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Palestinian Hunger-Striker Khader Adnan Struggles for Freedom

Khader Adnan plays with his daughters on his first day out of Israeli jail in the West Bank village of Araba, near Jenin, April 18, 2012. (Photo: Activestills/ Oren Ziv)

Khader Adnan plays with his daughters on his first day out of Israeli jail in the West Bank village of Araba, near Jenin, April 18, 2012. (Photo: Activestills/ Oren Ziv)

Khader Adnan has entered his 40th day of hunger strike after nearly a year in an Israeli jail in the occupied West Bank. Adnan — who is among an estimated 5,591 Palestinian “security detainees and prisoners” who were being held in Israeli prisons, according to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem — became the symbol of Palestinian ‘administrative detainees’ held by Israel after going on hunger strike for 66 days in 2011.

According to Israeli daily Haartez, Adnan “is in Assaf Harofeh Hospital in Tzrifin with one hand and one leg cuffed to the bed 24-hours a day and three policemen in his room around the clock.” This is the ninth time he is put “under administrative detention.”

Budour Youssef Hassan summarized Adnan's journey for the Electronic Intifada (EI):

Khader Adnan’s experience of persecution and arrests stretches back to 1999, when the then undergraduate mathematics student at Birzeit University was arrested by Israeli occupation forces on charges of affiliation with the Islamic Jihad political party.

It was the first in a series of detentions — amounting to a total of more than six years in Israeli jails — during which Adnan has never been handed any formal charges or been given a trial even by the Israeli military courts which are notorious for failing to meet minimum international standards.

The circumstances of his last arrest were highly suspicious. As Yael Marom, former spokesperson for Physicians for Human Rights, wrote for 972 mag:

Adnan was re-arrested last summer during the IDF operation in the West Bank following the murder of three Jewish teenagers. The former administrative detainees — who were released after a successful hunger strike — were the first to return to Israeli prisons. Adnan was once again placed in administrative detention, without knowing what he was charged with, without the chance to prove his innocence, all while the state has the power to perpetually extend his detention every six months. On May 6, when his administrative detention was extended for the third consecutive time, Adnan announced that he would use the only nonviolent tool at his disposal and go on hunger strike.

Marom also documented official Israeli responses in the article linked above.

The Palestinian former prisoner Khader Adnan works at his bakery in the West Bank Village of Qabatiya near Jenin, June 21, 2013. Adnan is a former administrative detainee in Israeli jails. He was released on April 18, 2012, after being on hunger strike for 66 days. He inspired more than 1,200 Palestinian prisoners to start their own hunger strikes, For the Palestinians, he became the symbol of the hunger strike strategy. (Photo by: Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Activestills.org)

The Palestinian former prisoner Khader Adnan works at his bakery in the West Bank Village of Qabatiya near Jenin, June 21, 2013. Adnan is a former administrative detainee in Israeli jails. He was released on April 18, 2012, after being on hunger strike for 66 days. He inspired more than 1,200 Palestinian prisoners to start their own hunger strikes. For the Palestinians, he became the symbol of the hunger strike strategy. (Source: Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Activestills.org. Caption: 972mag)

An official statement by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, released upon the arrest of Palestinian Legislative Council member and feminist Khalida Jarrar on April 2, 2015, condemned Israel's practice of administrative detentions as a clear violation of international law:

Israel continues to systematically use administrative detention in blatant violation of international law, as a mechanism of deterrence and punishment against Palestinian society. It is imposed with the deliberate goals of instilling fear and disrupting social and political life in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories], as well a means of disrupting the political process given the continuous targeting of Palestinian Legislative Council members. As the Human Rights Committee has observed in previous concluding observations, this type of indefinite administrative detention constitutes arbitrary detention and violates.

In a statement released in 2012, as well as in a report entitled “Starved of justice: Palestinians detained without trial by Israel“, Amnesty International also denounced Israel's practice of detaining Palestinians without charges, stating that:

For decades, the Israeli authorities have held Palestinians without charge or trial under renewable detention orders, denying them any semblance of justice. In the first half of 2012, detainees such as Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi engaged in prolonged hunger strikes to protest their incarceration without charges as well as ill-treatment during interrogation, denial of adequate medical care, and denial of family visits. Other detainees began their own hunger strikes to highlight the plight of the hundreds of administrative detainees and the routine violations endured by Palestinian prisoners. The protest grew, and a mass hunger strike began on 17 April 2012, with an estimated 2,000 prisoners and detainees demanding improved detention conditions, an end to solitary confinement, family visits for all detainees, and an end to administrative detention.

Palestinians held by Israel have used hunger strikes over the years to protest detention conditions and demand respect for their human rights, but in the wake of the wider protests which have taken place since early 2011 across the Middle East and North Africa, this recent wave of hunger strikes have had a greater resonance. Their non-violent protests – which brought several detainees close to death – drew global attention to the fact that Palestinian prisoners held by Israel continue to be starved of justice. Whether the protests have secured greater respect for Palestinian prisoners’ rights from the Israeli authorities remains to be seen, but the signs were not encouraging at the time of writing of this report in late May 2012.

Khader Adnan's hunger strike in Israeli prisons. Cartoon by Brazilian cartoonist Latuff.

“Call for Action as Khader Adnan Enters his 63rd Day of Hunger Strike” (February 18, 2012) . Cartoon by Brazilian cartoonist Latuff.

The statement continues:

Administrative detention is a form of detention without charge or trial. Its use may result in arbitrary detention and if prolonged or repeated can amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Other violations to which administrative detainees – as well as other Palestinian prisoners held by Israel – are routinely subjected include the use of torture and other ill-treatment during arrest and interrogation; poor prison conditions, including inadequate medical care; detention in prisons inside Israel rather than in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT); and prohibitions on family visits. Since 1967, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the OPT have been arrested – some of them repeatedly – by the Israeli security forces. At the time of writing, well over 4,000 – considered by the Israeli authorities to be “security prisoners” and thus held under harsher conditions than “criminal prisoners” – are detained or serving sentences in Israeli prisons. Over 300 of these “security prisoners” are held under administrative detention orders, with no intention to try them for any criminal offence, a violation of their right to a fair trial.

As the hunger strikes escalated, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) took systematic measures to punish hunger-striking prisoners and detainees and pressure them to end their strikes, putting their lives at risk. These measures included solitary confinement; preventing the detainees from contact with family members and lawyers; refusing to transfer hunger strikers whose health was in danger to hospitals suitable for their condition; and preventing detainees from seeing independent physicians so that they could receive accurate medical information from doctors they trusted. Some hunger striking detainees even reported physical assaults by IPS staff.

Adnan's family have been relentlessly speaking up against the injustice he's forced to endure. As Budour Hassan wrote in the EI article mentioned above, “Two people who have been with him on this arduous journey are his parents, Adnan Mousa and Nawal.” Speaking to EI, Randa Adnan explained how her husband uses hunger strike as a weapon: “He used the hunger strike as a weapon, both in Israeli prisons and in the Palestinian Authority jails where he was arrested twice and on both occasions resorted to hunger strikes.”

Adnan has become a sturdy symbol of Palestinian steadfastness, evidenced by the waves of support he receives both online and offline. We recently learned that a group of activists, institutions and prominent figures in Gaza have announced a hunger strike in solidarity with their fellow citizen in the West Bank while staging a protest in front of the International Red Cross (ICRC)'s headquarters in the strip. Online, Palestinian activists and institutions have taken to Twitter to express their solidarity with Adnan's struggle.

Hashtag translates as “We are all Khader Adnan”

A young Palestinian artist, Mohammad Quraqie, even drew Adnan:

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