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by Maurice Ulrich

The Promise

Translated Tuesday 22 September 2009, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

On Sunday afternoon, Fadwa Barghouti and Denise Hamouri will stand on the great stage of l’Humanité’s Festival, side by side with workers actively involved in conflicts. For at our festival, social struggles and international solidarity support and complement one another; both raise public awareneness and mobilize energies. Fadwa and Denise will each bring their testimony.

Fadwa Barghouti is the wife of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who has been held in an Israeli prison ifor the last seven years, regardless of international law and the Oslo accords. Denise Hamouri is the mother of the young Franco-Palestinian Salah Hamouri, who has already spent more than four years in prison, also in Israel, on an incredibly flimsy charge. He merely drove past an ultra-racist rabbi’s house once and was accused of plotting an attack against him. Without any proof of course.

Fadwa Barghouti will also preside over a night of solidarity at the” world village”, and she will also be present at the “books’ village” to sign her book, a collection of texts by her husband with a preface of her own: The Promise: texts written in prison, 2002-2009. The title evokes two towering figures among others: one is Antonio Gramsci, a former leader of the Italian communist party who was imprisoned in the 1920s. His writing and letters were put on stage in Saint Denis a few years ago. A lone man walked on stage, recited the texts: among the audience were all the pupils of a lower secondary school form, none of whom said a word or gave any sign of impatience. On coming out they said how deeply moved they were by the struggle of this man, whom they did not know before.

Years in prison. Let us remember this. No more than 2% of the French knew Nelson Mandela’s name when in the seventies the Young Communists (who else?) launched a big campaign for his liberation. Nelson Mandela has since become a symbol. Towns had then decided to put up his portrait in their public buildings until he was liberated. Today, Marwan Barghouti’s portrait has been (or is about to be) put up in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, Stains, Ivry, Valenton, La Courneuve, Verrières, Gennevilliers (suburban towns around Paris) and will probably be placarded in dozens of other cities. In l’Humanité’s columns we constantly relay all the initiatives taken for the release of the Palestinian leader.

The call for Marwan Barghouti’s release is legitimate in respect for justice and humanity. But it is also a major political struggle, for Israel and for Palestine, but also for the whole world, since the situation in the Middle-East has repercussions all the world over. A clear-sighted man with firm convictions, he thinks that there can be no peace as long as the occupation continues.

French people have learned by experience the price and value of resistance: they know he is right. The Palestinian leader, a fighter and a man of culture too, knows this country well enough, having written a memoir on the relations between France and Palestine. And he is open to other cultures: at his trial, he pleaded his case in Hebrew. Far from being an anecdote, this fact has great symbolic value.

Indeed, reading his book one discovers a man who is sincerely convinced of the strength of democracy, who rejects corruption, who stakes his country’s future on the Palestinian youth and the intelligence of the Palestinians (all of them), and who, provided he is liberated, is the one man who can champion the people’s hope for Palestine and peace with Israel. In Israel, some of those who have understood this keep him in prison for this very reason. In Israel and all over the world, and at l’Humanité’s festival this week-end, all men and women who love peace will demand his release and that of Salah Hamouri.

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