Barghuthi, Marwan (Barghouthi, Bargouti; 1959–)

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BARGHUTHI, MARWAN (Barghouthi, Bargouti; 1959–)

Palestinian political leader. Born in 1959 in Ramallah (West Bank), Marwan Barghuthi holds a degree in history and political science from Bir Zeit University. He joined al-Fatah at the beginning of the 1980s, along with others of the Palestinian student movement in the Occupied Territories. Barghuthi was arrested and imprisoned several times by Israeli authorities. A professor of history at Bir Zeit University, in the West Bank, he was one of the main leaders in the Ramallah region of the first Intifada, and he was expelled by Israeli authorities in September 1990. Having taken refuge in Jordan, he was very active in the Association of Palestinian Deportees, and he wrote articles for the local press. During his stay in Amman, he maintained some contacts with the local representatives of HAMAS, such as Muhammad Nazal and Ibrahim Ghoshe.

On 5 April 1994, Barghuthi was included in a group of fifty expelled Palestinians who were allowed to return to the Occupied Territories, and he regained his teaching position at Bir Zeit University. A month later, he was elected secretary general of al-Fatah for the West Bank and became an important link between Yasir Arafat and young Palestinians, who tended to be rather hostile to the conciliatory strategies they thought Arafat was advocating toward Israel. A few months later, Barghuthi joined the Revolutionary Council of al-Fatah. In February 1996, elected as representative of Ramallah, he became a member of the new Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Beginning at that time, he attempted to lead a "reformist" current within al-Fatah, thereby finding himself in opposition to Hussein al-Sheikh, who supported Arafat's policies. In October of the same year, Barghuthi was part of the PLC delegation received by the Knesset, on the invitation of the Israeli Communist Party, HADASH. In June 1999, displeased with the confrontations between young al-Fatah adherents and the Palestinian police, Arafat threatened to remove Barghuthi from his position in al-Fatah.

In October 2000, at the time of the Israeli-Palestinian clashes in the autonomous territories, Barghuthi appeared to be one of the principal catalysts of the revolt. The beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada propelled him into the forefront, and he was regarded by the Israelis as the leader of the Tanzim, an armed group linked to al-Fatah. On 6 August 2001, while the growing number of Palestinian attacks resulted in some severe Israeli reprisal operations in the Palestinian territories, he made an appeal for the creation of a Palestinian government of national unity. On 23 September, the Israeli authorities put out an arrest warrant for Barghuthi, for "participation in terrorist activities." In 2002 he was arrested and in May 2004 was convicted in a public trial, whose authority over him he denied. Considered a reformer within al-Fatah, Barghuthi was a supporter of Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen).

Barghuthi is popular, especially since his widely admired defiance toward the Israelis during his trial, and has sometimes been mentioned as a possible successor to Arafat. This would be possible only if the Israelis could be convinced to release him, an improbable eventuality without conditions to which the Palestinians would be unlikely to agree.

SEE ALSO Abbas, Mahmud Rida;Aqsa Intifada, al-;Arafat, Yasir;Fatah, al-;Tanzim, al-.