(JTA) – A jailed Palestinian leader who accused Israel of mistreating Palestinian prisoners “has become adept at rebranding Palestinian terrorism as legitimate ‘resistance,’” an Israeli minister wrote in a New York Times op-ed.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in an article Monday titled “The Truth About the Palestinian Hunger Strike” that Marwan Barghouti, who with his own mid-April op-ed in the same paper launched a hunger strike joined by hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, also wrote that Barghouti was “casting himself as a ‘moderate.’ (Palestinian groups like to use language calibrated to make their actions more palatable to Westerners: Incarcerated terrorists are called ‘political prisoners,’ and cold-blooded attacks against civilians in restaurants and buses are whitewashed as a “struggle for freedom.’)”
Erdan said the real reason behind the hunger strike is not the condition of Palestinian prisoners, which he asserts “meet international standards,” but “political jockeying” as Barghouti attempts to position himself as the successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Barghouti, who is serving five life terms for the terrorist murders of several Israelis, “seems to hope that being chosen to succeed Mr. Abbas will lead to his release from prison,” Erdan wrote, indicating that it would not happen.
“Israel will not give in to extortion. The conditions and regulations in Israel’s prison system are determined according to Israeli law and international standards, not by pressure tactics. Surrendering to such a strike would constitute a surrender to terrorism and would only embolden terrorist groups, weaken our deterrence and lead to further conflict and bloodshed.”
Erdan called on the Palestinian Authority to stop paying salaries to convicted terrorists and their families.
Israeli officials and U.S. Jewish groups blasted The New York Times for publishing the Barghouti op-ed and failing to note that he was in jail in Israel for the murder of Jews.
Barghouti originally was identified at the end of his article simply as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.”
Nearly a day later, an editor’s note was added to say “This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.”
Following publication of the article, Barghouti was moved to a different prison and placed in solitary confinement. He reportedly has been unwell as the hunger strike continues.