The prominent member of Fatah’s Central Committee, Marwan al-Barghouti, has stated that Israel’s settlement activities are endangering the future of the entire region. Nevertheless, these colonising policies are not met with any real action by the international community to stop them; instead they are supported by some. Therefore, it should not surprise anyone when the Palestinians take action to protect their land, rights and future.
In a letter written to the Russell Tribunal from prison and read by his wife, the lawyer Fadwa al-Barghouti, he also added the governments’ failure to make conclusive decisions is causing people from all over the world to show sympathy and solidarity with the Palestinian people; with the challenge they pose and their refusal of injustice, defeat and occupation. The Russell Tribunal is considered a means of promoting human rights and confirming international law, which leads to peace. Therefore, this court is a legitimate court that reflects and represents the will of people to live in a world governed by the principles of freedom and justice.
Al-Barghouti also stated, “I wish I were standing with everyone today, and your call on me, despite being detained in Israeli prison, is a challenge to the occupation, its law and its decisions. My words that reach you today reflect the insistence of the Palestinian people and their prisoners on making our voices heard despite our empty stomachs, and reflect your insistence on our voices being heard and refusing that they be silenced.”
Al-Barghouti said that 4,800 prisoners are still detained in the occupation’s prisons. Over 100 of them were imprisoned before the Oslo Accords, and some of them have spent 30 years behind bars; a fact that should have guaranteed their freedom as part of the peace agreements. When a number of prisoners went on hunger strike, their intention was to express their hunger for freedom and dignity. Some of their lives are in danger, as their only means of voicing their messages is their empty stomachs; their only weapon is their life. Guaranteeing their freedom is saving their lives.
He also added that the prisoner issue shows that this is not an ordinary conflict on the ground between two equal opponents; it is six decades of violating the most basic rights of justice, freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. The decision to end these violations cannot be left up to the occupying power. It is everyone’s responsibility to defend these rights, and the initial global support we are receiving assures us that we will not be defeated.
Al-Barghouti also wrote in his letter, “I was kidnapped from the city of Ramallah by the Israeli Occupation Forces 11 years ago. Since that time, I have been detained in their prisons where I was subjected to 100 days of interrogation and torture, followed by 1,000 days of solitary confinement. I have spent 18 years of my life in their prisons and 7 years in forced exile. During this time, I was unable to celebrate birthdays, school and university graduations or my daughter’s wedding with my wife and children nor was I able to attend my mother and brother’s funerals. Unfortunately, a large number of Palestinians have known a similar fate.
He also said, “I was the first Palestinian parliamentarian kidnapped by Israel and put on trial. Therefore, I refused to defend myself before an Israeli court, in order for me not to create a precedent; also because these courts gain their legitimacy from the occupation, which itself is illegitimate, and because I refuse for the representatives of the Palestinian people to stand in the occupation’s courts. The occupation sentenced me to life because it wanted, through me, to sentence the entire Palestinian national struggle, the Palestinian Intifada, and Palestinian legitimacy”.
He ended by saying that Israel was not satisfied with this, and went on to arrest over half the Palestinian members of parliament in the West Bank in batches, i.e. a third of the National Council. This is historically unprecedented, whereas members of the Israeli Knesset are received all over the world, including those who were accomplices to this crime through their silence. He added that all of this has not and will not break his will and the will and desire of the Palestinian people for freedom, independence and return. “We are supported by your support and the support of all the free people in the world as well as your promotion of freedom, justice and dignity”, he said.
It is worth noting that the Russell Tribunal held its final session in Brussels following a number of sessions held in Barcelona, London, Cape Town and New York.
Marwan Barghouti was an honorary guest representing Palestine in this final session.
This court, set up based on the model of the famous Russell Tribunal on Vietnam, aims to examine the role and complicity of the international community in the continuation of violations against the Palestinian people. They are, according to the court’s “jury”, exposed to a system similar that of Apartheid in South Africa.
The “Russell Tribunal on Palestine,” a people’s tribunal formed in 2009 by former French diplomat and member of the resistance, the late Stephane Hessel, demanded during its session held last Sunday in Brussels that the International Criminal Court should head investigations into the crimes committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories. The tribunal also criticised the “accomplices” of the Israeli policy, starting with the condemnation of the United States, the main supporter of Israel, followed by the UN and the EU.
The jury included a number of prominent politicians, diplomats, academics and lawyers, including the human rights activist Angela Davis, a founding member of the band Pink Floyd, Roger Waters and Nobel Peace laureate, Mairead Maguire.