Some 1,500 Arab terrorists in Israeli prisons were on their third day of a hunger strike Wednesday, as they demanded increased rights, including more visitations and the right to make phone calls from prison. In response, prison officials have been moving “high-profile” prisoners who are accused of instigating the hunger strike to different units, and withholding rights from prisoners who continue with the hunger strike. So far, no riots have been reported, but officials are keeping a close eye on the situation.
Yediot Acharonot reported that the terrorists have 13 demands, including better and more food, more visits with relatives, and more visits from international medical groups like the Red Cross, which the terrorists are demanding be allowed to visit them twice a month. Most significant for them, security officials say, is the demand that public phones be installed in prisons to allow terrorists to contact their families. Representatives of the terrorist prisoners say that the phone calls would not entail a security risk, as they would be monitored by Israel. The entire impact, they say, would be “humanitarian.”
Also critical to the terrorists, a source involved in the discussions said, was increasing the length of visits with relatives from 45 to 60 minutes, and allowing all first- and second-degree relatives to visit even if they have been convicted of terror activity. Currently, such visitors require a special permit. The sources said that the prisoners are willing to compromise on all their demands, except for the phones and the visitations.
Among the prisoners who have been moved from their regular cells is arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti, responsible for the direct and indirect death of dozens of Israelis in terror attacks. He was moved to solitary confinement, and officials did not say when he would be moved back to his regular cell.
Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for his terror activities, is now officially a “terrorist,” as far as the New York Times is concerned, after it initially called him a “Palestinian leader and parliamentarian” in a biography paragraph for an op-ed authored by him that appeared in the newspaper on Sunday. In the op-ed, Barghouti wrote that he and other terrorist prisoners were being denied rights and were victims of “ill treatment,” having been rounded up “arbitrarily” by Israeli authorities. “Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation,” Barghouti wrote. “In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.”
The failure to note exactly what Barghouti did raised the ire of Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who on Tuesday said that “calling Barghouti a ‘political leader’ is like calling Assad a ‘pediatrician.’ They are murderers and terrorists. We will never lose our sense of clarity because we are on the side of justice and they are on the side that is neither just nor moral.”
In an updated editor’s note, the Times wrote that Barghouti’s op-ed “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.”
According to the Times, “a rash of readers” complained about the failure to include an explanation of why Barghouti was in prison. The newspaper did not offer an explanation as to why it neglected to do so originally.