By Ghada Ageel
The body of Khader Adnan is again on the line and the very life of this Palestinian political prisoner is in great danger. Adnan, who successfully carried out one of the longest hunger strikes in the history of the Palestinian prisoner’s movement, has launched yet another strike in protest against the renewal of an administrative detention order – a regular military procedure that allows Israel to hold Palestinian political prisoners without charge indefinitely. On the 51st consecutive day of his hunger strike, Adnan’s health condition has drastically deteriorated with his refusal to undergo medical tests and to take certain vitamins offered to hunger strikers.
Adnan was kidnapped by Israeli occupation forces in July 2014 together with more than 55 prisoners, most of whom had been set free in the earlier prisoner exchange of 2011. He was then placed under an administrative detention order without charges or trial for the 10th time in his life. At the end of his 2012 hunger strike – a protest that brought him very close to death – Adnan reached an agreement with the Israeli prison authorities that granted him freedom and made the authorities consent to a number of the prisoners’ demands. These included granting family visits for prisoners from Gaza, improving the living conditions of Palestinian political detainees confined in Israeli jails and limiting the use of administrative detention.
In 2014, slightly over two years after that agreement, Adnan was again arrested and locked behind the same bars in a notorious Israeli jail under the same administrative detention order that he fought against back in 2012.
According to Addameer organisation, Adnan is among an estimated 426 political prisoners currently locked up in Israeli jails as administrative detainees. His hunger strike throws a spotlight on some 5,800 Palestinian freedom fighters as well as on the tens of thousands of members of their families, many of whom have been barred from visiting their loved ones for years as they count the days until their release.
The strike also casts light on Israel’s use of administrative detention as a way of cracking down on any attempt by Palestinians to speak out against the occupation and its unjust practices.
In its 2012 report, Amnesty International confirmed that Israel uses administrative detention to “suppress the legitimate and peaceful activities of activists in the occupied Palestinian Territories”. Although the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/33/24 of 29 of November 1978 reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of all peoples for “liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle,” the Palestinian activist for prisoners’ rights has never been charged with any offence, nor has any evidence against him been made public.
Israeli allegations nevertheless portray Adnan as a “terrorist” and as a threat to Israel’s security. It is ironic that a political activist like Adnan – who is supported and admired by the majority of Palestinians and who has attracted unprecedented global support for his demand that there be an end to his unlawful detention – represents a threat to Israel’s security.
It is also ironic that Israel, which is a foreign colonial power illegally occupying Palestinian land, is using the same form of administrative detention to prevent the legitimate struggle of hundreds of elected lawmakers, Palestinian civil society leaders, and popular resistance organisers. And the state of Israel is doing so amid utter silence on the part of most of the world’s democracies.
It is also paradoxical that Palestinians are frequently questioned by western audiences about whether or not they have their “Mahatma Gandhis,” their “Martin Luther Kings” and their peaceful civil rights movements even while these same westerners ignore the fact that Palestinians live under an Israeli military sledgehammer. This hammer crushes dissent and suppresses voices daring to speak up in peaceful protest against the occupation and its policies.
Adnan’s detention also violates the human rights of Palestinian prisoners as enshrined in international law. It is true that administrative detention – a British colonial practice inherited and practised by the Israeli government against Palestinians – is permitted under international law in the context of “imperative reasons of security”. But Sara Saadoun, a researcher working for Human Rights Watch has confirmed that Israel “seems to exploit the exception as a routine way to avoid taking criminal suspects to trial”.
Human rights law stipulates that “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation”. In Israeli jails, however, there is little respect for any of these personal liberties.
Despite Israel’s lack of respect for human values and basic rights, Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails keep rising up to demand their rights from their jailors. They continue protesting and holding hunger strikes. They are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their freedoms. The greater the sacrifices made by Palestinians, however, the more aggressive the Israeli policies become and the more those rights are neglected by the Israeli state. The ultimate Israeli goals seem to be forcing the Palestinians to surrender their rights and submit.
Adnan’s hunger strike is, in reality, a rejection of these policies and goals and the very idea of submission. In a recent statement to his lawyer, Adnan said that “the more [the Israelis] torture me, the stronger and more determined I become”.
Moreover, Adnan’s political activism outside jail and his hunger strike within it highlights the vitally political character of the Palestinian struggle. Those who are incarcerated in an Israel prison, those trying to survive in the open-air prison of Gaza, and those living in the scattered bantustans of the West Bank all have the same goal. They are also all united by a similar story – personal, family, community and national – that goes back almost seven decades. It involves their expulsion and exile, the destruction of their homes and livelihoods, and the confiscation of their land by a succession of Israeli governments.
Adnan’s ongoing hunger strike stands as a reminder of both his just cause and the brutality of his jailors. His decision to risk his own life for the sake of his cause and his dignity stands as a clear reminder of the urgency of the Palestinian prisoners’ issue and the humanity of Adnan – a Palestinian father, activist, leader and hero.
Despite Israeli polices of administrative detention and its neglect of prisoners’ rights and despite the silence of the mainstream media concerning the prisoners’ cause, the fact remains that Adnan’s image is strongly present in the hearts and minds of millions of Muslims around the world. They observe the holy month of Ramadan by a collective fast lasting for 30 consecutive days – a daily reminder of Adnan’s longer fasting strike.
Moreover, his story and his steadfastness are a powerful example to many people around the world. Whether Adnan will be successful in his strike or even survive it remains to be seen. One fact, however, is clear: Khader Adnan is becoming an iconic symbol of man’s and nations’ search for dignity. His humanity will not die.
– Ghada Ageel is a visiting professor at the University of Alberta Political Science Department (Edmonton, Canada), an independent scholar, and active in the Faculty4Palestine – Alberta. Her new book “Apartheid in Palestine: Hard Laws and Harder Experiences” is forthcoming with the University of Alberta Press – Canada. (This article was first published in Middle East Eye)