Palestinian supporters of hunger striking prisoners on Sunday evening dismissed a video clip purportedly showing Palestinian inmate and strike leader Marwan Barghouti secretly eating a candy bar and other food in the bathroom of his cell last week, saying the footage was fabricated.
Qadoura Fares, who heads the Palestinian Prisoners Club advocacy group, cast doubt on the footage, saying Barghouti is being held in solitary confinement and has no access to food.
“This is a fabrication,” Fares said of the footage released Sunday. “This is psychological warfare that we expected Israel to wage against the strike.” He said that “the prisoners will not buy this account from the Israeli side, and they will continue their strike.”
Israel’s prison service published a video Sunday it said showed Barghouti, who is leading a mass hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners, eating in secret on two occasions.
The video shows two separate occasions — on April 27 and May 5 — in which Barghouti, a convicted terrorist serving five life sentences for orchestrating murderous attacks during the Second Intifada, could be seen apparently unwrapping food in his prison cell and eating it in his toilet stall.
When asked for comment, a prison service spokesperson said: “The video speaks for itself.”
Fadwa Barghouti, the hunger-striker’s wife and a Fatah official, said the “Israel government’s fabrications” showed “the extent of the (Israeli) occupation’s decline,” according to the Ma’an news agency.
However, another Palestinian advocacy group supporting the prisoners alleged that the footage was actually filmed over a decade ago.
The national committee for supporting the prisoners hunger strike “denied the claims of the occupation prison authorities that the leader Marwan Barghouthi had suspended his hunger strike and confirmed that the video footage was nothing but silly attempts to discourage the strikers, which the occupation used in 2004,” according to WAFA, the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority.
The committee also “stressed that the Israeli media is waging a dangerous war of lies aimed at creating confusion in the Palestinian street and among the ranks of hunger strikers.”
In 2004, the prison service published still shots allegedly showing Barghouti furtively eating food in his cell during a previous hunger strike. Those photos were taken with a hidden camera through a hole in the wall of his cell.
The Times of Israel could not independently verify the dates the new footage was recorded. Throughout the segment from April 27, a timestamp could be seen on the bottom corner. However, there is only a timestamp at the beginning of the May 5 segment.
Barghouti has been in prison since 2002, but remains a popular figure among Palestinians.
Polls suggest that the 58-year-old Barghouti is the most popular choice among Palestinians to succeed 82-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinians have held large rallies in support of the hunger strike since it began three weeks ago. Israel holds about 6,500 Palestinians on charges related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel says 890 prisoners are participating in the hunger strike.
Palestinians say the mass hunger strike is an attempt to improve conditions inside the jails and gain more family visits. Israeli officials have dismissed the strike as a bid by Barghouti to burnish his credentials in an internal Palestinian power struggle.
“This hunger strike was never about the conditions of the convicted terrorists, which meet international standards. It is about advancing Marwan Barghouti political ambitions to replace [Abbas],” Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said. “Barghouti is a murderer and hypocrite who urged his fellow prisoners to strike and suffer while he ate behind their back.”
The prison service spokesperson said that on April 27 Barghouti ate cookies and on Friday he ate a Tortit candy bar — a chocolate-covered, almond-flavored wafer.
In each of the clips, the prisoner can be seen unwrapping food from a piece of paper, sitting down on the toilet and eating, before he stands up and brushes himself off.
The footage from April 27 is less clear, as Barghouti closes the door to the stall, but in the segment from Friday afternoon, he can be seen breaking off pieces of the Tortit and moving them toward his mouth.
Barghouti’s face cannot be clearly seen in the footage, as he looks down and away from the camera.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said Barghouti’s actions proved that the hunger strike is “a media stunt, which seeks to glorify terrorists with blood on their hands.”