Can Khader Adnan’s New Hunger Strike Reignite Support For Palestinian Prisoners?

June 7, 2015

In Blog News

As the legendary hunger striker passed his 30th day of a new fast against Israel’s imprisonment without charge or trial, supporters mobilized in Palestine and online.

By  @jncatron |

Palestinian Khader Adnan, center, is greeted by Palestinians during a celebration ceremony after his release from Israeli jails, in the West Bank village of Arrabeh, near Jenin, Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — As Israeli jailors prepared to force Palestinian political Khader Adnan into a hospital on the 30th day of his hunger strike on Wednesday, he released a letter thanking his supporters while they rallied in Palestine and online.

Adnan, an activist fighting Israeli occupation and key figure in the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, launched his latest strike on May 5 to protest his own “administrative detention,” or incarceration by Israel without charge or trial.

His father, Musa Adnan, read a message from Khader at a protest in Ramallah.

“I send my greetings, love, gratitude, and honour, which I draw from God, from your prayers for me, and from your sincere love,” Khader wrote.

“From the bottom of my heart, I express my gratitude for your support and solidarity. May Allah restore our freedom so that we can rejoin our families soon.”


“He is also boycotting Israeli courts”

Israeli forces recaptured Adnan, along with other former Palestinian hunger strikers like Samer Issawi and 57 prisoners freed in a 2011 exchange, in a bloody military offensive on the West Bank last summer.

Following the operation and an overlapping onslaught against the Gaza Strip, reports of torture and abuse by Israeli interrogators and new administrative detention orders both skyrocketed by 500 percent.

As of April 1, Israel held 414 administrative detainees out of 5,800 Palestinian political prisoners overall.

After launching his latest hunger strike on May 5, Adnan wrote to supporters that he aimed to prevent Israel from reversing the gains of earlier strikes by re-arresting prisoners who had won their freedom.

An International Committee of the Red Cross attorney and physician, who had visited Adnan in Ramla prison,reportedly told his family on Tuesday that his health had deteriorated seriously.

On Wednesday, his wife, Randa Moussa, told journalists he had partially lost his ability to move and begun shedding both weight and hair.

Throughout his strike, Adnan has declined any measures to ease or gauge its effects.

“He refuses to take drugs or vitamin supplements, undergo medical tests or consume salt,” Moussa said Tuesday. “He is also boycotting Israeli courts and refuses to be represented by his own lawyer or by any of the lawyers affiliated with human rights organizations before the courts.”


“It was a real moment”

As demonstrations continued across Palestine in support of Adnan, another kind of protest unfolded online.

“Khader Adnan’s health is in danger,” “Dima S.” posted on Twitter.  “This is his second hunger strike against Israeli unlawful administrative detentions.”
“On his 30th consecutive day of hunger strike, Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan is refusing all supplements,” “Malaka” tweeted. Others shared pictures of Adnan’s children, or of protests supporting him, like the carving of a sand sculpture on a Gaza beach.
These digital mobilizations, popularly called “Twitterstorms,” emerged as a protest tactic during Adnan’s previous hunger strike, which lasted 67 days in 2011 and 2012.

While his desperate measure ultimately inspired protests around the world, many credit social media activism, as well as alternative sources like Electronic Intifada, for initially publicizing it outside Palestine and forcing coverage from mainstream journalists.

“It was a real moment where people created a kind of media sensation online that I think you have to be encouraged by,” Peter Hart, activism director for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, told Mondoweiss of Adnan’s 2012 hunger strike.

Protesters carried pictures of Adnan and other Palestinian prisoners on Thursday at demonstrations against the annual general meeting of G4S, a British security firm with Israeli prison contracts, as others disrupted the event in London.


“Invigorated global action”

The Palestinian and global attention Adnan’s strike drew pushed Israel to strike a deal for his release. He resumed eating on Feb. 21, 2012 before returning in triumph to celebrations in his West Bank village of Arraba on April 17, 2012, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.

Along with a mass hunger strike led by Ahmad Sa’adat against Israel’s isolation of prisoners and other abuses in 2011, Adnan’s victory launched a new round of struggle inside Israeli prisons, as well as worldwide support for the individual and group strikes that followed.

“Khader Adnan’s 2012 hunger strike invigorated global action to support Palestinian prisoners and inspired many other prisoners, particularly those in administrative detention, to take this path of struggle,” Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network coordinator Charlotte Kates told MintPress News. “Following the September 2011 hunger strike demanding an end to isolation, Adnan’s successful strike played a key role in sparking the Karameh hunger strike of thousands of prisoners in April – May 2012, which saw high-profile Palestinian leaders like Ahmad Sa’adat released from isolation.”

“The organizing around Khader Adnan helped to pave the way for future individual strikes as well, like those of Hana Shalabi, Ayman Sharawneh, Bilal Diab, Thaer Halahleh and Samer Issawi,” she added.

On Sunday, Palestinian human rights group al-Haq reported three other prisoners had joined Adnan on hunger strike. Muhammad Rashdan began fasting on May 21 to protest Israel’s denial of visits from his family, while Saddam ‘Awad started three days later to support Adnan and other prisoners. Hamza Sawawin stopped a 12-day strike against his solitary confinement after it ended.

Also on Sunday, Abdullah Barghouti launched a hunger strike against his placement in isolation. Sa’adatthreatened on Wednesday to begin one protesting a two-year ban on visits from his family.


“Charge or release him”

Administrative detention, the policy Israel used to imprison Adnan for four months in 2011 and 2012, and under which it has held him since his re-arrest on July 8, 2014, allows its military commanders to order the incarceration of Palestinians from the West Bank without disclosing charges or evidence.

While administrative detention orders may last up to six months, commanders can renew them an indefinite number of times, leaving detainees with no sure prospect of release.

Critics allege that Israel often uses the measure against Palestinian leaders opposed to the occupation, likeelected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and organizers of popular protests against the West Bank settlements and separation barrier.

Many responses to Adnan’s 2012 hunger strike focused on this aspect of his incarceration.

“The Israeli authorities must release Khader Adnan and other Palestinians held in administrative detention, unless they are promptly charged with internationally recognizable criminal offences and tried in accordance with international fair trial standards,” Ann Harrison, Amnesty International deputy director for the Middle East, said on Feb. 6, 2012.

“Israel should immediately end its unlawful administrative detention of Adnan and charge or release him,” Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said less than a week later.

Even former U.S. State Department director of policy planning Anne-Marie Slaughter unexpectedly tweetedon Feb. 19, “#KhaderExists and should be charged or released.”


“Resisting the occupation is legitimate”

A Palestinian holds a picture of a Palestinan prisoner jailed in Israel during a celebration for the liberation of Palestinian Khader Adnan in the West Bank village of Arrabeh, near Jenin, Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

Others said these calls chose the wrong demand, with some dismissing both the fairness and legitimacy of any charges Adnan could face under Israeli occupation.

“Even international law protects the victims of occupation and prohibits their transfer to prisons within the borders of the occupying state,” Palestinian prisoner Ameer Makhoul wrote a month after Adnan ended his previous hunger strike. “Therefore, both administrative detention and the ‘ordinary’ occupation prisons are equally illegal.”

Makhoul, a citizen of Israel and director of the Hafa-based Ittijah – Union of Arab Community Based Associations, as well as a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) leader, was convicted by a civilian court after Israeli interrogators allegedly extracted a confession through torture and drugs.

“Moreover, what is ‘evidence’ supposed to mean here?” he asked. “Evidence of resisting the occupation? Resisting the occupation is legitimate: it is the Israeli occupation and colonization, with its settlements and courts, that are illegitimate.”

While Palestinian defendants face a 99.74 percent conviction rate in Israel’s West Bank military courts, prosecutors benefit from a wide range of possible charges.

“The case of Khalida Jarrar is particularly interesting in this context,” Samidoun’s Charlotte Kates said. “A six-month administrative detention order was issued against the well-known leftist PLC member, which was met with widespread international condemnation and attention. Now, she is also facing a trial before the military courts, and her administrative detention order has been cancelled.”

But, she continued, “if we look at the charges that Jarrar is facing in the military court, they are for talking to the media, for calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners, for attending and speaking at public events.”

“It really exposes that these are two parts of one system that exists only to suppress Palestinian organizing and resistance and maintain the hold of the occupation.”


“Widespread Palestinian and international movement”

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prison Service has refused to allow Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, which offers Palestinian prisoners independent health care, to even see Adnan.

“PHR – Israel has filed an urgent request to the IPS on the 28th for the entry of an independent doctor from PHR – Israel to examine Khader, upon Khader’s request,” Amany Dayif, director of the humanitarian group’s prisoners and detainees department, told MintPress. “The IPS have not permitted or responded to our urgent request.”

She added that Adnan’s strike had reached a critical stage: “The end of first month is severe enough to warrant hospitalization, and hydration needs to be particularity monitored, especially as he starts losing the sensation of thirst.”

As Adnan’s condition becomes dire, his success hinges on outside support, Kates said. “In order to successfully end Adnan’s administrative detention once more, widespread Palestinian and international movement is absolutely necessary. His body is on the line, but without the amplification of this struggle outside the prison walls, he is in great danger.”