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Palestinian political prisoner Marwan Barghouti. (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Robert Inlakesh

The prominent political figure has been transferred to solitary confinement for allegedly planning a Third Intifada in the West Bank. But who is Marwan Barghouti?

Branded the ‘Palestinian Nelson Mandela’, Marwan Barghouti is perhaps the most popular Palestinian political figure in the Fatah party. 

Predicted to be released from Israeli military detention, in a coming Hamas-Israel prisoner exchange, he is being held up as a potential competitor to become the next Palestinian Authority (PA) President.

‘Young Guard’

Born in 1958, in the West Bank village of Kobar – located inside the Ramallah and Al-Bireh governorate – Marwan Barghouti allegedly became active in the Fatah movement from the age of 15. 

As a teenager, he co-founded the ‘Fatah Youth Movement’ and in 1976 was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces, using his time in military detention to gain fluency in Hebrew. 

Barghouti was released from detention in 1983, deciding to enroll himself at Birzeit University to pursue a degree in History and Political Science. It took him until 1994 to receive his degree, as he was subjected to exile and frequent imprisonment by the occupying forces. 

Marwan Barghouti later pursued a Master’s in International Relations, also at Birzeit University, which he achieved in 1998. 

At a time when the leadership of the Fatah party was in exile, Barghouti became a leading member of the movement ‘Young Guard’ in the occupied territories. 

However, it wasn’t until the first Intifada, in 1987, that Marwan Barghouti would rise to prominence, during this uprising he emerged as a popular figure and led various demonstrations against the occupation, in the West Bank, before his deportation to neighboring Jordan. 


As a result of the Oslo Accords, signed between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel, Marwan Barghouti was allowed to return to the West Bank. In 1994, he then became secretary general of the Fatah Party for the West Bank. 

Come to the Second Intifada in the year 2000, after having expressed his agreement with the opinion held by the PLO that pursuing negotiations was the most viable option, he publicly advocated resistance against the occupation and led demonstrations during the uprising. 

His disillusionment with the so-called peace process came following the collapse of the Camp David summit talks.

In 2002, Barghouti was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces and was handed five life sentences. Israel has accused Marwan Barghouti of masterminding various resistance operations which resulted in the killing and injuring of Israelis. 

He has also been tied to the formation of the Fatah Tanzeem forces in the West Bank, as well as the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, both paramilitary groups that are affiliated with the Fatah Party. Despite his ties to the armed struggle, he is not widely seen as a military figure, but rather a political figure within the Fatah movement.

A Unifying Figure

From within Israeli detention he has helped lead the prisoner movement, established hunger strikes, the most prominent of which occurred in 2017, even calling for a Third Intifada in the year 2014. 

In May of 2021, he co-founded a list that was set to run in the democratic elections that were announced, but later canceled, by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, signaling his intention to lead. 

Viewed as a political figure with unifying potential, he is a favorite to win any future Palestinian Presidential election and is seen by many Palestinians as a better alternative to other leading figures within the Fatah movement; which has shrunk in popularity significantly in the era of PA President Abbas.

Hamas has repeatedly signaled its intentions to exchange Israeli prisoners it holds in Gaza, for Marwan Barghouti and other high-profiled Palestinian political leaders. 

The hope is, that when released, a figure like Barghouti could transform the political landscape within the occupied West Bank and eventually replace the PA’s leadership.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker. He focuses on the Middle East, specializing in Palestine. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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