Sunday, November 28, 2004

Untruth in Labeling
The Washington Post November 15, 2004. "Shots fired near new PLO Chief":
A Fatah leadership council in Ramallah had earlier announced, apparently in error, that Abbas would be the movement's candidate. But Abbas told al-Jazeera that the announcement was "premature," and that he had not yet been selected as the group's candidate.

Such a move by Fatah would preempt the candidacy of anyone else, particularly Marwan Barghouti, the former head of Fatah in the West Bank and a reputed founder of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who is serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison.

It could not be determined whether the gunmen in Gaza were angry about the announcement that Fatah had selected Abbas over Barghouti. If that were the case it would signal a much-anticipated battle between Fatah's old guard and young reformers who have done most of the fighting in the current Palestinian uprising.

The Washington Post, November 22, 2004 "Powell Arrives for Talks On Palestinian Transition":
In talks Monday in the West Bank city of Jericho, the Palestinians will also press Powell to help win the release of Marwan Barghouti, a charismatic Palestinian leader serving a life sentence after being convicted in connection with the deaths of several Israelis since the Palestinian uprising began in 2000. He has considered running for the Palestinian Authority presidency since Arafat's death, according to associates.

Powell told reporters he would "hear what others have to say" about Barghouti.

The Washington Post, November 23, 2004 "Fatah Panel Nominates Ex-Premier for President":
By all accounts, Fatah's candidate is a prohibitive favorite to win the election. But as the organization works to smooth Abbas's path to victory, there remains a possible bump: Marwan Barghouti, 45, the charismatic, firebrand leader of Fatah's young reformist wing. Polls had consistently ranked Barghouti as the most popular Palestinian after Arafat, but he is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison. Barghouti's followers, including guerrillas from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Fatah military wing that has conducted a suicide bombing campaign against Israel, maintain that he has the support of the Palestinian street and should be Fatah's candidate.

An early champion of the 1993 Oslo peace accords and their two-state solution, and a strong critic of official Palestinian corruption, Barghouti began advocating violent resistance against Israel because of what he considered its pattern of breaking promises made in Oslo. He was a member of the Palestinian parliament and a founder of the al-Aqsa Brigades. This year, an Israeli court convicted him of murder and belonging to a terrorist organization.

The Washington Post, November 26, 2004, "Fatah Council Endorses Abbas to Lead Palestinians":
Abbas, 69, is favored by Israel and the United States because of his calls to end a Palestinian armed uprising launched in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip four years ago. But the council vote was seen largely as a rubber-stamp approval of his candidacy as Abbas, once viewed as a front-runner to replace Arafat, faced a new challenge. Officials said that Marwan Barghouti, a jailed leader of the uprising and a fellow member of Fatah, might also announce his candidacy.

Barghouti, 45, who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison, has a stronger base than Abbas among young Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Abbas also faces challenges from militant groups that have vowed to keep fighting Israel.

The Washington Post, November 27, 2004, "Abbas Rival Withdraws Challenge":
Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian leader serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison, decided Friday not to run for president of the Palestinian Authority in elections in January, associates said.

Barghouti, 45, a shrewd politician and firebrand orator, had threatened to run for president from his jail cell, and many Palestinian analysts said they thought he could win the Jan. 9 election to fill the post vacated by the Nov. 11 death of Yasser Arafat.

But Barghouti, who was the clear favorite of younger members of Arafat's Fatah movement, bowed to intense pressure not to risk splitting the movement by challenging its official nominee, former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, 69, who was favored by Fatah's old guard.

The decision averted a generational clash within Fatah and a potential public relations nightmare for Israel.

. . . .

Barghouti, the former head of Fatah in the West Bank and a member of the Palestinian parliament, was convicted this year by an Israeli court of killing five people and belonging to a terrorist organization. He denied the charges but did not participate in his defense, saying the trial was a political show.

He has approved of attacks against Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Abbas has condemned the use of violence, saying the militarization of the Palestinian uprising against Israel's continuing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was a mistake.
. . . .
The process by which Abbas was chosen was a key complaint of Barghouti and his backers in Fatah, who include many activists who have grown up in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They complained that the selection process was controlled by Arafat's old guard -- the group that followed the former leader abroad during his years in exile and returned to Gaza and the West Bank with him in 1994.

The Washington Post, November 23, 2004, "An Israeli Hawk Accepts the President's Invitation":
Those looking for clues about President Bush's second-term policy for the Middle East might be interested to know that, nine days after his reelection victory, the president summoned to the White House an Israeli politician so hawkish that he has accused Ariel Sharon of being soft on the Palestinians.

To whom is Dana Milbank referring? Why to one of the great freedom fighters of the 1980's, Natan Sharansky. Note: Sharansky in the article is not referred to as a "firebrand," as being "popular," charismatic" or "a reformist."
No, those flattering modifiers have all been used in the Washington Post recently (I did a search on "Barghouti" and these are the results. One was a wire report, the remainder were from the Post's own reporters) to refer to the convicted murderer, Marwan Barghouti.
And in one of the articles (cited above) the Post the reporter goes so far as to provide a justification for Barghouti's advocacy of terror:
An early champion of the 1993 Oslo peace accords and their two-state solution, and a strong critic of official Palestinian corruption, Barghouti began advocating violent resistance against Israel because of what he considered its pattern of breaking promises made in Oslo.

In another case the Post includes Barghouti's claim that Israel's trial of him was a "show trial."
These claims of Barghouti's were never challenged. Did the reporter check to see if all the proper rules of proof were applied in Barghouti's trial? Did the reporter check to see if targeting of civilians - even settlers in the West Bank - was permissible under any circumstances? Well, no.
On the other hand Milbank, who wrote about Sharansky managed to paint the former prisoner of conscience as in ingrate:
While accusing then-President Jimmy Carter, who championed Sharansky's cause during his Gulag days, of having "blind sympathy" and "trust for dictators," the Israeli praised a Bush speech on the Middle East as "almost too good to be true," saying: "President Bush turned his back on Yasser Arafat's dictatorship once and for all." As previously noted in this space, that Bush speech lifted many of Sharansky's ideas.

And while Milbank expresses Sharansky's ideas concisely and well:
Sharansky's ideas are clear: no concessions, funds or legitimacy for the Palestinians unless they adopt democracy, but a modern-day Marshall Plan for the Palestinians if they embrace democratic ways. The same hard line that worked for Ronald Reagan against the Soviet Union, Sharansky argues in his book, would work for Israel against the Palestinians.
in other places Milbank suggests that these ideas, rather than being the well thought out conclusions of an intellectual are the convenient excuse for the politically motivated:
The warmth for the dissident is nothing new: Sharansky, who spent nine years in Soviet prisons before Reagan secured his release, has long been a cause celebre for the administration's neoconservative hard-liners.

In a nutshell the contrast in the portrayal of Barghouti and Sharansky could not be more stark. Barghouti is defined by his apparent popularity and Sharansky is defined by his opposition to Prime Minister Sharon. If you didn't know more and was told that one was a killer and one was a freedom fighter you might not draw the correct conclusions from reading the Washington Post.
Patrick Ruffini notes the shabby treatment afforded Sharanky by the Post in "Milbank's Reading List Hit List."

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