The Palestinian Authority demands that the Quartet pressure Israel to release Marwan Barghouti, based on a pledge made by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Meanwhile, Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi visited Barghouti in prison and called for his release.
Barghouti is respected by the Arabs not because he’s a “Nelson Mandela,” but because he’s sitting in an Israeli jail and murdered Jews. Previously he called Israel "the worst and most abominable enemy known to humanity and modern history."
Barghouti was openly responsible for shootings and suicide bomb attacks on Israeli civilians and was - until his capture, trial and imprisonment - one of the world’s most wanted criminals. But what catapulted Barghouti to the status of a revered international hero were not only his deadly orders, but Western worshipping of Palestinian terrorism.
“The Question of Barghouti: Is he a Mandela or an Arafat?” asked Time magazine in a summer issue. It’s natural that Barghouti thinks of himself as a heroic “liberator.” The Western media’s effort to give him the aura of a pop star is also beyond doubt.
Former British Defense Secretary Michael Portillo likened Barghouti to Che Guevara. The media offered a comparison between Nelson Mandela and the Palestinian killer: “il Mandela palestinese” (Italian news agency, 30 May 2005); “Mandela” (The Observer, 29 November 2009); “il Mandela di Ramallah” (Italian daily La Stampa, 13 August 2010); “A Mideast Mandela” (Newsweek, 28 July 2003) and “A Nelson Mandela for the Palestinians” (Herald Tribune, 24 September 2002) are just some newspaper headlines about Barghouti.
Romanticizing Arab killers
The Western romanticizing of the killers of Israelis goes beyond his case. When Yasser Arafat’s death squads assassinated Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972, what could have been more repugnant than the massacre of innocent athletes carried out at the Olympic Games? But the episode became a great media event that stressed the “occupation” of Palestine, and not a terrorist attack against the Jewish people on German soil.
The cowboy hats and the kefiyyehs of the kidnappers, and their long hair similar to university students, diverted attention from a simple reality: A band of terrorists slaughtered, one by one, 11 Israeli athletes.
Arafat achieved his first decisive conceptual win when, during a visit to Vietnam, the Vietcong suggested that he give his propaganda the universalistic dimension of a people crushed by “colonialism.” When Arafat died, the “civilized” newspapers all mourned him, despite needing a calculator to figure out whether Arafat or Osama Bin Laden have been responsible for the taking of more innocent lives.
Get your Barghouti T-shirt
While Barghouti was killing Jews in Israel, the Guardian - the most famous leftist European news outlet - published a piece entitled “Israel Simply Has No Right to Exist.” In the aftermath of the Ramallah lynch of two Israeli soldiers, Riccardo Cristiano, Italy’s state-owned RAI network’s correspondent in Israel, wrote an apology to the Palestinian Authority in which he went to painstaking lengths to explain that it was not his network, but his competitor that published the footage.
Even Ahmed Yassin, the Hamas ideologue who ordered the killing of hundreds of Jews, was mourned by the media like an Islamic saint. The Evening Standard deplored “the assassination of an old man in a wheelchair who never attempted to hide himself or disguise where he lived” and many European newspapers called Yassin “the wheelchair-bound cleric” and “the bearded Hamas leader with the frail voice and white headscarf.”
We live in a time when death and bloodshed is celebrated and romanticized. While a psychotic opening fire on shoppers in a US supermarket becomes a psychiatric case, a fanatic Arab who led the murder of Israeli civilians is regularly likened to Mandela. A huge crowd of European fanzines, Israeli peaceniks and cynical journalists are already waiting for Barghouti out of prison. His cherubic face is ready to become a t-shirt.
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism
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