The New York Times gave Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan an opportunity to respond to an op-ed by convicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti, who kicked off a hunger strike of terrorists being held in Israeli prisons with an op-ed of his own last month. Erdan, in an op-ed titled “The Truth About the Palestinian Hunger Strike,” said that Israel “will not give in to extortion,” and that Israel’s prisons were models of how prisons should be run, based on international standards.
In his op-ed, Barghouti bemoaned the “torture” Arab terrorists undergo when imprisoned in Israel, and, along with 1,200 other terrorists, went on a hunger strike. Among the demands for ending it: more visitations, the right to make phone calls from prison, an increase of the length of a visit 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. “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 Times, in describing the writer, referred to him as a “Palestinian leader and parliamentarian,” with nary a word about why he was in prison. A later correction amid complaints by what the newspaper called “a rash of readers” led the Times to issue a correction, saying that the 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.”
In his May 1st op-ed, Erdan further described Barghouti’s activities outside and inside prison. “Since his arrest in 2002, Mr. Barghouti has become adept at rebranding Palestinian terrorism as legitimate ‘resistance’ and casting himself as a ‘moderate,’” Erdan wrote. “He would prefer that his Western audiences not know that he was convicted of ordering or approving three attacks that cost the lives of five people. These victims — Jewish, Christian and Druze — were simply going about their daily lives, sitting in a Tel Aviv restaurant, driving along a road, pulling into a gas station. Mr. Barghouti denies the charges but, saying he doesn’t recognize Israeli courts, declined to defend himself.”
Barghouti’s hunger strike has more to do with international Palestinian politics than prison conditions, wrote Erdan. “Mr. Barghouti seems to hope that being chosen to succeed Mr. Abbas will lead to his release from prison. But he faces competition from several rivals and recently failed to secure a senior position in a round of political appointments of Fatah leadership. The hunger strike is another step in his campaign to position himself as Mr. Abbas’s successor,” he wrote.
It won’t help; Israel will not be pressured, wrote the minister. “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,” he added.