Pizza Hut faces a potential boycott for “mocking” the Palestinian leader of a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons.
The restaurant chain used a screengrab from footage released by the Israeli prison service on Sunday, which it claims shows Marwan Barghouti eating in his cell.
Posted on Monday on the Pizza Hut account, the Hebrew reads “Barghouti, if you break the hunger strike, why not pizza?”
After Pizza Hut recieved widespread condemnation for the post, the pizza conglomerate issued an apology for the "completely inappropiate" message.
"It was completely inappropriate and does not reflect the values of our brand," a Pizza Hut spokeswoman told AFP.
"The local franchisee in the country removed it," she added. "We truly regret any hurt this may have caused."
The company also apologised on their Facebook page, saying their relationship "with the agency that posted it was terminated".
Barghouti is currently leading around 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in an open-ended hunger strike, in protest against arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, medical neglect, and the reduction of family visits.The hunger strike started on 17 April.
In the Facebook post a pizza box has been photoshopped into the photo, lying on the floor by the bunk bed.
The post sparked widespread criticism, with many calling for the boycott of the food chain.
Using the hashtag #Boycott_PizzaHut, one Twitter user said Pizza Hut was “demeaning people who are fighting for their own survival".
Another slammed Pizza Hut for attempting to profit from the situation, saying “you can not make jokes about hunger strike!!”
Some had a more creative response and redesigned the company's logo to reflect their anger, including use of prison bars, barbed wire and a guard tower (see main picture). Others went with a more food-related theme...
The post has since been removed from the Israeli Pizza Hut Facebook Page. Middle East Eye put the allegations to Pizza Hut but had not heard back by the time of publication.
Solidarity and Taunting
On Monday, representatives of the Palestinian hunger strike dismissed the prison service claims that the film showed Barghouti eating in his cell as “false rumours” and an Israeli attempt at “psychological warfare.”
The National Committee for the Freedom and Dignity Strike said the footage dated back to 2004, and that its release was a deliberate attempt to confuse the campaign by about 1,500 prisoners.
The hunger strike has previously come under attack from a group of Israeli hardliners.
One week after the strike began, the group stood outside the prison and held a barbecue. A number of Israeli soldiers joined them to eat.
"At this moment [the hunger strikers] will smell the food's scent and maybe later in the evening they will see it on television," event organiser Ofer Sofer told AFP in front of two barbecue pits.
Meanwhile supporters of the strike have shown their solidarity through various means.
Palestinian Archbishop Atallah Hanna said that he would show solidarity by abstaining from food.
Other supporters and campaigners are taking part in the “Salt Water Challenge” to show their backing for the hunger strikers.
The idea was started by Aarab Marwan Barghouti, the son of the strike’s imprisoned leader.
The hunger strikers are reportedly drinking salt water to maintain their health while refraining from food.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.
BETHLEHEM — On Monday, a day before US President Donald Trump’s slated visit, this West Bank city was in total shutdown. But the reason for the closed shops and empty streets had nothing to do with the world’s most powerful man.
The hunger strike of more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails had reached its 36th day, and in support, a general strike was called across the West Bank, and for Arab citizens within Israel, by the prisoners’ support committee and the High Follow-Up Committee — the official body representing Israeli Arabs.
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Trump is to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential palace in Bethlehem, which holds deep significance as the site where Christians believe Jesus was born.
Few pictures of or messages to Trump were hoisted in the main square or streets. Still, one banner proclaimed that “the city of peace welcomes the man of peace,” along with photos of Abbas and Trump.
Akram Alayasa, a spokesman for the Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Ministry, was one of more than 100 people who remained at a protest encampment in front of the Church of Nativity on Monday after 10 p.m.
The protest camp, where family members of strikers gather daily, was reportedly the reason Trump could not visit the church, which is held in Christian tradition as the birthplace of Jesus.
Alayasa said he believed the reason few photos of Trump had been put up in the city was that Palestinians would be “too embarrassed” to celebrate his arrival.
Palestinians will likely be pleased if Trump merely acknowledges the hunger strike, which has been the most important issue on their agenda ever since it was started last month by Marwan Bargouthi, a Fatah leader and terror chief serving multiple life-sentences for orchestrating the murders of Israelis in the Second Intifada.
Israeli border guards and undercover police detain a Palestinian protester during clashes at the entrance of the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 19, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER)
Trump’s visit to Israel and the West Bank is part of his first trip abroad as president, and follows an initial leg in Saudi Arabia, where he urged Islamic leaders to confront extremism.
He has also spoken of reviving long-stalled peace efforts between the Israelis and Palestinians, but few specifics have emerged of how he intends to do so.
Hossam Zomlot, an aide to Abbas, said that “if President Trump wants to mediate and leads us to a historic agreement, a major agreement, we are ready to be his partners”.
Alayasa said that Palestinians were fatigued by the failed push of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, and wanted to see something concrete.
“After eight years of Obama and his nice speeches, there is still nothing. Palestinians are wishing and hoping America will understand their cause,” he said.
Palestinian Fatah movement supporters speak to a shop owner as they roam the streets of the West Bank town of Bethlehem to monitor a general strike called for by activists throughout the Palestinian territories and among Arab Israelis, in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger-strike in Israeli jails, May 22, 2017. (AFP/Musa AL SHAER)
An economic stimulus package that Israel approved just before Trump arrived, which included increasing the opening hours for the land crossing into Jordan, approving construction in Area C and expanding a few industrial zones, was not well-received in Ramallah.
“They do not meet even the minimum requirements for the development of the Palestinian economy,” said Nabil Abu Rudeinah, a spokesperson for Abbas.
Majdi Khaldi, an adviser for Abbas, told the Voice of Palestine radio Tuesday that in the short term, renewed negotiations must address the Palestinians’ economic problems, linked to continued conflict and Israeli restrictions on trade and movement, which Israel says it imposes for security reasons.
Agencies contributed to this report.