Pizza Hut has apologised after its Israeli branch came under fire for mocking a Palestinian hunger strike leader.
Pizza Hut Israel shared a still image taken from a video released by Israel Prison Service of a man purported to be Marwan Barghouti allegedly secretly eating in his cell.
A Pizza Hut box and a slice of pizza had been superimposed on the original image, underneath writing which, according to BBC News, read in Hebrew: “Barghouti, if you are going to break your strike, isn’t pizza the better choice?”
Pizza Hut said the advert – which has now been deleted from Pizza Hut Israel’s social media pages – was “completely inappropriate” and did not reflect the values of the brand.
Pizza Hut International apologises 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…
The Facebook statement read: “Pizza Hut International apologises 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.
The advert had been criticised by many Arabs who accused it of ridiculing Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike, with many calling for a boycott of Pizza Hut.
The Israel Prison Service were also accused of attempting to undermine the fast – which more than 880 Palestinian prisoners are said to be taking part in – with the leaked prison surveillance footage.
Qadoura Fares, who heads an advocacy group for Palestinian prisoners, argued Barghouti has no access to food within the solitary confinement cell he’s being kept in.
He said: “This is a fabrication. This is psychological warfare that we expected Israel to wage against the strike.
“The prisoners will not buy this account from the Israeli side, and they will continue their strike.”
However Assaf Librati, a spokesman for the prison service, said Barghouti had eaten cookies on April 27 and a candy bar on May 5.
Palestinians say the mass hunger strike is an attempt to improve conditions inside the jails and gain more family visits.
However, Israeli officials have dismissed the strike as a bid by Barghouti to burnish his credentials in an internal Palestinian power struggle.