Fatah Supreme Committee member Marwan Barghouti, leader of the first and second Intifadas, was captured by the IDF in 2002 in Ramallah, and subsequently tried in Israel and sentenced to five life sentences. As leader of the military wing of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Barghouti ordered numerous attacks, including suicide bombings. Of the scores of attacks for which he was indicted, in Tel-Aviv, Netanya, Hadera and Jerusalem, the court found him guilty in three attacks in which civilians were killed and wounded, including Greek Orthodox monk Georgios Tsbouktzakis. (For details on the terrorist acts in which Barghouti was involved, see Appendix.)
Since then, a dozen French municipalities led by mayors belonging to the French Communist Party (PCF) have demonstrated solidarity with Barghouti by forming a network of communes granting Barghouti honorary citizenship. They are displaying a poster of Barghouti in chains on the fronts of their city hall buildings next to the French flag and the French motto "Liberté, égalité, fraternité," with the aim of obtaining Barghouti's release.
In addition, ceremonies were held, attended by the mayors, Barghouti's wife Fadwa, Palestinian general delegate to France Hind Khouri, and the president of the association for twinning French cities with Palestinian refugee camps, Fernand Tuil, along with other high officials and activists. Fadwa Barghouti received a medal of honorary citizenship for her husband.
Following is a review of these official ceremonies in nine French municipalities.
A Network of Municipalities for the Release of Marwan Barghouti
First to grant Barghouti honorary citizenship was Pierrefitte sur-Seine, a small city in the northern suburbs of Paris, on June 11, 2007, at the request of the communist group. The former Pierrefitte sur-Seine website (now updated) states: "This honorific acknowledgement of the injustice suffered [by Barghouti] was voted for by the absolute majority of the city representatives."
In December 2008, the Stains municipality in the northern suburbs of Paris, whose mayor is PCF Michel Beaumale, also granted Barghouti honorary citizenship. The France-Palestine solidarity website reports: "A picture of Marwan Barghouti was hung on the front of the city hall in view of a large crowd, including city hall employees, parliamentarians and French mayors."
Other honorary citizens of Stains include Nelson Mandela, former French hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) Ingrid Betancourt, and U.S. prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, on death row for murdering a policeman in Philadelphia.
It should be noted that following the Stains municipality's decision to grant Barghouti honorary citizenship, Olivier Dubaut, deputy prefect of the Seine-Saint-Denis Department (to which Stains belongs) asked the mayor "to withdraw Resolution No. 23 of December 18, 2008" because "it conveys… a political wish and takes sides in a foreign conflict, which represents a violation of the law." Also, he said, "it places in the position of honorary citizen someone whose actions and the condemnations [they entailed] are already triggering violent local controversy likely to create public turmoil... Finally, considering the lack of local interest in this tribute to Mr. Barghouti, it seems the municipality has made an obvious mistake… For these reasons I shall ask you to cancel Resolution No. 23 of December 18, 2008." Mayor Beaumale refused to comply, and instead asked for confirmation of the resolution.
Deputy Prefect Dubaut's letter to Mayor Beaumale
In March 2009, Stains launched the Network of Municipalities for the Release of Marwan Barghouti (Réseau des villes et collectivités pour la libération de Marwan Barghouti). A website keeps visitors informed of the network's progress; one section of the website posts letters of support, and featured one by Barghouti's lawyer Gisele Halimi, who compared him to Nelson Mandela and views him as a "symbol of the fight against occupation," and one by Israeli pacifist activist and journalist Michel Warschawsky, who calls him a fighter for freedom and independence.
Other cities to grant Barghouti honorary citizenship are:
- May 2009: Valenton (mayor Françoise Baud, PCF).
Poster of Barghouti in chains at Valenton's city hall
The city hall website's home page features a petition for Barghouti's release. Also, an article published in the Valenton municipal magazine called Barghouti the "Palestinian Mandela".
Home page of official Valenton city hall website, featuring a link to a petition for the release of Barghouti
Petition for Barghouti's release on the Valenton's city hall official site
Valenton's official magazine calls Barghouti the "Palestinian Mandela"
- May 13, 2009: Gennevilliers (mayor Jacques Bourgoin, PCF).
A certificate of appreciation to Ivry-sur-Seine mayor Pierre Gosnat from The Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouti and All Prisoners
Ivry-sur-Seine mayor Pierre Gosnat gives an official speech praising Marwan Barghouti at city hall
Fadwa Barghouti giving a speech, next to the mayor and to Palestinian general delegate to France Hind Khouri
Fadwa Barghouti shakes hands with the mayor and is handed a medal of honorary citizenship for her husband
- May 28, 2009: Vitry-sur-Seine (mayor Alain Audoubert, PCF).
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- June 24, 2009: La Verrière (mayor Pierre Sellincourt, PCF).
On September 8, 2009, Stains celebrated the 10th anniversary of the twinning of the city of Stains with the Al-Am'ari Palestinian refugee camp. The event was held in the name of Marwan Barghouti.
A poster for the event marking the 10th anniversary of the twinning of Stains
with the Al-Am'ari Palestinian refugee camp, to be held in the name of Barghouti
On September 2009, Chalette sur Loing (communist since 1971) followed in Stains' footsteps and joined the network.
Poster of Barghouti in chains at Chalette city hall
Two More Municipalities Joined Network in May 2010
On May 20, 2010, Montataire, a northern city of the Oise Department, granted honorary citizenship to Barghouti. The Oise Department French communist party reported that this was a unanimous decision and that Barghouti's picture would be displayed on the front of city hall.
The most recent city granting Barghouti honorary citizenship as of this writing is La Courneuve (PCF), in the suburbs of Paris, doing so on May 21, 2010. Barghouti's wife Fadwa and Israeli pacifist activist Michel Warschawski were both granted honorary citizenship on this occasion. Mayor Gilles Poux and deputy mayor Nabilah Rezkallah both attended, as did Barghouti's wife, Hind Khouri, and Fernand Tuil, as with the other such events.
The move followed a week dedicated to Palestine Solidarity Week, May 14-21.
The Partners of the Municipalities' Campaign for the Release of Barghouti
Following are the partners of the Barghouti campaign, as posted in the campaign's website. All are pro-Palestinian organizations and many try to fundraise for Palestine.
- International Committee for the Release of Marwan Barghouti: comité internationale pour la libération de Marwan Barghouti
- France Palestine Solidarity Association: Association France Palestine Solidarité
Financial details regarding the recipients of donations of France Palestine Solidarity Association: the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon
- Petition for Palestine: l'Apel des 108 - signez en ligne
- Palestine Generation: Génération Palestine
Projects in Palestine supported by Génération Palestine
- Committee for the Support of Palestinian with French citizenship Salah Hamouri: Site du Comité national de soutien à Salah Hamouri. Hamouri is currently serving a seven-year prison term for a 2005 attempt to murder former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Ovadia Yosef, and is set to be released on November 21, 2001. He was previously arrested in Bethlehem in 2004, and is suspected of belonging to the PFLP
- Association for the Twinning of French Cities With Palestinian Camps: AJPF (Association pour les Jumelages entre les camps de réfugiés Palestinien et les villes Françaises)
On September 2009, Fadwa Barghouti toured different communist municipalities belonging to the network, holding press conferences in the presence of high officials, activists and mayors. She said that in exchange for these municipalities' support, streets in Ramallah would be named for the cities, according to a decision by the municipal council of which she is a member.
Names of high officials and activists attending the press conference with Barghouti's wife Fadwa
Terrorist activities involving Marwan Barghouti
Following are some of the terror attacks for which Marwan Barghouti is responsible:
- June 12, 2001 - The murder of a Greek Orthodox monk on the road to Ma'ale Adumim.
- January 17, 2002 - The shooting attack during a bat mitzva celebration at a banquet hall in Hadera. Six Israelis civilians were killed, 26 were wounded.
- January 22, 2002 - Shooting spree on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem. Two Israelis civilians were killed, 37 wounded.
- March 5, 2002 - Shooting spree at the Tel Aviv Seafood restaurant. Three Israelis civilians were killed, 31 wounded.
- March 27, 2002 – The interception of an ambulance and the confiscation of an explosive belt, being smuggled from Samaria into Barghouti's terrorist infrastructure in Ramallah.
Marwan Barghouti leading the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
On March 27, 2002, Isalam Jibril, a Tanzim member and a resident of the Balata refugee camp, was arrested at an IDF roadblock near Ramallah, driving a Red Crescent ambulance. An explosive belt and other explosive charges were seized from the ambulance. The driver admitted that these were given to him in Nablus by Mahmud Titi – a senior Tanzim operative well known to the organization's leaders, including Marwan Barghouti – for transport to Tanzim operatives in Ramallah.
Also in the ambulance were another man, a woman, and three children (six months, 3, and 4). The explosive belt, comprising 16 pipes containing 10 kg of explosive materials, was concealed under the mattress of the stretcher upon which one of the children lay.
Ambulance at an IDF roadblock near Ramallah