This is one of the speakers at The Rachel Corrie Foundation’s 2006 Peace Works Conference.
Dr. Mustafa Kamel Barghouthi is a member of the Palestinian parliament; 2005 presidential candidate; physician; social, political, human rights and peace activist; one of the most active grassroots leader in Palestine; campaigner for the development of Palestinian civil society and grassroots democracy; outspoken advocate of internal reform; international spokesperson for the Palestinian cause; leading figure in the non-violent, peaceful struggle against the Occupation; and organizer of international solidarity presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Mustafa Barghouthi has made an extraordinary contribution to initiatives to peacefully challenge the ongoing Israeli Occupation of Palestine and bring it to end, as well as efforts to build the institutional framework of Palestinian civil society and promote the principles of internal democracy and good governance. He writes extensively for local and international audiences on civil society, democracy issues and the political situation in Palestine, as well as on health development policy in Palestine.
Dr. Barghouthi was born in Jerusalem in 1954 to a Palestinian family from Deir Ghassaneh village in the Ramallah District. As a medical doctor trained in the former Soviet Union, with post-graduate training in Jerusalem and an MSc in business administration and management from Stanford University, Dr. Barghouthi has been a key actor in the introduction of modern concepts and models of health care in Palestine. From 1978 till 1988, he worked at the Maqassed hospital in Jerusalem as a Resident Physician in the Department of Neurosurgery, and in the Internal Medicine, Cardiology and Coronary Care Unit, and finally as Chief Physician of the hospital’s Primary Healthcare Clinics.
In 1979, Dr. Barghouthi was among the founders of a voluntary, non-governmental and non-profit medical relief movement, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), of which he was later elected President. The aim of the PMRS at the time of its inception was to provide Palestinians, particularly marginalized and vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and those living in rural, isolated areas with essential emergency and primary healthcare services. Since its foundation, the PMRS has evolved into one of the largest providers of primary healthcare services throughout the Palestinian Territory, with a staff consisting of 380 health professionals and 38,000 volunteers. It currently works in 495 Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps, providing emergency, preventive and curative primary healthcare, specialised care, and a range of other services to 1.3 million Palestinians each year. The PMRS has pioneered the development of healthcare models such as the Community-Based Rehabilitation programme, aimed at providing rehabilitation services to disabled persons and at facilitating their integration into their communities. The PMRS has also been at the forefront of efforts to target the most vulnerable sectors of Palestinian society, through its Women’s and Child Health services.
After serving as President of the PMRS for 25 years, Dr. Barghouthi resigned his post in 2004 to pursue political activities. He retains a seat on the Board of Directors.
At the height of the first Intifada in 1989, Dr. Barghouthi was also one of a group of Palestinian health practitioners and researchers that co-founded the Health, Development Information and Policy Institute (HDIP), of which he is now Director. HDIP is a policy think-tank and a leader in the field of health and public policy research. In addition to its other functions, HDIP houses the Palestine Monitor, an information clearing house, on behalf of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), a cluster of 95 Palestinian NGO’s. The Palestine Monitor was launched at the beginning of the current Intifada (“uprising”) in order to convey unified responses from Palestinian civil society about local developments and to provide objective and accurate information to the press and international community. Its website acts as one of the key information sources on the conflict, with more than 1.5 million hits per month.
Following the US veto on 27 March 2001 of a UNSC resolution calling for the deployment of an international protection force for civilians in the Occupied Territory, Dr. Barghouthi and other members of PNGO worked to mobilise international protection for the Palestinians at the grassroots level instead. As such, Dr. Barghouthi, along with 700 local and international organisations, helped found the Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People (GIPP), a program that aims to protect Palestinian civilians through the presence of international civilians by deterring Israeli army and settler aggression.
Dr. Barghouthi has been at the forefront of initiatives promoting non-violent resistance as the most effective means of overcoming the Israeli Occupation. He is consistently present at grassroots, non-violent resistance initiatives against the construction of Israel’s Apartheid Wall for example. Dr. Barghouthi is also one of the leading exponents of the campaign for economic and political divestment from Israel and its associated institutions. In addition, he serves as an Associate of the Oxford Research Group, a programme dedicated to developing effective methods for positive change on security issues through non-violent means.
With a long history of involvement in the Palestinian political sphere, Dr. Barghouthi was a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991. He was also a member of the Steering Committee to the Multilateral Peace Negotiations from 1991-93. In this capacity, he drafted the Palestinian NGO law and participated in lobbying efforts to have it passed by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). In 1996, he was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council but was obliged to relinquish his seat to a Christian candidate under the quota system.
In 2002, Dr. Barghouthi co-founded Al Mubadara (the Palestinian National Initiative), along with Dr. Edward Said, Dr. Haider Abdel-Shafi and Mr. Ibrahim Dakak, and currently serves as its Secretary General. Al Mubadara is a democratic opposition movement that seeks to build a reformist, inclusive alternative to both entrenched factions that form part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and to Islamic groups such as Hamas. It looks to achieve this by promoting an accountable and transparent democratic system in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and by strengthening contacts between Palestinians in the Territories and those in the Diaspora. It also seeks to develop mass non-violence and international solidarity as the preferred means of resisting the Israeli Occupation, and to mobilize public opinion by making the Palestinian story visible in the news media through outlets such as the Palestine Monitor.
Dr. Barghouthi ran in the Presidential Elections of January 2005 as an Al Mubadara candidate, on an anti-corruption and pro-democracy platform. He achieved second place behind Mahmoud Abbas, with 20 percent of total votes.
Recently, Dr. Barghouthi also headed the “Independent Palestine” coalition that ran in Legislative elections in January 2006, in which he and fellow candidate, Rawia Al-Shawa, both secured seats in the new Palestinian parliament. The coalition consists of independents, business leaders, academics, writers, women, youth, labour movements, and Al Mubadara, and draws upon widespread grassroots support. Its platform seeks to provide a truly democratic and independent alternative to the large majority of silent and unrepresented Palestinian voters, who favour neither the autocracy and corruption of the governing Fatah party, nor the fundamentalism of Hamas.