by P. David Hornik
The irresistible “charm” of Marwan Barghouti.
Last Tuesday terrorists broke into a French church, murdered an 85-year-old priest, and severely wounded another person. On Friday it was reported that several French municipalities had initiated the granting of honorary citizenship to jailed Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti.
Arrested by Israel in 2002, in 2004 Barghouti was sentenced to five terms of life imprisonment on five counts of murder. Leader at the time of the Tanzim militia, he is seen as the mastermind of the most vicious sustained terror assault in history—the Second Intifada (2000-2005), which, in a country one-tenth the size of France, killed over a thousand people in five years.
As the Israeli ambassador to France, Aliza Bin-Noun, wrote in an open letter on Thursday: “Barghouti is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. At a time when Western countries should unite against the threat of terrorism, the French support for Barghouti in fact legitimizes his actions.”
Barghouti’s popularity in France, however, is of long standing. From 2007 to 2010, a dozen French municipalities made him an honorary citizen. In 2013 another municipality, Bezons, gave him that distinction along with Majid al-Rimawi, who took part in the murder of an Israeli cabinet minister in 2001.
And in December 2014 the Parisian suburb of Aubervilliers conferred the honor on Barghouti, three months after another Parisian suburb, Valenton, had done the same.
In all or most of these cases, the municipalities paying homage to the Palestinian terrorists were Communist-led. In recent years the French Communist Party’s fortunes have declined, and today it holds only a small minority of legislative seats and runs only a small minority of municipalities.
So far the reports on last week’s new round of moves to honor Barghouti don’t say whether the municipalities in question are Communist-led ones. But even if Barghouti’s fan club in France is not that large, he is a cause célèbre elsewhere in Europe as well.
Late in 2013, it was the Italian city of Palermo that made Barghouti one of its citizens. Meanwhile, in the current wave of Islamic terror in Europe, France has been the hardest hit. What happened in Brussels last March 22—32 killed in three terror bombings—makes Belgium the second hardest hit.
Yet, strangely, Belgium too had what might be called the Barghouti reflex.
On May 18, two months after the Brussels bombings, “leading Belgian Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum” announced that they were nominating Barghouti for a Nobel Peace Prize.
The Belgian lawmakers wrote:
Marwan is…a democrat defending human rights, notably women’s rights.
He was actively engaged in the promotion of political and religious pluralism, and as such he is an important actor for the future of a region more fragmented than ever…. Peace requires the freedom of Marwan Barghouti….
They went on to urge the Nobel Prize Committee to award the prize to “the one who embodies the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom, but also their aspiration to achieve peace….”
The ongoing European enthusiasm for Barghouti could be seen as reflecting a fatal European inability to look terrorism in the eye and understand that it can only be fought. Alternatively, it could be seen as reflecting a fatal inability to see terrorism as terrorism when Israelis are targeted by it.
As British academic Anthony Julius pointed out in a book published in 2010, “Israelis are the only citizens of a state whose indiscriminate murder is widely considered justifiable.” So far, it is very questionable whether Europe’s own intensifying plague of terrorism has fostered greater empathy for Israel’s case.
In France, enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause—amid ongoing terror and systematic incitement of terror—continues unabated as President Hollande keeps working to convene a “peace” conference that Israel opposes. And with France now considering the banning of foreign funding of mosques, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a probe of French-funded groups that incite against Israel and seek its destruction.
The call by Aliza Bin-Noun, the above-mentioned Israeli ambassador to France, for “Western countries” to “unite against the threat of terrorism” seems likely to remain a vain hope when it comes to Europe and the Jewish state.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the book Choosing Life in Israel. His memoir, Destination Israel: Coming of Age and Finding Peace in the Middle East, is forthcoming from Liberty Island later this year.
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