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Pizza Hut: We're sorry for mocking Palestinian hunger strike

Restaurant chain's post on its Hebrew account has sparked the online campaign #Boycott_PizzaHut
A Twitter user calls for the boycott of Pizza Hut (Twitter/@Tr_4_Pal)

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.

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