The New York Times has given precious space on its op-ed page to a Palestinian man leading a hunger strike in an Israeli prison. But the essay, from Marwan Barghouti, leaves out one crucial fact: he is in prison because he was convicted of killing five Israelis in terrorist attacks more than a decade ago.
A footnote to the op-ed describes Barghouti only as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian,” omitting any reference to his 2004 terrorism conviction.
In the piece, Barghouti, a leader in Fatah, a Palestinian political party, decries what he says is Israel’s unjust judicial system and inhumane conditions in Hadaram Prison, where he currently resides.
“I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike,” Barghouti writes.
The 57-year-old Barghouti says that he has been in and out of prison since the age of 15. He claims he was tortured by Israeli police at the age of 18 and that he has been targeted because of his political opposition to the Israeli government. He also glosses over his most recent conviction, failing to note that it was for terrorism and that it was the product of a “show trial.”
“As part of Israel’s effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by international observers,” he asserts.
Notably absent from the essay is a denial from Barghouti of the allegations against him. He was convicted in 2004 of orchestrating three separate terrorist attacks in Israel in 2001 and 2002. He was implicated in several other attacks, but was acquitted due to a lack of evidence.
Barghouti is reportedly the head of Tanzim, a military offshoot of Fatah, the party founded by Yasser Arafat. He is also reported to be one of the founders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militant group that operated during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli government which left more than 4,000 Israelis and Palestinians dead between 2000 and 2005.
The Times’ decision to give space to Barghouti and to whitewash his terrorism conviction was criticized by several Israeli political figures.
Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., blasted The Times’ publication of Barghouti’s missive, comparing the convicted terrorist to Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine African-Americans in a South Carolina church in 2015.
Yair Lapid, an Israeli politician, also criticized the Times.
Writing at the Times of Israel, Lapid called the U.S. newspaper’s brief reference to Barghouti’s title as a parliamentarian “an intentional deception.”
“Anyone who reads the column without prior knowledge of the facts will come to the conclusion that Barghouti is a freedom fighter imprisoned for his views. Nothing is further from the truth,” Lapid wrote.
Update: The New York Times attached an editor’s note to Barghouti’s op-ed on Tuesday. It reads:
This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.