According to the National Committee for Freedom and Dignity Strike, the footage is fake. There is no timestamp. Barghouti's wife slams "psychological warfare". Barghouti's health is a concern. Since 17 April he has been in isolation. The footage comes on the day detainees call on the international community to act against forced feeding, which is deemed a form of torture by the medical profession.
However, if Israeli authorities had hoped that this would discredit Barghouti in the eyes of his followers, they were quickly disappointed. For Palestinians, the video is a fake.
The footage was released to the media on Sunday evening in two videos purportedly showing Barghouti eating candy on 27 April and 5 May.
According to Haaretz, prison authorities set Barghouti up in an attempt to see whether he was sticking to his hunger strike.
However, the National Committee for Freedom and Dignity Strike slammed the credibility of the video, which could date as far back as 2004.
According to the hunger strike committee, Barghouti's hairline is currently much further back than the man in one of the videos. The two videos also appear to show two men with different heights. The footage also does not clearly show the man’s face, and there is no timestamp.
Last Friday, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) Commission for Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe, expressed fears for Barghouti's health, who has been held in isolation since the start of the hunger strike.
Barghouthi is being held in a “small, grave-like prison cell” measuring barely three square metres without a window, Qaraqe said. “He is banned from [yard] breaks, which means that he has not seen the sun since the beginning of the strike action”.
According to him, Barghouthi has lost 10 kilograms and is suffering from a severe drop in blood pressure, blood sugar levels and has become very frail.
"The fabricated video shows the defeat of the occupation before the prisoners’ steadfastness,” said Fadwa Barghouti, Marwan’s wife and unofficial spokesperson, at a press conference on Sunday evening. “We expected nothing else but psychological warfare.”
Elias Sabbagh, Barghouti's lawyer, said that the release of the video on Sunday night was "expected as part of the psychological and media war the Israel prison service is conducting against the prisoners". He added that he would not address the content of the clip until he was allowed to meet with his client, and check the claims with him directly.
The hunger strike committee Strike dubbed the footage “a dangerous war of lies and misleading,” calling on Palestinian media to display “patriotic awareness” and not broadcast it. By and large, Palestinian mainstream media abided by that directive and practiced self-censorship.
Meanwhile, many Palestinian commentators viewed the leak more as a sign of Israeli angst than of Barghouti’s duplicity.
Online, one commentator quoted a passage from Barghouti’s online book about life in solitary confinement. Back in 2004, Barghouti wrote, Israel disseminated a photo of him eating during a hunger strike. The photos, he said, were taken by surveillance cameras before the strike had begun.
The public sentiment was probably expressed best by the former head of West Bank intelligence, retired general Tawfiq Tirawi. “The occupation government, the Prison Authority, and Israeli media are waging a campaign of incitement to break the will of the prisoners,” he wrote on Facebook Monday. “O noble prisoners, you are our living conscience. We stand together until our victory.”
The release of the video, however, does appear to be carefully timed. It hit the airwaves and the Internet on the same day the hunger-striking prisoners – between 1,200 and 1,600 depending on the source – called on the World Health Organisation and other bodies to intervene to prevent Israeli authorities from force-feeding them.
Israeli authorities had threatened to import foreign doctors to force feed the hunger strikers, since Israeli doctors have aligned themselves with international ethics on force feeding that prohibits doctors from carrying out the act.
Palestinian leaders have threatened to call for a “week of rage” against the Israeli occupation, in response to Israeli force-feeding.
Today is the 23rd day of the strike, which began on 17 April, ‘Palestinian Prisoner Day’, whose aim is to obtain better living conditions in Israeli jails, in particular an end to torture, more family visits, and better health care.