As the controversy over Israel’s refusal to allow Arafat to make his annual pilgrimage to Bethlehem continues tosimmer, the Palestinian leader can look to some sympathy from home, but not much. Just this weekend, Palestinianunity came close to dissolving this weekend as clashes between Yasir Arafat’s police and Palestinian civilians leftsix dead and dozens injured. The violence was sparked by Arafat’s attempt to satisfy Israeli and US demands that heclamp down on organizations that advocate terrorism. It was the worst case of Palestinian-on-Palestinian violencesince 1994, and it sparked fears of civil war.
Meanwhile, as Arafat’s legitimacy continues to falter, the popularity of Marwan Barghouti, another Fateh veteran,continues to rise. Known as the "leader of the Intifada," Barghouti has emerged as a key figure during the last 15months of uprising. He is a vocal opponent of the Israeli Occupation and a watchful critic of the PalestinianAuthority a combination that has earned him widespread respect among Palestinians. Some believe that if Arafatshould fall or choose to step down, Barghouti will be the successor.
Marwan Barghouti is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the leader of Fateh’s military wing. He wasinterviewed by Free Speech Radio News reporter, Raphael Krafft, in early December. They met at an undisclosedlocation in the West Bank, because Barghouti is in hiding from the Israeli authorities. Over the summer, he narrowlyescaped several assassination attempts by the Israeli Defense Forces. And in early December, his house was stormedby Israeli soldiers. The raid came in apparent retaliation for an attack on a bus of Jewish settlers just daysbefore.
- Marwan Barghouti, secretary general of Fateh and a central figure in the second Intifada.
- Raphael Krafft, reporter, Free Speech Radio News.