Palestinians ask Red Cross to intervene in hunger strike

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He singled out strike leader Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed during the second Palestinian uprising who has been in prison for 15 years. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis.

Giving a murderous criminal of this ilk one of journalism's most sought-after platforms to present a palpably sanitized version of important events, and himself as some high-minded political dissident scooped up and jailed for his views, was surely on the wrong side of questionable. So it now appears that only some 800 Fatah prisoners have followed Barghouti's lead, and some 400 prisoners affiliated with Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine have joined them. It was also most definitely complicit in them.

The insistence on focusing on the violent pasts of Palestinians leaders like Barghouti not only distracts from the prisoners' human rights demands, but is also heavily distorted by people's selective knowledge of history. The political divisions that plague the Palestinian public, and the tensions among the various factions within Fatah, the largest of the movements, are mirrored in the Palestinian prison population.

"This moral clarity, the readiness to defend our country, the readiness to fight those who would destroy us, is one of our greatest strengths, alongside love of Israel", Netanyahu concluded.

As it turns out, we were not the only ones taken aback by the appearance of the article and the shockingly misleading tagline. Barghouti's piece was published originally without mentioning that he is serving five consecutive life terms for terrorist murder, prompting the Times to publish an Editor's Note correcting the oversight.

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The original op-ed, which called on Palestinian security prisoners jailed in Israel to stage a mutiny in protest of what he described as "arbitrary arrests and ill treatment", described Barghouti only as a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian. He was convicted on the remaining murder charges related to his "direct responsibility" for three separate attacks in 2002, and was given five life sentences.

Contacted by AFP, Israel's prison service declined to comment on the number.

Mr Qaraqe warned that if prisoners die, "that could lead to a new intifada". He did no such thing.

Palestinian Prisoners Club head, Qadura Fares, told AFP at the protest that Israel would allow all the strikers, including Barghouthi, access to lawyers, in a reversal of its previous position. They are convicted terrorists and murderers. Against the backdrop of hungerstriking prisoners and Barghouti trying to force him into a corner, it will be a particularly inauspicious time for Abbas to return to Ramallah and announce that he has agreed to return to talks with Israel without first winning any significant concessions. To most observers that would be compelling evidence of a fair trial.

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