He didn’t say one thing to Israelis and the opposite thing to an Arab audience. When he spoke to Israelis, he issued warnings. When he spoke to Arabs and Palestinians, he praised peace.
We were once in a Spanish city together, and the local Arab community wanted to hold a reception exclusively for Palestinians. Barghouti invited me to a meeting with the community’s representatives. Fatah officials Fares Qadura and Sufian Abu Zaida were there too. At a certain point, he spoke like a leader.
“Look at us,” he said. “Together, we have been in prison for more than 100 years. We paid a price and we have come here with Israelis to present a spirit of peace. We don’t need you to throw us back into the conflict.” He said what he had to say and walked out of the room.
That was Barghouti of the mid-1990s. Later, things changed. He complained to me that Israel was not upholding its part of the agreement, mainly the part about building more settlements. Nothing, however, justifies his deterioration to terrorism and acts of murder.
Several days ago, the New York Times published an opinion piece written by Barghouti, in which he complained about the Israeli occupation and about the “ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners.” The op-ed and the stage he was given raise three problems:
First of all, both Barghouti and the newspaper know that in 1999 Israel offered the Palestinians both a state and a divided Jerusalem. Nevertheless, they responded with terror—and Barghouti was one of the leaders of this response.
Barghouti is not in prison because he fought against the occupation or for freedom and liberation. Barghouti turned to terror to fight Israel’s actual existence as the Jewish people’s national home.
Second, Barghouti is deliberately lying—and so is this important and established paper, which is knowingly publishing a lie: I doubt there are any other terrorists in the world, in France or in the United States, with such amazing conditions as those received by the terrorists jailed in Israel’s prisons. The Guantanamo Bay detainees don’t even dream of such conditions, and neither do terrorists jailed in France’s prisons.
The third problem is the New York Times. This isn’t the first time that the American newspaper has knowingly published blatant lies in the form of an opinion articles.
In recent years, it has repeatedly published articles about Israel’s “apartheid laws.” When you click the link, you reach the list of laws published by the Adalah organization. There is not a single apartheid law there, but adding a link always creates a serious impression. We are in the fake news era, and the New York Times is taking part in it.
To add insult to injury, the newspaper failed to mention that Barghouti is a terrorist who was convicted of a series of acts of murder by an Israeli civil court. Would the glorious newspaper publish a similar op-ed by a Taliban terrorist who murdered American civilians? Or perhaps an op-ed by a Guantanamo Bay detainee? I think we know the answer.
It’s possible that, one day, Barghouti will go back to being the man he used to be. I wish. Inshallah. That doesn’t justify publishing a terrorist’s op-ed. That doesn’t justify publishing lies to justify a hunger strike of murderers. That doesn’t justify the leading newspaper’s double standards. This is not the way to advance peace—this is the way to support terror and lies.