No War, No Justice
by Jack Wakeland
To prepare America's cultural battlefield for the possible release of top Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti, the New York Times dispatched a correspondent to interview prominent Israelis who know and "admire" him and think he should be released from prison.
The Times lined up prominent leftist Yossi Beilin, professional peace-process policy wonk Ron Pundak, and political science professor Hillel Frisch. All agreed that, in the words of the New York Times, "nearly any young Palestinian leader of the period of armed intifada could have been convicted on similar charges, and that choosing to arrest Mr. Barghouti, who never pulled a trigger, was as much a political decision as a legal one."
To Palestinians, Marwan Barghouti is their most recognizable, most popular leader. According to Yossi Beilin, Barghouti instigated the al Aqsa Mosque "protests" in November 2000 because his faction, the Tanzim Militia, was jealous of the power held by Yassir Arafat and the old PLO leadership. Tanzim, the armed wing of Fatah, had been the undisputed top dog in the West Bank before the signing of the Oslo accord brought Arafat back from exile.
But Barghouti's young militants and the old men of the PLO agreed on one thing. They worried about Hamas's growing influence. To counter the Oslo Accord, Hamas had reached from the refugee camps of the Gaza Strip inside Israel to kill scores of Jews in a new and unprecedented wave of suicide bomb attacks. Their Islamic movement was becoming as popular among Palestinians as the PLO.
Barghouti didn't think that the PLO could trump this appeal by exploring "final status" talks with Israel. The PLO might become less popular than Hamas even after achieving their this-worldly goal of establishing a Palestinian state. Ignoring Arafat's efforts in US-mediated talks at Camp David, Barghouti pushed for armed confrontation.
In the months leading up to the first street fighting of 2000, Mr. Beilin recalled that Barghouti, "didn't call it intifada.... [H]e said that to fight Hamas on the ground [the Palestinians] need to use violence against Israel to control the streets." Beilin met Barghouti at a Jersulem hotel in May 2000 where the Tanzim leader told him, "that he wanted to continue the use of violence, and that if there were no peace agreement by September, he would use violence." "[H]ere I saw a different Barghouti," Mr. Beilin said. "It was not only cynical but frightening. It was, 'We have a target and we'll get there by diplomacy or violence, and both are legitimate.' "
In November 2000, a mob of Palestinian youths threw rocks at Israeli soldiers and rampaged through the streets of Jerusalem near the al Asqa Mosque. The rage they expressed was the product of a cold-bloodedly orchestrated plan. Then-opposition-leader Ariel Sharon's visit to
the Temple Mount was the pretext. One thousand riot police accompanying Mr. Sharon had apparently strayed too close to the al Asqa shrine, "menacing" it. Palestinian thugs vandalized the Tomb of Joseph in Bethlehem in reprisal for Sharon's "desecration" of the holy mosque.
The next several weeks were marked by more sustained and far bloodier riots. In the Tanzim Militia strongholds of Ramallah and Nablus, Palestinian authority police, armed by Israel under the Oslo agreement, turned their rifles on Israeli patrols. According to Professor Hillel Frisch, "The revolutionaries adopted the Lebanese model that terror and guerrilla warfare would push Israel out, and Marwan was the head of the revolutionaries."
In the early months of the al Aqsa Intifada Yossi Beilin believes that Yassir Arafat employed Marwan Barghouti to create Fatah's answer to Hamas: their own Islamist suicide squads, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
From then on Arafat and Barghouti struggled to reign in the Islamic rebirth of the Tanzim Militia. Again and again they tried to get their Islamic jihadists to attack only in the West Bank and Gaza, hitting Israelis engaged in "acts of occupation"—like patrolling the streets, manning security checkpoints, and living in Jewish settlements. But again and again the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades struck Israeli civilians where they lived and worked inside Israel, "de-legitimizing" the Palestinian resistance in the eyes of the Israeli left and in the eyes of much of the post-9/11 world.
Ron Pundak, director of the Peres Center for Peace, concluded that Barghouti "was carried away with the intifada, almost against his own judgement." He "saw the tiger running, and sometimes he rode the tiger and sometimes the tiger rode him." Mr. Beilin echoed this assessment and concluded that Barghouti's compulsion to compete with Hamas ended up making the PLO weaker, not stronger. Condemning Barghouti for injuring the "legitimate aspirations" of the Palestinian people, Beilin said, "today Hamas is stronger than Fatah, and Barghouti is to blame—because Fatah started this intifada, and not Hamas."
After stipulating that Barghouti is "not innocent at all," Professor Frisch attempted to excuse the Tanzim terrorist leader. "Barghouti became more radical when he and the insiders were left out of the Oslo process," he said.
Ron Pundak went even further in siding with the West Bank killer. In a statement that must have stretched the interviewer's credulity, he told the New York Times that for many years "I had an open line with him, and in my mind, he's wholeheartedly a man of peace who accepts Israel. The vision he has of a Palestinian state is one the majority of Israelis could accept."
The facts the three Israeli leftists brought forward about Marwan Barghouti could not be more damning. He was the chief instigator of the al Aqsa Intifada and probably the founder and head of the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Marwan Barghouti is responsible for setting in motion and then attempting to steer the entire series of events that led to the murder of over one thousand Israelis (and the deaths of hundreds of innocent Palestinians). He is responsible for initiating aggressive war—worse: he initiated a war that was made up of a series of mass murders.
Israel could have—and should have—taken care of Barghouti the same way they took care of Yassin, the "spiritual leader" of Hamas. One well-placed bullet from a sniper's rifle or one well-placed rocket from a helicopter gunship and Barghouti would be where he sent so many others. In war, no due process and no death warrants are required for one to have the moral right to kill.
Instead, the Israelis chose the "civilized" option. They arrested Barghouti. They held him under comfortable and humane conditions of confinement. They followed objective legal procedures for the submission of testimony and evidence. They allowed him the advice of legal council. They gave him the opportunity to confront all the claims of his accusers (who had to put their lives on the line to testify) in an orderly and objective hearing. They gave Marwan Barghouti all the benefits Western Civilization affords an accused killer. They gave him a fair trial.
And Israeli prosecutors proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Marwan Barghouti was guilty of 5 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and one count of membership in a terrorist organization (Barghouti was found not guilty on 20 other counts of murder).
The New York Times article—informative as it is regarding the mechanisms of and guilt for the al Aqsa Intifada—promotes the view of the Israeli left that Barghouti's imprisonment is a political act by Israel, an act of war. The Israeli leftists were uniform in their assessment that Barghouti's trial was foreign policy, not justice. And the news editors of the New York Times presented this perspective, unoppposed, as if it were fact. In the case of Marwan Barghouti, the Israeli left and leftists at the New York Times are taking their premises to the next logical step.
The left has constantly complained that in America's war on terrorism it is wrong for the US armed forces to drop bombs, fire artillery, or attack in armored vehicles those who are not directly responsible for 9/11. Such acts are "wars of choice," not "wars of necessity"; they are tantamount to military aggression—almost murder.
The left complains when we invade countries allied with the anti-American terrorist cause, we do not treat captured terrorists and the criminal militamen who fight alongside them as if they are lawfully uniformed combatants of a hostile nation at war with the United States. Likewise, when police and intelligence operatives capture terrorists in Islamabad or Kabul or Baghdad, the left insists that the men be put on trial, proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and sentenced in accordance with the law, like any other criminal—or released immediately for lack of evidence. The left has attempted to apply the rule of law out of context, as a fig leaf to cover their general rejection of national defense.
With Barghouti, Israel has done exactly as the left specifies. And the instigator of a dirty terrorist war responsible for the loss of well over a thousand innocent lives is slated to rot in prison for the rest of his life.
Does the left celebrate this successful use of their policy? No. They have dropped the fig leaf.
Today they claim Barghouti's case is too deeply enmeshed in foreign policy and security issues to be the proper object of the criminal justice system. Sure, he is guilty, but he is an important representative of the Palestinian people, they inform us. Sure the man got a fair trial, but his imprisonment is an act of war.
As the January 9 date for Palestinian elections draws near, the left will complain more and more urgently that no "meaningful dialog" can be conducted and no "lasting peace" can be achieved if the man who the Palestinian people see as their legitimate leader is being kept behind bars. Soon they will join a chorus of anti-Western voices demanding his release. This is why Marwan Barghouti refused to participate in his trial and why he waved away all of the prosecutors' charges in the strutting manner of Al Capone, saying, "I'll be out soon enough."
The left's policy towards Islamist terrorism remains: no war, no justice.
In the eyes of the left, Western civilization is too stained to justify any defense on its behalf. Guilty of violations of the moral-political code of altruism-collectivism, they want their own civilization sentenced to be flailed and tormented and bitten and bloodied and slowly chiseled down to size by any enemy who will step forward to try to kill it.