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Who is Omar Barghouti?

By Naomi Ragen

My interest in Omar Barghouti was sparked by a letter sent
by listmember Dr. Charlotte Berkowitz, who wrote me:

 "In the October issue of the widely read journal _PMLA_
(Publications of the Modern Language Association of America)
is an article by Omar Barghouti, a doctoral candidate at Tel
Aviv University, accusing Israel not only of specific
outrageous crimes against Palestinians, but of finding
authority for those excesses in the Halakhah and in the
Torah.  I  will be grateful if you will encourage professors
and graduate students who are members of MLA to write
letters addressing this irresponsible, unbalanced and
dangerous essay from a variety of perspectives. "

I admit, Dr. Berkowitz aroused my curiosity.  So, I did a
web-search for Mr.. Barghouti and was shocked by what I

First, Mr. Barghouti  identifies himself as a Palestinian.
This, despite the fact that he was born in Qatar and grew up
in Egypt. His claim to being a Palestinian stems, like other
Palestinian wannabees  (the late Edward Said most prominent
among them)  from his parents, who he says fled a West Bank
village to which they always "longed to return."  Their
longing, however, has not actually prompted them to do so.
They live in Jordan.  They were, in fact, shocked when their
son decided to leave the U.S. behind and move with his wife
to Ramallah.  The first time he touched down in "Palestine"
was in 1993,  in his thirties. By then, he had finished a
degree in Columbia University in Electrical Engineering,
something which apparently has not hampered his claim of
academic expertise in philosophy.  He is now allegedly a
Ph.D candidate in philosophy  (ethics, no less) at none
other than Tel Aviv University. .

For unknown reasons, this Israeli university has taken him
in (thus allowing the Jewish State and Zionists all over the
world to subsidize his education) and supplied him with the
academic credentials he is now using to head organizations
calling for the boycott of Israeli institutions of higher
learning, Israel's cultural exports, such as dance, and
which call into question the very legitimacy of the Jewish
State to exist at all.

Mr. Barghouti is in favor of a one-state solution: "Good
riddance! The two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict is finally dead. But someone has to issue an
official death certificate before the rotting corpse is
given a proper burial and we can all move on and explore the
more just, moral and therefore enduring alternative for
peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Mandate
Palestine: the one-state solution.
http://www.counterpunch.org/barghouti12132003.html .

He is a leading proponent of an academic boycott of Israel:
"The most urgent type of support the international community
can provide to the Palestinian academy is to adopt various
forms of boycott against Israel's academic
institutions...some argue that... it is still necessary for
Palestinian academics and intellectuals of all people to
maintain and foster open communication channels with their
Israeli counterparts, to debate, to share, to convince, to
learn, to overcome the "psychological barriers" and
ultimately to reach a common vision and a common struggle
for peace.   I beg to differ. Those who imagine they can
wish away the conflict by suggesting some forums for
rapprochement, détente, or "dialogue" -- which they hope can
lead to authentic processes of reconciliation and eventually
peace -- are either clinically delusional or dangerously
deceptive." He delivered this gem at a conference at London
University entitled:"Resisting Israeli Apartheid."
tt-israel.html -

 Mr.Barghouti makes clear:  "It is not the occupation of the
West Bank that is the problem, but the existence of Israel
itself: " ..what seems to escape the mainstream opinion
makers is that during the current intifada, the Israeli army
has crossed many of its former red lines, committing crimes
that are reminiscent in form -- though certainly not in
scale -- of Nazi crimes against European Jews." As for the
Israeli Left? "What left? Those in Israel who officially
call themselves "the left" -- the Zionist left, more
accurately -- easily make the far-right parties in Europe
look as moral as Mother Teresa... - on the JFJFP website....

Even in his extracurricular activities, he is consistent.
While continuing his engineering work, he became interested
in a folkloric dance group that strove to revive Palestinian
music and dance. The El-Funoun Palestinian Popular Dance
Troupe "has no specific political agenda," he told an ABC
News journalist when the troupe toured the U.S. But,
surprise-: 'A number of the dances illustrate beatings and
rebellion with a drumlike beat that symbolizes pain and
mourning.' In one piece, a barefoot dancer vanquishes his
repression by kicking aside a military boot that sits in the
middle of the stage. Barghouti said that because of the
Israeli military occupation, politics had crept into all
aspects of Palestinian life."

 Now a dance expert, in addition to an expert on ethics,
Mr.Barghouti wrote letters to respected magazines like Dance
Insider, nothing to do with dance, of course; he has only
one agenda: "I read your article in the Dance Insider with
interest. As to your question regarding whether Israeli
dance companies should be boycotted  'until Israel stops
bombing Lebanon,' my answer is yes, but for far longer,
until Israel fully abides by international law and
fundamental human rights, ending its occupation of
Palestinian land, recognizing the right of Palestinian
refugees to return and ending its system of racial
discrimination against Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel."

Mr. Barghouti, far from being a humanist and an
intellectual, is a red-neck propagandist of the worst order,
hatred oozing out of every pore, given legitimacy and
support by the very institutions and people whom he wishes,
and at every turn, attempts, to destroy.   Those who pretend
not to understand this, who publish his work and invite him
to academic conferences would do well to become more
familiar with this man and his work, rather than to continue
to be complicit.

 In the meantime, he continues to milk his Tel Aviv
University connection to the humanities, in which as far as
I can see, he has so far earned no degrees.   In 2005,  he
was invited- the sole member of an Israeli university- to
the Conference on Human Rights and the Humanities, held at
The Graduate Center, The City University of New York.  He
was also invited by the Rockefeller Foundation to meet in
Bellagio, Italy to discuss --academic boycotts!  He is  a
man invited in the name of academic discourse, the very
discourse he rejects.  He accepts the largess of an Israeli
University, which incredibly bestows legitimacy upon his
hate-filled, bigoted rantings,  a university he wishes to
destroy.  He does the same to the United States, which took
him in and gave him the opportunity to learn in one of its
top universities.  In his article:"9/11 , Putting the moment
on human terms" he says:"Plainly put, your ancestors are
responsible for the genocide of Native Americans and for the
wicked slavery enterprise. Your democratically elected
governments are accountable for unspeakable crimes
worldwide, from Hiroshima and Vietnam to Palestine, Iraq and
Afghanistan. This is why your national flag is the most
popular combustible item in rallies around the world. It has
nothing to do with hating you as a people, or even envying
your "way of life." It has everything to do with the fact
that your representatives have systematically plundered
other nations' wealth, destroyed their ways of life -
killing and injuring masses in the process."

Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, and others to whom
he will no doubt be applying for Post-Doc grants in the
event he actually earns a Ph.D (being a doctoral student can
last forever) should therefore beware.  Mr. Barghouti has
proven time again in article after article that his only
true expertise is being a "professional Palestinian."  The
biggest danger he poses is that of allowing inferior minds
such as his to take over the discussion about intellectual
freedom and democracy and  the Middle East conflict, because
people like him are such expert manipulators.

  Israel has been condemned recently for refusing to let in
other West Bank students to its institutions of higher
learning.  The case of Sawsan Salameh  from Anata in the
West Bank who wanted to learn chemical engineering at Hebrew
U  comes to mind.  Mr. Barghouti makes it eminently clear
that the refusal to allow such students into Israeli
universities is an understandable decision, akin to America
refusing visas to Muslims wishing to take  flight

 I cannot conclude before putting the following matter
before you.  Barghouti is the name of a rather well-known
family.  Marwan Barghouti headed the Al Aksa Martyrs
brigade, responsible for such terrorist attacks such as the
May 27 murder of Ruth Peled and her fourteen month old
granddaughter ,Sinai Keinan, as the baby sat in her carriage
outside an ice cream parlor in Petach Tikva. And the April
12th bombing of Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, which
killed Nissan Cohen, 57, Rivka Fink, 75, Suheila Hushi, 48;
Yelena Konrab, 43, Ling Chang Mai, 34, and Chai Siang Yang,
32, and injured 103.; as well as many more despicable
terrorists attacks for which he is currently serving five
consecutive life sentences in Israeli jails.  I wrote to
Omar Barghouti and asked him if this was a relative of his.
I did this because in  light of his blanket condemnation of
Israel and his defense of Palestinians,I think  that
-ethically and morally- his relationship with Mr. Marwan
Barghouti, is relevant.   His response:"Please do not
contact me again."

I am delighted to accede to that request.

Copyright Naomi Ragen, 2006
'All rights reserved.