Rally calling for the release of Marwan Barghouti in Hebron. April 17, 2017. HAZEM BADER/AFP.jpg

Free Marwan Barghouti — Palestine’s Mandela

The campaign for Barghouti’s release was launched in 2013 from Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island, in South Africa, where many leaders of the anti-apartheid struggle were imprisoned. Signing the Robben Island declaration were eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu.

(Edited from Haaretz article by Gidi Weitz and Jack Khoury | Jul. 2, 2016)

International struggle

Attorney Fadwa Barghouti, the prisoner’s wife, has an office on the sixth floor of a gleaming office building in the center of Ramallah. On the walls are photographs of and paintings by her jailed husband. Since Barghouti’s incarceration, Fadwa has managed a PA-financed fund whose purpose is to create international pressure to bring about his release and in general to cultivate his myth, which has much in common with the aura that developed around Mandela in South Africa. She travels widely, meeting with foreign ministers and shapers of public opinion.


Following Yasser Arafat’s death, in November 2004, Mahmoud Abbas, who opposed the path of armed struggle followed by Arafat and Barghouti, was appointed his temporary successor. From his isolation cell, Barghouti declared that he himself intended to run for president. Information reached the Israeli leadership that the two people closest to Barghouti — his wife Fadwa and Qadura Fares — were opposed to the idea, and they convinced him to withdraw. Unusually, the Prime Minister’s Office allowed the two to visit Barghouti, who had been in total isolation in the Be’er Sheva Prison for two years. “I went to see him at Abu Mazen’s request. Today I admit that I made a mistake when I pressured him not to run,” Fares admits, and recalls the dialogue between them.