respect to negotiations with Israel. After that, Hussein relinquished claims to the West Bank and moved the political process towards a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

For the final status of the West Bankers, no one "has" to do anything. Hussein as a monarch can declare anyone he wants a subject of the crown and Jordanian national or not, as long as he has the support of Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia.

If you know that there is a Jordaian option that exists today, please point me to the references.
Ellen on August 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm (Reply)

Your statement about the leading institutions in the world not having bright people is a nonsequitur. The CIA had some of the brightest people alive spending decades of their life trying to accurately calculate the Soviet GNP during the 1960-1990 period, in order to know what percent of Soviet economic output was going to the military and whether this was placing an unsustainable burden on their rotten system. A lot depended on this calculation (like decades of large American defense budgets and NATO budgets), and yet they ALL got it wrong for 30 years.

The going assumption was that the statistic was 15-20%, which was bearable. That is why people argued that the militarized Soviet state would never collapse. When it did collapse, and the true records were revealed, it turned out that the accurate figure was 40% which is completely nonsustainable. That is why the system collapsed. Were these people stupid all those years?

No, of course not. But there is no way you can compensate for official government lies unless you go in and do an exhaustive study yourself. The PLO statistics are clearly fabrications. They contradict each other internally which is always the sign of a government that is lying. They didn't bother to coordinate their lies. The Israeli left and demographers who support them are left with no other tactic except to support the lies too, otherwise they reveal themselves to be incompetent in their judgments and complicit in the lies. The only way you can prove to me what the population is, is by sending the American Census Bureau in to count. Do you think the PLO will ever allow that? Not on your life.

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