The three letters on Palestine


Three missives that sum up the predicament of Palestinians under occupation came under the limelight in the past few days. The first was sent by imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti to the Palestinian people and their leadership on the eve of Land Day, which marks the killing of six Arabs in 1976 and protests Israel’s land grab policies.

In his open letter Barghouti, who was arrested in 2002 and is serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail, called on Palestinians to launch widespread popular resistance against Israeli occupation.

He called on the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to stop security and economic coordination with Israel, adding that popular resistance at this stage is what is needed. He called for an immediate end to peace talks. For negotiations to resume, he added, Israel must release Palestinian detainees, stop building settlements and recognize 1967 borders.

Ten years after his imprisonment Barghouti remains one of the most popular Palestinian leaders. This was not his first message from prison but his call for a popular uprising has irked his jailers and embarrassed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Barghouti is one of the key leaders of the second uprising, which broke out in 2000 after peace talks collapsed. Last week the Israeli authorities placed Barghouti in solitary confinement and prevented him from receiving visitors.

Barghouti’s letter drew mixed reactions from Palestinians, Israelis and others. Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said: “Barghouti is the most authentic leader Fatah has produced, and he can lead his people to an agreement. … If Israel had wanted an agreement with the Palestinians it would have released him from prison by now.”

But an unexpected support for Barghouti’s call for nonviolent resistance came from influential New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman who described his appeal as “noteworthy”. He wrote that “I can certainly see the efficacy of nonviolent resistance by Palestinians to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank — on one condition: They accompany any boycotts, sit-ins or hunger strikes with a detailed map of the final two-state settlement they are seeking. Just calling for ‘an end to occupation’ won’t cut it.”


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