The Palestinian Hunger Strike Has Nothing to Do with Conditions in Israeli Prisons

April 25 2017

For over a week, Marwan Barghouti—a former leader of the Fatah faction’s military wing and a key figure behind the second intifada—has been engaged in a hunger strike along with hundreds of his fellow Palestinian prisoners. Ostensibly, the strikers are seeking better treatment from the Israeli prison holding them. Bassam Tawil argues that something else is at stake:

Barghouti has been in prison for fifteen years so far. Remarkably, despite his long-term imprisonment, this is his first hunger strike, despite the poor incarceration conditions that have supposedly driven him to this move. . . . [But] the hunger strike is, in fact, completely unrelated to conditions in Israeli prisons. Rather, Barghouti’s hunger strike is directly linked to a power struggle that has long been raging inside his Fatah faction. . . .

Last November, Barghouti emerged as the biggest winner in Fatah’s internal election. His status as a prisoner and his involvement in terrorism continue to be the main reason why he is so popular among Palestinians. Barghouti’s victory in the election means that he is now number two after Mahmoud Abbas, and many expected the PA president to appoint him as his deputy. This past February, however, the Fatah Central Council, a body dominated by Abbas loyalists, delivered a deliberate slap in the face to Barghouti, ignoring his landslide victory and appointing someone else as deputy chairman. . . .

Barghouti . . . presents Abbas with a [particularly serious] problem. The Palestinian on the street will not tolerate the defamation, at least not in public, of any Palestinian sitting in Israeli prison. Abbas sees Barghouti as a real threat, particularly in the wake of public opinion polls suggesting that Barghouti could easily win any presidential election. Barghouti at large would be a nightmare for Abbas.

[But] Barghouti . . . knows better than to air Fatah’s dirty laundry. What, then, is to be done? The traditional diversionary tactic: direct the heat toward Israel. . . . Barghouti knows opposing Abbas publicly would be an unpopular move. Similarly, Abbas is using the hunger strike to incite against Israel and demand that all Palestinian terrorists, including ones with blood on their hands, be released unconditionally. The hunger strike is a smokescreen for the real problems inside Fatah and has nothing to do with the conditions of prisoners in Israeli jails.

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More about: Fatah, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Marwan Barghouti, Palestinians

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela