In the April 16 New York Times, Marwan Barghouti announced that he and 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners were launching a hunger strike. It’s easy to understand why.
West Bank Palestinians are colonial subjects. Even though the Palestinian Authority has some power, it is not a state, and the Israeli military can freely enter the West Bank and arrest anyone anytime it wants. The prisoners now refusing food were mostly tried in military courts where proving your innocence is nearly impossible. As the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem noted in 2015, “A Palestinian charged in a military court is as good as convicted.”
Israeli officials, and their American Jewish allies, responded to Barghouti’s op-ed with fury. The reason: Initially, The Times did not say why Barghouti sits in an Israeli prison. (It appended the information later). He was convicted in 2002 — in a civilian court not a military one — of murder. Thus, Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren tweeted, Barghouti is not the Palestinian Nelson Mandela, as he’s sometimes described. He’s actually the “Palestinian Dylann Roof.”