Israeli authorities may have hoped to alienate Palestinians from Marwan Barghouti by leaking footage of him breaking a three-week hunger strike with candy in his cell, but the opposite seems to have happened.
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"The fabricated video shows the defeat of the occupation before the prisoners’ steadfastness,” said Fadwa Barghouti, Marwan’s wife and unofficial spokesperson, at a press conference on Sunday evening. “We expected nothing else but psychological warfare.”
In a video released by the Israel Prison Service on Sunday, Barghouti is seen eating cookies and a candy bar in his cell. The prison service didn’t say how Barghouti obtained the food, but sources in the organization confirmed that they set him up in an attempt to see whether the prisoner was really sticking to the hunger strike.
The Palestinian National Committee for the Hunger Strike dubbed the footage “a dangerous war of lies and misleading,” calling on Palestinian media to display “patriotic awareness” and not broadcast it. By and large, Palestinian mainstream media abided by that directive and practiced self-censorship.
Meanwhile, many Palestinian commentators viewed the leak more as a sign of Israeli angst than of Barghouti’s duplicity. The Palestinian leader – who recently won the most votes in his party’s Central Committee elections – is serving five life sentences and 40 years for his involvement in terrorism during the Second Intifada.
“The occupiers’ prisons continue to persecute Palestinians amid the prisoner strike,” tweeted Yasser Zaatreh, a Gaza-based journalist with over a quarter of a million followers. “13 new prisoners were just added last night, amid a hysteric onslaught against the resistance.”
One Facebook commentator, Naela Khalil, quoted a passage from Barghouti’s online book about life in solitary confinement. Back in 2004, Barghouti wrote, Israel disseminated a photo of him eating during a hunger strike, in an attempt to show other prisoners that “the leader of the strike is eating, and you are starving.” The photos, he argued, were taken by surveillance cameras before the strike had begun. Khalil’s post was shared on the Facebook page of the “Dignity Hunger Strike.”
Fatah’s official Facebook page continued to count the days of the hunger strike, marking day 22 on Monday alongside the hashtag “Dignity Strike.” Another post on the page depicted an image of Barghouti in prison uniform with the caption “your strike has defeated them.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ party also directed a threat at Israel on Monday. “We warn Israel and demand it to release all the prisoners,” read a statement on Fatah’s official website. “The occupation resorts to any method to disrupt the prisoners’ strike  but these despicable and silly attempts are sure to fail.”
Popular news website Alwatan News surveyed passersby on the streets of Gaza, asking them whether Israel would eventually succumb to the prisoners’ demands. Most respondents believed that the international coverage of the strike will inevitably force Israel to capitulate to Western and Arab diplomatic pressure.
The public sentiment was probably expressed best by the former head of West Bank intelligence, retired general Tawfiq Tirawi. “The occupation government, the Prison Authority, and Israeli media are waging a campaign of incitement to break the will of the prisoners,” he wrote on Facebook Monday. “O noble prisoners, you are our living conscience. We stand together until our victory.”