No, not that Barghouthi, this one.
Later today, West Bank physician and political activist Mustafa Barghouthi is expected to announce his candidacy for the PA Presidential election on 9 January.
Barghouthi is a longtime campaigner for the development of a comprehensive health infrastructure that serves the most vulnerable and overlooked sectors in Palestinian society (e.g. health education and screening for women, and rehabilitation for the disabled), and those whose access to healthcare has been decimated by Israel's policy of physically fragmenting the Palestinian Territories through a combination of siege, closure, walls and fences (i.e. the rural poor). He specializes in the organization of popular movements to bring about change through grassroots action, and was a co-founder of GIPP, a group that supports Palestinian non-violent mass resistance in the Occupied Territories by bringing in international civilian activists to deter the usual violent reponse from Israeli soldiers and settlers who are (relatively) sensitive to the bad press that arises from their killing/wounding of foreign nationals.
(Though, ironically, Barghouthi was arrested and beaten by Israeli soldiers on 2 January 2002 after participating with international members of GIPP in a press conference at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem. That Barghouthi should leave a meeting about the role of foreign nationals in deterring IDF violence against Palestinians, only to be immediately beaten by Israeli soldiers while horrified international fellow participants - including a member of the European Parliament - look on in disbelief, has got to be a top contender in the Truly-ironic-things-that-really-shouldn't-happen Category. Perhaps outdone only by Sari Nusseibeh getting beaten up on 21 September 1987 by Fatah activists who were upset at his ongoing dialogue with the Likud, and who lay in wait for him outside the auditorium where he was delivering a lecture on tolerance).
Barghouthi was formerly the Palestinian People's (Communist) Party representative to the PLO's Palestinian National Council, but is now a leading figure in the Palestinian National Initiative. The PNI is a non-partisan political coalition established in June 2002 (by Edward Said, among others), to represent a "third way" in Palestinian politics; i.e. to appeal to the "silent majority" that demands an independent, sovereign Palestine, but does not identify with either the PA/Fatah or the Islamist opposition. Its priorities are Palestinian unity, the development of civil society, the establishment of the rule of law, and above all the creation of a genuinely representative democracy for the Palestinian people, not only in the Occupied Territories, but also for the millions of refugees who have been consistently excluded from a peace process in which their fate should be a key element.
So Barghouthi - a proponent of nonviolence, running on a pro-democracy platform - is exactly the kind of person that our President is hoping will come to the fore in his Middle East March For Democracy, right? Well, not exactly. When Barghouthi says "democracy", he doesn't mean manoeuvring a pro-US candidate into the PA Presidency, who will make war on Hamas, provide security for the Occupation and sign off on some Generous Offer to establish a Palestinian client state. He actually means democracy as a vehicle of self-determination, that allows Palestinians to pick their leaders - and their methods of resistance - on the basis of what the Palestinian people want, rather than what is acceptable to Israel or the U.S.
Perhaps the best proof that democracy is messy (to borrow a phrase from Mr Rumsfeld), and doesn't necessarily produce compliant, pro-U.S. leaders is Barghouthi's policy concerning the peace process and relations with Israel. Barghouthi is living proof of the idiocy of U.S. and Israeli claims that the cause of the conflict lies in the shortcomings of the demonized Arafat. Whether Palestinians are led by a secular nationalist in a keffiyeh, a bearded fundamentalist, or an articulate, telegenic democracy activist, the conflict will continue for as long the underlying issues remain swept under the carpet. Barghouthi is an unequivocal supporter of a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, but warns that having recognised Israel's existence on 78% of mandate Palestine, Palestinians have little more to give. It is now up to Israelis to ask themselves honestly whether they will make peace by ending the Occupation, or continue their attempted colonisation of the remaining 22%, with the perpetual conflict that will bring. He opposes any return to an Oslo-type process that puts off resolution of the core issues till an unspecified future date, while tying down Palestinians in and endless "interim" phase that the Israelis can exploit to expand settlement and colonisation in the Territories. A peace process that offers Palestinians a "better" Occupation simply prolongs it.
For this reason, Barghouthi wants no part of the so-called disengagement from Gaza. Like Oslo, "disengagement" is simply an Israeli device to end an intifada by offering the Palestinians the chance to take part in phony peace plan that rearranges, but does not end, the Occupation. For Palestinians to waste their time bickering over who gets to control Gaza, while Sharon is actively annexing half of the West Bank, makes no more sense than fighting over who gets the last deckchair on the Titanic. Palestinians should concentrate instead on mobilizing massive resistance to the Wall in every town and village on which it encroaches, on building international support to bring effective sanctions to bear on Israel, and on developing their own civil society and democratic institutions. Barghouthi concludes that if, at the end of the day, Israel is unwilling to cease its expansionism or unable to rein in the influence of the settler movement, so be it. Having learned the lesson of 1948, Palestinians are not going anywhere. If Israelis are unable to live next door to Palestinians in a sovereign state, they will eventually live with them as minority Jewish co-citizens in a single state. The choice is Israel's, and the time to make it is running out.
Update, 3 Dec 2004: Thanks to reader David F., for pointing me to these comments by Daniel Barenboim in support of the PNI and Mustafa Barghouthi's candidacy for President.