[Marxism] Jailed Barghouthi to run for Palestinian president

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Dec 1 10:45:04 MST 2004


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This seemed to be an important news story -- Barghouthi is the only
candidate who can be said to be really identified by Palestinians with
the struggle history of the PLO rather than with the dream of creating a
state, rather than a penitentiary, by negotiations and diplomacy alone.
Has never been done. Will never be done.
Fred Feldman
 
 
BARGHOUTHI TO RUN FOR PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT Wed Dec 1, 2004 11:49 AM ET
http://olympics.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews
<http://olympics.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=6968
257> &storyID=6968257 
 
By Nidal al-Mughrabi 
GAZA (Reuters) - Jailed popular leader Marwan Barghouthi decided on
Wednesday to run in a Palestinian presidential election and Hamas
militants vowed to boycott it, throwing the campaign into turmoil after
Yasser Arafat's death. 
 
Barghouthi's candidacy as an independent dashed expectations of almost
certain victory by the nominee of the dominant Palestinian national
faction, Mahmoud Abbas, an elderly former Arafat deputy whose only other
challengers were fringe figures. 
 
Barghouthi, charismatic leader of Fatah's younger generation seeking
democratic reform blocked by Arafat, told his wife during a visit to his
Israeli jail cell to register him as a candidate in the Jan. 9 election,
two Fatah officials said. She had until midnight to file required
papers. 
 
Palestinian officials originally said last Thursday that Barghouthi, 45,
had decided to run. But after he came under pressure from Fatah
officials worried about a split in their movement, he had opted on
Friday to drop his candidacy. It was not clear why he had changed his
mind once again. 
 
Israeli troops arrested Barghouthi in 2002 and he was sentenced to five
life terms last June after being convicted of ordering militant attacks
that killed five Israelis. He denied involvement, saying he was a
political leader only. Israel has ruled out any early release of
Barghouthi. 
 
Hamas's announcement that it would shun the election undercut moderates
like Abbas seeking unity in the West Bank and Gaza in a political void
left by the Nov. 11 death of Arafat, the revered Palestinian nationalist
leader for decades. Although surveys show one in three Palestinians back
Hamas and its hardline stance on fighting Israel, Abbas shrugged off the
specter of a mass stay-away from the polls and voiced optimism on peace
prospects. 
 
"This is democracy," the 69-year Abbas said at Fatah headquarters in the
West Bank city of Ramallah. "I have not heard of any country that does
not have opposition parties." 
 
ABBAS'S CHALLENGE Analysts say Abbas' political survival depends on
uniting a slew of Palestinian factions, many armed, behind his bid to
revive a battered U.S.-led "road map" to peaceful Palestinian statehood
in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Hamas' boycott call came after the
Palestinian Authority, which it officially shuns as a product of 1993
interim accords with Israel, ruled out general elections until mid-2005.
Hamas had hoped to challenge Fatah through a parliamentary vote. 
 
"We in the Islamic resistance announce our boycott and our
non-participation in the presidential elections for the Palestinian
Authority," senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza
City. "The Palestinian people understand the need and are well aware of
the Hamas position but (this) is no call for ordinary Palestinians not
to vote," he said. 
 
Abbas is a former Palestinian prime minister and reformist favored by
Israel and the United States for his calls to end an armed revolt raging
since September 2000. 
 
In an interview published Wednesday, Abbas urged Israel to do its part
by freezing construction of Jewish settlements on occupied land and
releasing thousands of Palestinian prisoners. 
 
"If there are good intentions, let us start now, without prejudicing the
road map, to deal with issues of the final period so we achieve the
(peace) settlement as scheduled in 2005," he told Egyptian magazine
Almussawar. "I think that is possible and not difficult." 
 
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has signaled support for Abbas by
softening his insistence on a road map clause demanding a Palestinian
crackdown on Hamas and other militants. Instead, Sharon asked for -- and
obtained -- a promised reduction of broadcasts on Palestinian media that
he has deemed incitement to kill or harm Israelis. 
 
Despite the death of his arch-nemesis Arafat, Sharon is still set on a
unilateral plan to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
Palestinians fear this "disengagement plan" will deprive them of swathes
of land they want for a state. 
(Additional reporting by Wafa Amr) 
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