Marwan Barghouti, who is known as “Palestine’s Mandela,” has published his first book, a gripping detail of his life in Israeli prisons, which included three years in solitary confinement. The book came out on Sunday.
Barghouti, who is a member of Fatah’s central committee, was on Israel’s most-wanted list for his role as the engineering mastermind of the first and second Intifadas. He was arrested by the Israel Defense Force in 2002 and was sentenced in 2004 to five life sentences for five murders and 40 years’ imprisonment for attempted murder in 2004.
“It is the hard-earned efforts of more than three years, that the 255-page book was released,” his wife, Fadwa Barghouthi, said in a telephone interview.
The book, “One Thousand Nights in Solitary Confinement,” made its premiere at al-Najah National University in the West Bank during an event chaired by one of the Arab world’s most famed political talk shows hosts, Zahi Wahbi.
The book was published by al-Shurooq; it will be published and distributed outside the Palestinian territories by al-Nashiroon.
“Whenever possible, Marwan used to send a page of the book for us to compile,” his wife said.
Asked about the specific details of how the pages were smuggled out of prison, Mrs. Barghouthi said that “we cannot disclose how we did it to the media.”
“In the first chapter, the book describes the confrontation between the Palestinian detainees and the Israeli investigators,” Mrs. Barghouthi said, a process she said was gruesome.
“In the first chapter, he described how Israel brought tens of investigators to squeeze any proof out of him, but he refused … he did not acknowledge the Israeli court, said it is a political case, and that it is the court of the occupiers,” she said.
Marwan Barghouti refused to present a defense to the charges brought against him, maintaining throughout that the trial was illegal and illegitimate. He also continued to stress that he supported armed resistance to the Israeli occupation, but condemned attacks on civilians inside Israel.
But Israeli evidence presented at his trial stated that he supported and directed such attacks.
“There was torture, sleep deprivation, handcuffing of feet and hands for long hours, knocking on doors while he was sleeping … designed to make him psychologically collapse or succumb,” she said. “But after 100 days he came away unscathed, he did not sign any papers, and in his book he gives advice to other Palestinians on how they can come out unscathed like he did.”
In chapter four, Barghouthi goes into great details about his three years of solitary confinement; he was housed in a cell measuring 1meter by 1.5 meters cell and was not allowed to speak to anyone except to his lawyer. He was allowed a daily one-hour break in a courtyard but was not able to speak to fellow prisoners.
“He was determined to not allow the confinement to break him. Either he would go crazy or win over them [Israelis],” his wife said, describing how solitary confinement was used against senior to prevent them from influencing other prisoners.
“He describes how he used crushed soda cans to close the hole of the land toilet in his cell to prevent rats from coming out of it; he also used toothpaste and pieces of paper to cover holes of the cell to prevent insects from creeping in from the outside.”
An important book
“It is the truth,” said Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian politician belonging to the Palestinian’s People’s Party who is the director of the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center.
“The book has strong expressions and is sprung from the realty that Palestinians live in,” said Khatib, who was detained four times and imprisoned by Israeli forces from 1974 to 1977. “Books published about this issue are very scarce.”
Recalling his prison days, Ghassan said that he and his fellow prisoners pursued many cultural activities while incarcerated.
“During my time, there were only a small number of books that were available, so we had to make copies of books by writing them,” he said. “I remember copying a poetry book of Tawofeeq Ziyad.” Ziyad was a Palestinian poet, writer and political figure.
When Barghouthi was 18, he was arrested by Israel for his involvement with Palestinian militant groups. He completed his secondary education and received a high school diploma while in jail. He also learned his fluent Hebrew there.
Barghouthi is among many Palestinian inmates who have pursued higher education in jail, has also earned his Ph.D. in 2010.
According to Khatib, 44 years of Israeli occupation, arrests, detention and imprisonment have marred the livelihood of the majority of Palestinians, and it is important to document what they are going through.
Palestinians, who have a population of around 4 million people, have had at least 750,000 of their people jailed in Israeli prisons since 1967, according to Palestinian reports citing the Red Crescent.
Like Barghouti, he cited the methods of interrogation and the various torture methods used by the Israelis; in addition, the fact that prisoners are away from their families makes the ordeal even more difficult.
A self-help book
In his book, Barghouthi warns prisoners or detainees to be on guard for people who pose as fellow Palestinians but are in fact “spies.” He also tells prisoners not to lose hope or faith as Israelis intensify their interrogation methods in an attempt to make prisoners confess.
“They tell prisoners that their sons have been martyred or that their wife has been killed,” Mrs. Barghouthi added.
Palestinians, who maintain that Barghouthi’s arrest was illegal because he was arrested in an area over which Israel has no jurisdiction, are still hoping he will be released.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces continue to arresting Palestinian political figures. On Tuesday, Israeli troops re-arrested a senior Hamas official and his son, an Israeli military spokeswoman said.
Hassan Yusef was released from prison in early August after serving a six-year sentence for “membership in a terrorist organization.” He was rearrested in early September and released a week later.