Palestinian Hunger Strike Continues Unfettered Despite Video of Marwan Barghouti Eating

The number of Palestinian prisoners refusing to eat remains unchanged, say sources at the Israel Prison Service, which released the video of the hunger strike leader snacking in his cell

Protesters gather under a banner with a picture of Marwan Barghouti during a rally supporting Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, Ramallah, West Bank, May 3, 2017.
Nasser Nasser/AP

The disclosure of video footage showing Marwan Barghouti, a leader of the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike, furtively eating in his cell has not had any impact on other hunger strikers so far, say sources at the Israel Prison Service.

More than 24 hours after the video was disclosed by the prison service — whose wardens told prisoners about it — the number of hunger strikers is unchanged and numbers about 1,000, said sources. While prisoners have been denied access to news coverage since the start of the strike over three weeks ago, the prison service allowed jail wardens to inform prisoners about the video of Barghouti in his cell at Kishon prison.

However, supporters of the strike said the release of the video would not hurt Barghouti’s credibility and would probably backfire and only end up helping the Palestinians. The strike had begun to fade from public consciousness, noted one leading strike supporter, but with the release of the video it is now back in the headlines, he said. The strike was launched in a bid to abolish solitary confinement and detention without trial and improve other prison conditions for Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails. The strike supporter said that the Palestinians doubt the credibility of the video. “They don’t buy it, so most of the major media outlets haven’t related to it. On social media the video has been considered a failed attempt by Israel to hurt the strike,” he said.

On the other hand, he added, the prominent media coverage that the video has received in Israel has returned it to the top of the public agenda.

While Israel is convinced that Barghouti has sole control over the strike and the power to end it, Palestinians note that he is only one of several strike leaders in prison. On Monday, the prisoners received a statement of support from Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh, who has maintained silence on the matter since the announcement on Saturday that the Islamist movement had chosen him as the new head of the organization’s politburo. On a visit to a tent in Gaza that was set up in support of the prisoners, he said: “My message to our heroic prisoners is that this issue has been and will be at the top of Hamas’ priorities and the leadership of the Palestinian struggle at every level and every field.”

Marwan Barghouti is seen in his prison cell in Israel in this still image taken from video on May 9, 2017.
Reuters through Israel Prison Services

In a reflection of the split in Palestinian power between the Fatah movement, which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, which is in control of the Gaza Strip, the vast majority of Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails have not joined the strike. In recent days, however, several Hamas prisoner leaders have announced their intention to join the strike.