Behind NYT’s schmaltzy account of a brave Palestinian woman and her freedom fighter hubby

Behind NYT’s schmaltzy account of a brave Palestinian woman and her freedom fighter hubby
Marwan Barghouti, in handcuffs, as he appeared at his trial in 2004 (Image: YouTube screen grab via AP Archive)

“Fadwa Barghouti is the unflappable voice of a jailed Palestinian freedom fighter,” reads the headline of an essay published Wednesday in The New York Times’s “Women in the World” blog. The subhead goes on to note that “she and her husband, Marwan Barghouti, have been separated by prison walls for the last 15 years. Now, she opens up about speaking publicly for him and their “great love story.”

And who is Marwan Barghouti? According to the Times, he’s a “Palestinian political prisoner.” But that’s not all:

Fadwa says Palestinians have a magical love for Marwan…. He’s made a name for himself as a freedom fighter, the Palestinian Nelson Mandela — a connection he recently made in a New York Times Op-Ed.

Political prisoner? The Palestinian Nelson Mandela? Try convicted murderer. From a BBC profile of him published in 2011:

At the age of 15, he [Marwan] became active in the Fatah movement of the late Yasser Arafat.

In 1978, he was arrested and imprisoned by Israel for more than four years on charges of being a member of an armed Palestinian group.

But his big claim to fame — and doubtless the reason “Barghouti enjoys widespread respect and support among all Palestinian factions” — was his arrest by Israeli troops in Ramallah and subsequent charges of having murdered 26 people. Two years later, his trial began. It would last two years. Throughout the trial, Barghouti refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli court.

Barghouti was convicted on five counts of murder for the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek monk, as well as attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, and membership of a terrorist organisation.

The court found there was insufficient evidence connecting him to the 21 other deaths on the original indictment.

The Times tribute to Barghouti and his wife acknowledge these facts. The author of the piece, Shaina Shealy, writes of his conviction and the death and mayhem he visited on Israel as a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

She also adds:

Fadwa repeats over and over that Marwan never killed with his own hands. He led, she says, but he never killed.

Then there’s this:

Since then, Fadwa and Marwan have been separated by prison walls. The hardest moments are family celebrations. Qassam [the couple’s oldest child] says Fadwa is a mother, father and friend. He was 16 when his father was arrested. When he got into fights in high school, Fadwa showed up. “The other kids would bring their fathers,” he says. “Sometimes I used to steal her car when she was asleep. She would take a taxi in the middle of the night to come and find me and to give me a hard time.”

And there you have it. A man, loved and respected by his people, wrongly imprisoned, and his faithful wife, standing by his side, courageously and single-handedly raising their children (one of whom is a car thief).

No word on what life has been like for the survivors of any of Barghouti’s vicitms.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go throw up.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.


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