By: Ian Fisher; nytimes.com
Palestinian leaders dismissed the videos, released on Sunday, as fakes aimed at deflating the strike of over 1,000 prisoners, which has stirred protests and clashes with security forces in Palestinian areas. The prisoners are demanding better conditions in Israeli jails.
Prison officials said the videos showed Mr. Barghouti, the strike’s organizer, eating cookies on April 27 and then a candy bar on Friday. He is being held in solitary confinement at the Kishon prison.
Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan, said the strike was not about prison conditions, which he said exceeded international standards, but about Mr. Barghouti’s political goals. Though serving life sentences for five murders during the Second Intifada of the early 2000s, Mr. Barghouti, 57, is popular among Palestinians and is seen as a possible successor to the unpopular Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, 82.
“Barghouti is a murderer and hypocrite who urged his fellow prisoners to strike and suffer while he ate behind their back,” Mr. Erdan said. “Israel will not give in to extortion and pressure from terrorists.”
Palestinian officials organizing the strike called the videos, filmed from above, “absurd.” Mr. Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, told reporters in Ramallah, West Bank, that Israel was “trying to stop the strike in any way, resorting to despicable acts,” but that “this video will increase the prisoners’ insistence on continuing.”
The strikers’ demands include more family visits and access to education, an end to solitary confinement, and better health care.
Organizers say the prisoners, some of whom have fallen ill, have survived on only water and salt. Israeli officials allege that some are taking vitamin supplements.
In Gaza, Maryam Abu Daqqa of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called the videos “a false attempt to create chaos” in the movement. The strike “will continue until Palestinians’ just demands are met,” she said.