Peter Beinart tries to snow his readers in his latest piece for the Forward. See if you can spot his sleight of hand as he describes Israeli political reaction to the New York Times publishing an op-ed by Marwan Barghouti:
[Michael Oren believes] because Barghouti was convicted of terrorism, his cause is illegitimate, even monstrous. The problem with this argument is that it doesn’t only explain why Marwan Barghouti isn’t Nelson Mandela. It explains why Nelson Mandela isn’t Nelson Mandela either.
A decade earlier, when the Oslo Peace Process began, [Barghouti] had declared the era of military resistance over. “The armed struggle,” he claimed in 1994, “is no longer an option for us.”
Barghouti’s shift, which led him to play an active role in the second intifada, constituted a tragic mistake, even a crime, against both Palestinians and Israelis. I’m not justifying it. But he’s not the only national leader to have embraced armed struggle after losing faith in non-violence. Mandela did too.
Beinart, whose parents were born in South Africa, knows very well that the analogy doesn’t hold water – so he tells half-truths to create it.
Mandela was imprisoned in 1964 for sabotage against South Africa’s power grid and plotting to overthrow the government. No one was injured, let alone killed, by his actions.
Yes, he supported violence against the state. Yes, sometimes ANC violence killed civilians. But Mandela was not a murderer and the ANC that he led never claimed to target civilians.
Barghouti, on the other hand, has been convicted of five murders – and more.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs summed up Barghouti’s record:
Barghouti was convicted in a criminal suit in Israeli district court on five separate counts of murder of innocent civilians.
· Crimes orchestrated by Barghouti include: The murder of Greek monk Tsibouktsakis Germanus in Jerusalem on June 12, 2001; the murder of Yoela Hen in Jeruslaem on January 15, 2002; and the murder of Eli Dahan, Yosef Habi, and Salim Barakat in Tel Aviv on March 5, 2002.
· He was acquitted of 21 counts of murder in 33 other attacks, due to lack of sufficient evidence.
· Barghouti was the founder and senior official of the designated terrorist group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which was responsible for massacring dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings and shooting attacks during the Second Intifada (2001-2005).
· Barghouti also served as the head of the Tanzim, an armed faction in Fatah that carried out attacks on Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada.
· During his trials, Barghouti showed no remorse for the murders he committed.
There is a big difference between the two.
Furthermore, the New York Times, knowing Barghouti was a murderer, didn’t let that influence its decision to publish his accusations against Israel (of torturing him, for example) as if they were factual. He clearly lied about prison conditions and about Israel arresting 800,000 Palestinians since 1967.
Why should a murderer be believed to write the truth in any venue, let alone in the pages of the major US newspaper?
Moreover, Mandela clearly changed from his support for violence when he became a political leader. Barghouti is not a leader and has not showed any remorse for his murders.
Beinart’s article is actually far worse. He knows that despite Mandela’s history of supporting violence, he is viewed nowadays (rightly or wrongly) as a near-saint. And Beinart’s intent is to make the reader feel the same way about Barghouti that most Westerners feel about Mandela. See how Beinart ends his article as he pretends that his sickening argument has gone full circle:
“I was called a terrorist yesterday,” Mandela once said, “but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country are terrorists.”
Do you hear that, Michael Oren? He’s talking to you.
There is no other way to read this than to say that Peter Beinart is trying to whitewash the actions of a terrorist who is responsible for the murders of many people, directly and indirectly.
Despite his halfhearted caveats and perverted downplaying of Barghouti’s murderous terror as “a tragic mistake” – as if his victims died in car accidents – this essay shows that Peter Beinart is an apologist for terror.
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