THE EDUCATION OF MARWAN BARGHOUTHI

By Avi Davis

Somewhere along the serpentine path he has padded into history, Marwan Barghouthi learned a lot of Hebrew. He picked up the language after years spent incarcerated in Israeli jails. He also picked up smatterings of Yiddish, some idioms that punctuate daily Israeli conversation and insight into the functioning of Israeli society.

But it is what he didn't pick up that was on full display outside a Jerusalem District Court three weeks ago. Photographs revealed a defiant Barghouthi railing in Hebrew about his people's fight for freedom and vowing vengeance for his incarceration. It was, however, a very different Barghouthi who was captured in Ramallah in April. Then, according to an IDF source, a disheveled and clearly frightened Barghouthi pleaded, not for the Palestinian cause, but for his life.

The Israeli soldiers who cornered Barghouthi in Ramallah were not a hit squad. They had come to bring the Palestinian security chief / turned outlaw into custody. It is a fair question to ask why Barghouthi was not simply assassinated, as other arch terrorist leaders of both the PFLP and Hamas had been earlier. Not only did the IDF have plenty of evidence linking him directly to the murder of Israeli citizens; they knew he operated as the central command of the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. His killing might have been a salutary message to the Palestinians that no one can claim immunity when it comes to the killing of Israelis.

The Israeli government decided against this course for reasons that may confuse Barghouthi and would perplex the Palestinian Authority. Putting Barghouthi in front of a jury means exposing a terrorist network as insidious and as well financed as Al Qaeda. Barghouthi, who represents himself as a moderate to the Western press (and has even been granted the benefit of op-ed pieces in distinguished American periodicals) has used his position as a front to foment incitement against Israel and approve terrorist atrocities against Israeli civilians. Palestinian records, uncovered by the IDF in April and May implicated Barghouthi directly in coordinating with his counterparts in Hamas and Islamic Jihad and becoming a focal point for the resistance. In his knowledge of Hebrew, his familiarity with Jewish traditions and his profound contempt for Israel and everything it represents, Barghouthi has much in common with another Jew killer whose fate he should now be studying.

Adolf Eichmann was brought to trial 41 years ago in Jerusalem. He was found guilty of all the charges brought against him and was sentenced to death. His trial riveted world attention and galvanized Israeli society - exposed for the first to the intricacies of the Final Solution via the testimony of a zealous practitioner. The most significant ruling to emerge from the trial was the claim by the Jerusalem District Courtthat it was entitled to administer justice on behalf of the Jewish people. There was, claimed presiding justice Moshe Landau, "a link between the State of Israel and crimes against the Jewish people, enabling the State to prosecute malefactors on the Jewish peoples' behalf. "

There can be little doubt that the terrorist apparatus of which Barghouthi has been a prime facilitator and Yasser Arafat a spearhead, is as pernicious, if not nearly as successful an instrument as Hitler's attempted liquidations 60 years ago. The killing of Jews because they are Jews remains a central feature of the Palestinian terrorist campaign and makes Bargouthi no more a freedom fighter than a common Nazi thug. And it makes him no more deserving of justice before an Israeli court than Adolf Eichmann.

But the fact that Eichmann was given his day in court 41 years ago, with opportunities for a full defense and an appeal, should be a lesson to his nominal successor. This will be his chance to demonstrate his innocence before the Israeli people, a privilege Barghouthi's murderers never gave the hundreds of Israeli men, women and children they have slaughtered over the past two years. It will be an opportunity for the Israeli government, on the other hand, to prove that there are still " crimes against the Jewish people" that will be addressed by law - a law that the world came to respect when the full extent of evil embodied in Adolf Eichmann's war time activities became widely known.

Eichmann became the last man in Israeli history to be sentenced to death. Barghouthi's education will begin when he understands that the supreme value Jews place on law and human life, will not always shield mass murderers from final retribution.

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Avi Davis is the senior fellow of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies and the senior editorial columnist for Jewsweek.com



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