Ramallah, Tel Aviv – On the second day of hunger strikes in Israeli prisons, officials attacked strike leader Marwan Barghouti, saying that Israel should have executed the head of the central Fatah committee a long time ago.
Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on Monday.
Rage-fueled comments were largely instigated by word on Barghouti heading the strike, and the American daily “The New York Times” publishing a detailed report authored by the Fatah activist. The report also received its fair share of Israeli criticism.
Netanyahu blasted “The New York Times” for not mentioning Barghouti’s “terrorist actions” and for labeling him a political leader.
“Calling Barghouti a leader and parliamentarian is like calling [Syrian President Bashar] Assad a pediatrician,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
An editor’s footnote explained that the Barghouti article explained the writer’s prison sentence, but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses for which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.
Referring to the amended description of Barghouti, Netanyahu added that “the paper retracted it because we pointed [the error] out to them.”
Israeli officials attacked the Times, saying they publish articles authored by killers, without fully disclosing their crimes and therefore readers do not know who they are.
For its part, the administration of the Israel Prison Service (IPS) said that the article was unlawful, because Barghouthi was not given permission to write it.
Barghouti, along with Karim Younis, Maher Younis and Mahmoud Abu Sorour, were isolated and placed in solitary confinement at the Jalameh prison in northern Israel after being transferred from Hadarim Prison, located some 20 kilometers from Tel Aviv.
In a statement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry refused to consider Barghouti and his comrades partaking in the hunger strike as “political prisoners,” noting that “they were murderers and saboteurs”– the statement clearly stated that they were tried and convicted, according to the law.
In his opinion piece in the Times, Barghouti said a strike was the only way to gain concessions after other options had failed.
Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that the convicted Fatah figure, Barghouti, should have been given the death penalty instead of life imprisonment for plotting murders during the second intifada.
“When a despicable murderer like Barghouti protests in prison for improved conditions, while the relatives of those he murdered are still in pain, there is only one solution — death penalty for terrorists,” Katz wrote.
Palestinians termed the open-ended strike a protest against poor conditions and an Israeli policy of detention without trial that has been applied against thousands since the 1980s.