Palestinians stormed social media calling for a global boycott of Pizza Hut restaurant after its Israeli branch ran a provocative Facebook ad that mocked Palestinian prisoners who have been on a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons since 17 April.
Pizza Hut Israel posted on its Facebook page a photo of Palestinian leader Marwan Bargouti, allegedly breaking his hunger strike secretly in his cell. The company photoshopped a pizza box and a pizza slice into the picture, with the cynical comment: “Barghouti, if you are going to break your strike, isn't pizza a better choice?”
More than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners, of the 6,500 in total incarcerated in Israeli jails, are on their 26th day of an open-ended hunger strike to protest against ill-treatment, medical negligence, solitary confinement, administrative detentions and to fight for better conditions.
Angered by the mockery of the struggle of Palestinian political prisoners for their rights in Israeli prisons, Palestinians used the social media hashtags #Boycott_PizzaHut in both Arabic and English to call for a boycott of the global chain.
— Maha Hussaini (@MahaGaza) 10 de mayo de 2017
— Razan Halabi (@Razan_Halabi) 9 de mayo de 2017
— Salah Charkaoui (@SalahCharkaoui) 11 de mayo de 2017
— هيلين (@helenzo1) 8 de mayo de 2017
Yes I support #boycott_pizzahut , you can not make jokes about hunger strike!! It's not funny!!
— Lamia Abdulrhman (@Lma_30) 9 de mayo de 2017
The ad was quickly removed from Pizza Hut's Israel Facebook page thereafter, and the company apologized on Facebook for “any offence caused by a recent post on Pizza Hut Israel’s Facebook page”:
It was completely inappropriate and does not reflect the values of our brand. The local franchisee in the country removed it immediately and the relationship with the agency that posted it was terminated, and we truly regret any hurt this may have caused.
Allegations of Barghouti secretly breaking his strike
The offensive ad plays sarcastically on recent footage released by the Israeli prison authorities on 7 May which allegedly shows Marwan Barghouti, an imprisoned leader of Palestinian political faction Fatah who is leading the hunger strike, snacking secretly in the bathroom of his cell.
The Palestinian National Committee for Freedom and the Dignity Strike, a group which endorses the current hunger strike, denounced the allegations and said that the footage dated back to at least 2004. In a statement, the committee added that Israel is “waging a serious war of lies and misleading information to create a state of confusion in the Palestinian public and among hunger striking prisoners.”
Bargouthi's wife, Fadwa, also rejected the allegations in a press conference in Ramallah, stressing that Israel was “resorting to despicable acts” and that “the prisoners are familiar with Israel's lies and games and the video they released signals the beginning of its fall,” and will only make the prisoners more determined.
Such mockery of the Palestinian prisoner's hunger strike is nothing new. In the early days of the strike, dozens of Israelis started a barbecue outside of Ofer prison, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, where a number of Palestinian prisoners had joined the strike. The Israeli right-wingers in attendance said they hope Palestinian hunger strikers would “enjoy breathing in the smoke and suffer from the smell of the meat.”