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Who is Omar Barghouti?

My interest in Omar Barghouti was sparked by a letter sent by list member 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 found.

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.

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.”

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 instruction.

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, 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.

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