The New York Times came under fire on Monday for publishing an opinion piece by imprisoned Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti without mentioning that he was convicted of multiple murders.
Barghouti, who announced in a Sunday op-ed that he was launching a hunger strike with other Palestinian prisoners in Israel, was described by the Times only as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.”
No mention was made either in the op-ed or by the Times that Barghouti, who sought to portray himself as a political prisoner and a “victim” of the Israeli judicial system, was in fact sentenced to multiple life terms over his role in the killing of five people.
Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s Yesh Atid party, blasted the Times’ omission as “an intentional deception,” writing in a Times of Israel op-ed:
The reality is that a convicted terrorist is inventing stories about those who imprison him, as prisoners do all over the world, including in the United States.
Instead of saying to him – as a responsible newspaper should – that if he doesn’t have a shred of evidence to support his stories then they can’t be published, the New York Times published them in its opinion pages and didn’t even bother to explain to its readers that the author is a convicted murderer of the worst kind.
In an interview with Israel’s Army Radio, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said Barghouti’s op-ed “was full of lies” and noted that it was published during a Jewish holiday, meaning that the Israeli government could not formally respond to its claims.
The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), an Israeli military unit that manages day-to-day operations with Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, also denounced the Times’ characterization of Barghouti. “By referring to him only as a political figure, the Times failed to point out that after a fair trial in 2004, Barghouti was convicted of murder and carrying out terrorist acts and was therefore sentenced to five life sentences and an additional 40 years in prison. Barghouti is a murderer of Israeli civilians,” COGAT noted in a Facebook post.
Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro echoed these criticisms, writing on Twitter, “NYT was wrong not cite [Barghouti’s] terrorism conviction.”
It's debatable if Marwan Barghouti has a political future. Pals & Israelis debate it. But NYT was wrong not cite his terrorism conviction.
— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) April 17, 2017
The failure was also noted by the American Jewish Committee, which tweeted that the Times “must have forgotten to mention that Marwan Barghouti is a convicted terrorist, responsible for the murder of innocent civilians.”
— AJC (@AJCGlobal) April 17, 2017
Barghouti gained prominence during the second Palestinian intifada as the leader of Tanzim, the armed wing of Fatah, which carried out multiple terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, including children. He also helped establish Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in 2000, which has been blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the European Union.
Under Barghouti’s leadership, the al-Aqsa brigade helped escalate the second intifada by launching numerous terrorist attacks against civilians. These included the January 2002 Bat Mitzvah massacre, in which a Palestinian gunman killed six people at a birthday celebration for a 12-year-old Jewish girl, as well as the March 2002 Yeshivat Beit Yisrael massacre, in which a Palestinian suicide bomber killed eleven Israeli civilians, including two infants, three children, and two teenagers.
Barghouti was arrested by Israel in April 2002 and charged in relation to suicide bombings and shooting attacks that claimed the lives of hundreds of Israeli civilians and soldiers, and wounded hundreds more. He was convicted by a civilian court in May 2004 of his involvement in three terrorist attacks in Israel that killed five people: Greek Orthodox monk Georgios Tsibouktzakis, 34; police officer Sgt.-Maj. Salim Barakat, 33; Yoela Hen, 45; Eli Dahan, 53; and Yosef Habi, 52.
He was acquitted on charges of 33 other murders due to lack of evidence of direct involvement, with the court noting, “he did not have direct control over the militants but did wield influence.”
Barghouti has over the years sought to portray himself as a proponent of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians who opposes violence against civilians. Notably, he has publicly denounced violence against civilians in English-language media while continuing to head Tanzim and the al-Aqsa brigade. As the media watchdog CAMERA detailed:
For example, a Washington Post Op-Ed (“Want Security? End the Occupation,” January 15, 2002) by Barghouti contended that he and the Fatah movement to which he belongs “strongly oppose attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel.” Two days later, on January 17, Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade claimed responsibility for an attack on a Bat Mitzvah celebration in the Israeli city of Hadera in which civilians were targeted with an assault rifle. Six died and 35 were wounded.
According to Israeli security sources, the attack was perpetrated with Barghouti’s knowledge.
Moreover, when asked in a 2001 interview with New Yorker journalist Jeffrey Goldberg whether the conflict would end if he received “one hundred per cent” of his demands from Israel, Barghouti tellingly responded: “Then we could talk about bigger things … I’ve always thought that a good idea would be one state for all the peoples.”
In The Myth of the Palestinian Mandela, published in the April-May 2017 issue of The Tower Magazine, media analyst Dexter Van Zile criticized efforts to whitewash Barghouti’s terrorism convictions and portray him as a “Palestinian Nelson Mandela.”
Barghouti certainly did support attacks on civilians, and we know this because he explicitly said so in public. Moreover, he acted according to his beliefs. Prior to his arrest in 2002, he was the leader of Tanzim and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, terrorist organizations responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israeli civilians on both sides of the Green Line. In 2012, Haaretz stated succinctly, “There is no question he supported and encouraged violence.” It reported in July 2016 that, as the Second Intifada progressed, Barghouti declared, “The time when only we sacrifice victims is past. We must take revenge. We must kill Israelis. Yes. We have bullets. We have rifles, and they will be aimed at the occupation.” He also predicted that the Second Intifada “will be the last round of violence, because the Palestinians have a feeling that they restored their self-respect through the attacks.”
Such sentiments were completely foreign to Mandela. In a speech at the 1964 trial that put him in prison, Mandela admitted that he did support the use of sabotage, but only to obtain the rights that had been denied to black South Africans, which they had previously hoped to obtain through non-violent methods. By way of comparison, the Palestinians have used terrorism since the beginning of their national movement, and did so even after they were offered statehood at the 2000 Camp David negotiations.