MARWAN BARGHOUTI has spoken up. After a long silence, he has sent a message from prison.In Israeli ears, this message does not sound pleasant. But for Palestinians, and for Arabs in general, it makes sense.His message may well become the new program of the Palestinian liberation movement.I FIRST met Marwan in the heyday of post-Oslo optimism. He was emerging as a leader of the new Palestinian generation, the home-grown young activists, men and women, who had matured in the first Intifada.He is a man of small physical stature and large personality. When I met him, he was already the leader of Tanzim (???organization???), the youth group of the Fatah movement.The topic of our conversations then was the organization of demonstrations and other non-violent actions, based on close cooperation between the Palestinians and Israeli peace groups. The aim was peace between Israel and a new State of Palestine.When the Oslo process died with the assassinations of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Marwan and his organization became targets. Successive Israeli leaders ??? Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon ??? decided to put an end to the two-state agenda. In the brutal ???Defensive Shield operation (launched by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, the new leader of the Kadima Party) the Palestinian Authority was attacked, its services destroyed and many of its activists arrested.Marwan Barghouti was put on trial. It was alleged that, as the leader of Tanzim, he was responsible for several ???terrorist??? attacks in Israel. His trial was a mockery, resembling a Roman gladiatorial arena more than a judicial process. The hall was packed with howling rightists, presenting themselves as ???victims of terrorism???. Members of Gush Shalom protested against the trial inside the court building but we were not allowed anywhere near the accused.Marwan was sentenced to five life sentences. The picture of him raising his shackled hands above his head has become a Palestinian national ic
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