Tag Archives: Khader Adnan

Learning from the Irish Hunger Strikes of 1981 and the Palestinian Challenge

11 May

 

Prefatory Note

John Hurson in Ireland has been keenly conscious of the affinities between the historic Irish hunger strike of 1981 and the ongoing Palestinian hunger strikes. He has travelled to Gaza on several occasions on humanitarian aid convoys, and is the founder of the on line Gaza TV News service. I suggested that we collaborate on an article that might recall the Irish experience, especially the parallels and the potential implications for the future of the Palestinian struggle.

John Hurson ends his reflective essay with a comparison between the hardheartedness of Netanyahu and the British leader at the time, Margaret Thatcher. Although more than 30 years have passed since Bobby Sands and his nine fellow prisoners died as a result of carrying their prison protests to their ultimate point of no return.   I hope and pray that no Palestinian hunger strikers die. Their moral authority and political energy is needed to galvanize further these glimmerings of a Palestinian awakening. The impact of Khader Adnan and later Hana Shalabi, after their release from Israeli prisons is illustrative, and helps us all understand that although abusive arrest and administrative detention is the immediate cause of the hunger strikes, their agenda was always far broader than seeking personal relief. Their intention, already partially effective, was to shine a bright light of truth on the manner in which Israel has used administrative detention, as well as on broader concerns about Palestinian imprisonment more generally, and beyond this, to call attention to the unlawful and immoral denial through decades and across generations of fundamental Palestinians rights under a structure called internationally ‘occupation’ but experienced as a lethal blend of annexation, apartheid, and settler colonialism.

At this time present medical condition of at least six long-term hunger strikers has been reported to be grave for the past several days. The respected Palestinian NGO, Addameer, gave details in its May 9th release entitled “Update: Situation of Long-Term Hunger Strikers Becomes Increasingly Urgent.” Those in critical condition include Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab (74 days); Hassan Shafadi (68 days); Omar Abu Shalal (66 days); Mohammad Taj (55 days); Jaafar Azzedine (51 days).

There have been calls made for a worldwide empathy and solidarity hunger strike on Tuesday, May 15, the day that the Nabka is observed by Palestinians and their friends worldwide. I intend to make this gesture of support, and hope many others will join, and send a further message that the cause of Palestinian justice is rising to the top of the moral agenda of the peoples of the world even in the face of the awful complicity of Western governments with an intolerable situation of prolonged occupation and exile.

The featured cartoon, suggested John Hurson, is by Carlos Latoof, the award winning Brazilian cartoonist who has so ofter memorably depicted the torments and tormentors of Palestine.

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RECALLING THE IRISH HUNGER STRIKE OF 1981

By John Hurson of County Tyrone, Ireland

In 1980, 7 IRA men in the H Block prison embarked on a hunger strike seeking to re establish their political status, which the British Government had ended 4 years before. After 53 days, and the men close to death, a deal was apparently on the table from the Thatcher led British Government, and the men called of their hunger strike. In the days that followed, it became clear that there was no deal.   2 months later, another hunger strike was announced, and on March 1st, Bobby Sands began his hunger strike. As part of their strategy, different men would join at later stages. Several men would follow Bobby, and by the end of the summer, 10 men had died before the hunger strike was called off.

The prisoners had 5 demands:

1. The right not to wear a prison uniform;

2. The right not to do prison work;

3. The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;

4. The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;

5. Full restoration of remission lost through the protest.

In the months that followed, several of the demands were met, and within 2 years, all 5.   A few weeks after Bobby started his fast, the MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone died, and an election was called. A decision was made to run Bobby as a candidate in order to gain more attention to their plight, and on his 41st day on hunger strike, he was elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.   His election lit a spark where the Republican movement saw the impact of electoral success. The rise of Sinn Fein to where they are today can be traced back to this victory. Today, Sinn Fein are a major political force in Ireland, and have elected representatives in all corners of Ireland. During the negotiations that led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein played a major role. Today, Martin McGuiness is the Deputy First Minister in the Stormont Executive, and meets world leaders on a regular basis. Gerry Adams, the party leader, is an elected TD (Teachta Dala, Gaellic designation for Member of Parliament) in the Irish Parliament.   There is no doubt that the hunger strike of 1981 changed things forever, not only for the prisoners in the H Blocks, but politically. The names of the 10 men are ingrained forever in Irish history, and the dark days of 1981 are now a beacon of hope for the future.   February 21st, 2012,

Khader Adnan ended his hunger strike after 66 days, the same length of time Bobby Sands endured before he died on May 5th 1981. Throughout Khader’s hunger strike, he was compared to Bobby Sands, the first of ten men to die in the Hunger Strike of 1981.   Forever, the 2 men will be talked about in the same breath for their courage, determination, and in Bobby’s case, ultimate sacrifice.   At the beginning of March 1981, Bobby Sands began his Hunger Strike. He died on May 5th.   Following Bobby, Francis Hughes, Ray McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McElwee, and Mickey Devine all died before the strike was called off.

 

As Khader Adnan approached the 50 day mark, I contacted Tommy McKearney and he recorded a message for Khader and his family. Tommy’s message carried a unique understanding of Khader’s condition as Tommy had gone 53 days without food in 1980.   I contacted Oliver Hughes in South Derry. Oliver’s brother, Francis, died after 59 days, and his cousin Thomas McElwee after 62. Oliver  recorded a very powerful message .   As Khader was on his 64th day, I got in contact with the family of Ray McCreesh. They sent a statement of support for Khader and his family. Ray McCreesh (61 days), died on the same day as Patsy O’Hara.(61 days)   Patsy ’s brother Tony sent a message of support  on behalf of himself, and his mother Peggy.   Mickey Devine was the last of the 10 men to die in 1981. Mickey’s children, Michael og and Louise, sent through a heartfelt message,. considering they were the same age as Khader’s children when their father died, their voices added a special meaning. Mickey Devine, (27), died on August 20th 1981   In addition to these messages, two other former hunger strikers added their voices. Pat Sheehan(55 days), and Ray McCartney  (53 days), sent a video message. Danny Morrison, who was a friend of Bobby Sands also issued a statement.

On day 66, Khader reached an agreement with the Israeli Government to end his strike on the condition that they would not renew his Administrative Detention order, and release him on April 17th.   Following Khader’s hunger strike several other prisoners followed his example, and began hunger strikes in protest at their incarceration under the Administrative Detention policy.   On April 17th, over 1,500 Palestinian prisoners initiated a mass  hunger strike. The plight of the Palestinian prisoners was set to take centre stage, and their struggle brought to the worlds attention.   In the days that followed, hundreds more joined them   Adding a voice of support for Bilal Diab and Thaer Hallahla who were on day 70 of their hunger strike, was Laurence McKeown. Before ending his fast, he had gone 70 days without food. He knew only to well the dangers facing both men, and he recorded a message of support.   Two days later, Pat Sheehan, MLA, issued a statement on behalf of Sinn Fein calling for an immediate end to Administrative Detention, and support for the prisoners.   Bilal and Thaer are on day 74 day of their hunger strike.

Ireland has a long history of the use of a hunger strike as a form of protest. It has been used for centuries. Palestinian prisoners have been inspired by Irish hunger strikes in the past, and this one is no different.   In 1981, Palestinians prisoners sent a message of support to the families of the 10 men who died. Their memory burns bright among current prisoners on hunger strike.   This hunger strike has resonated widely in Ireland. .   The voices have roared around the world, playing a pivotal role in bringing international awareness and pressure on the Israeli Government, and their treatment of Palestinian prisoners.   Historically, Ireland has had its fair share of tyrants. Amongst them, Margaret Thatcher is in a league of her own for allowing 10 Irish men to die on hunger strike before granting their 5 demands.

 

Judging from his past behaviour, Netanyahu, like Thatcher in 1981, is unlikely to step in to avoid having any of these Palestinian die during their hunger strikes.

Is the fuse being lit for a 3rd Intifada? Only the future will give us an answer.

Hana Shalabi: A Brave Act of Palestinian Nonviolence

10 Mar

                                                                (photo by Joe Catron)

            No sooner had Khader Adnan ended his 66 day life threatening hunger strike than new urgent concerns are being voiced for Hana Shalabi, another West Bank hunger striker now without food for more than 24 days. Both strikes were directed by Palestinian activists against the abusive use of administrative detention by Israeli West Bank occupying military forces, protesting both the practice of internment without charges or trial and the degrading and physically harsh treatment administered during the arrest, interrogation, and detention process.

 

            The case of Hana Shalabi should move even the most hardhearted. She seems a young tender and normal woman who is a member of Islamic Jihad, and is dedicated to her family, hopes for marriage, and simple pleasures of shopping.

She had previously been held in administrative detention at the HaSharon prison in Israel for a 30 month period between 2009 and 2011, being released in the prisoner exchange of four months ago that freed 1027 Palestinians and the lone Israeli soldier captive, Gilad Shalit. Since her release she has been trying to recover from the deep sense of estrangement she experienced in prison, and rarely left her home or the company of her family. As she was returning to normalcy she was re-arrested in an abusive manner, which allegedly included a strip-search by a male soldier. On February 16, 2012, the day of this renewal of her administrative detention, Hana Shalabi indicated her resolve to start a hunger strike to protest her own treatment and to demand an end of administrative detention now relied upon by Israel to hold at least 309 Palestinian in prison. Her parents have been denied visitation rights, Hana Shalabi has been placed in solitary confinement, and her health has deteriorated to the point of concern for her life. Impressively, her parents have committed themselves to a hunger strike for as long as their daughter remains under administrative detention. Her mother, Badia Shalabi, has made a video in which she says that even to see food makes her cry considering the suffering of her daughter.

 

            Despite the calls to Palestinian from liberals in the West these extraordinary hunger strikes have met with silence or indifference in both Israel and the West. Israeli authorities declare that such a posture is a voluntary action for which they have no responsibility. The UN has not raised its voice, as well. I share the view of Khitam Saafin, Chairwoman of Union of Palestinian Woman’s Committee: “The UN must be responsible for the whole violation that are going on against our people. These prisoners are war prisoners, not security prisoners, not criminals. They are freedom fighters for their rights.” The plight of Hana Shalabi is also well expressed by Yael Maron, a spokesperson for the Israeli NGO, Physicians for Human Rights- Israel: “The story of Hana Shalabi, like that of Khader Adnan, before is in my opinion a remarkable example of a struggle that’s completely nonviolent towards one’s surroundings..It is the last protest a prisoner can make, and I find it brave and inspiring.”

 

            To engage in an open ended hunger strike, especially for a person who is not in a leadership role, requires a deep and abiding dedication to right a perceived wrong of the greatest gravity. It is physically painful and dangerous to bodily health, as well as being psychologically demanding in the extreme. It presupposes the strongest of wills, and usually arises, as in these instances, from a sense that any lesser form of resistance is futile, and has a long record of failure. In the end, it is an appeal to the conscience and humanity of the other, and a desperate call to all of us, to understand better the cartography of abuse that abusive imprisonment entails, which I would imagine is pervasively humiliating for a religiously oriented young Islamic woman. To risk life this way without harming or even threatening the oppressor is to turn terrorism against the innocent on its head. It is potentially to sacrifice one’s life to make an appeal of last resort, an appeal that transcends normal law and politics.

 

            We can only fervently hope and pray that Hana Shalabi’s heroic path of resistance will end with her release and the restoration of her health. For Israel’s own moral wellbeing it is time, really long past time, to renounce reliance on administrative detention and to do more than this, to end forthwith its varied crimes of occupation. At this point the only possible way to do this is to withdraw unconditionally behind the 1967 borders, and to start peace negotiations from that altered position. It is politically unimaginable that Israeli leaders will heed such a call, but it is morally unimaginable that Israel will survive its impending spiritual collapse if it does not do so.

 

(photo by Joe Catron)

            In the meantime, we who are beyond these zones of occupation, abuse, and imprisonment must not only stand and watch as this tragic drama plays itself out. Wherever we are, whatever we can do, we need to act, to appeal, to shout, and to denounce the inhumanity of allowing such cruelty to be enacted before our watching eyes. 

Saving Khader Adnan’s Life and Legacy

21 Feb


 

            It is a great relief to those millions around the world who were moved to prayer and action by Khader Adnan’s extraordinary hunger strike of 66 days that has ended due to Israel’s agreement to release him on April 17. We who were inspired by such a heroic refusal to accept humiliation and arbitrary arrest can only hope that for the sake of his family, for the cause of Palestinian resistance, and for the struggle to achieve a just peace that Mr. Adnan will fully recover to resume his personal and political life. We can not take for granted that there will be a full recovery given Mr. Adnan’s critical condition confirmed by examining doctors, just prior to his decision on February 21 to resume eating in a normal manner.

 

            While it is appropriate to celebrate this ending of the strike as ‘a victory’ there are several disturbing features that deserve comment. To call an arrangement that saved someone’s life a ‘deal,’ as the media consistently put it, is itself demeaning, and reveals at the very least a failure to appreciate the gravity and deep dedication of purpose that is bound up with such a nonviolent form of resistance. Similarly, the carelessness of the initial reactions was notable, often referring to Mr. Adnan’s ‘release’ when in fact he will be still held in administrate detention for several more weeks, and could conceivably be confined much longer, should Israeli military authorities unilaterally decide that ‘substantial evidence’ against him emerges in this period immediately ahead.

 

            It should also be noted that on matters of policy and principle Israel did not retreat even an inch: in relation to Mr. Adnan, he will be remain in captivity and will be subject to the ‘legal’ possibility that his period of imprisonment could still be extended indefinitely; beyond this, Israeli authorities express no willingness whatsoever to review the cases of the 309 other Palestinians who are presently being held under the administrative detention procedure.

 

            These Palestinians being held include one prisoner detained for more than 5 years, and 17 others for periods of 2-4 years. Israel did not even agree to a review of their misapplications of this administrative procedure within their own frameworks of claims about addressing imminent security threats. The general justification of administrative procedures by governments that rely upon it is to insist that its use is reserved for true and credible emergency situations. But as Mustafa Barghouti points out in the New York Times (February 22, 2012) such a claim strains credulity past the breaking point in the Israeli case. Barghouti writes tellingly that it is worth observing “that among..[those] Palestinians now held in ‘administrative detention’ are 21 of the 120 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, most of whom have  been held for years for no apparent crime other than being democratically elected in 2006, in an election universally regarded as free and fair, as candidates of the party which won a clear majority of seats but which Israel does not like.” In other words, the Israeli claims of exceptional circumstances taking precedence over due process protections do not exist in many of the evident political uses of administrative detention as a means of weakening all forms of Palestinian resistance, including nonviolent opposition politics.

 

            It should also be noted that Israeli commentary treated the arrangement ending the standoff produced by the hunger strike with measured cynicism if not disdain. Even those Israeli who supported the agreement justified it as a practical way of avoiding trouble down the road should Khader Adnan have died while held by Israelis, given the breadth and depth of support his extended hunger strike was receiving among Palestinians and sympathizers from around the world. Keeping Mr. Adnan alive was also seen by Israelis as a means to avoid a wider scrutiny of the institution and practice of administrative detention as it has been used by the Israeli military ‘justice’ system.

 

            Also the timing of the announcement of the arrangement is significant. It was made an hour before an emergency session of the Israeli Supreme Court that was scheduled to hear Mr. Adnan’s petition for release, and there is speculation that although this highest judicial body in Israel has in the past consistently supported the military position in such instances, the situation was so extreme that it might prove embarrassing for Israeli military authorities. There were even some worries on the Israeli side that the extremities of this case could produce an adverse result and even a repudiation of the manner in which Israeli authorities used administrative detention as a procedure allegedly for security, but seemingly for the harassment and intimidation of militant opponents of an oppressive occupation that has continued for 45 years and is aggravated by continuously appropriating Palestinian land and water for the benefit of settlement expansion while disrupting and cleansing long-term Palestinian residency.

 

            What was entirely absent from the Israeli public discourse was some expression of compassion, even if only for the family of Mr. Adnan, which consists of two daughters of four years or less and his articulate pregnant wife, Randa. There was not even the slightest show of respect for the dignity of Mr. Adnan’s long hunger strike or sympathy for the acute suffering that accompanies such a determined foregoing of food and speech for an extended period. Instead, the Israeli commentary that was supportive of the arrangement stressed only pragmatic considerations from the perspective of Israel’s interests. It was one more lost opportunity for Israelis of all shades of opinion to reach across the abyss of political conflict to affirm a common humanity.

 

            But in a contrary spirit, the spokesperson for the Netanyahu government, Mark Regev, seemed only interested in deflecting criticism directed at Israel. He parried criticism by cynically observing that other governments rely on administrative dentention in the name of security, including the United States, so why shouldn’t Israel. He also added that the legality of Israel’s use of administrative detention should not be questioned since it depended not on an Israeli law, but on a 1946 law enacted when Britain was controlling Palestine, unintentionally conceding that Israel was the ‘colonial’ successor to the British! If the legal veil is lifted from administrative detention its character is one of ‘internment,’ a standard practice of colonial powers in dealing with unruly natives.

 

            Of course, Israeli ultra hardliners went further in this direction, referring to Mr. Adnan as ‘a terrorist’ despite the vagueness of official allegations that didn’t ever make such a claim, but only mysteriously contended that he constituted what an official in Tel Aviv described as ‘a threat to regional security,’ whatever that might mean. As might be expected, the notorious Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was characteristically forthright, calling his ‘release’ ‘a wrong decision’ yet accepting the outcome because it is ‘our duty to honor and respect every Supreme Court decision even when we don’t agree with it.” As we know, Mr. Adnan was not released nor did the Israeli Supreme Court make a decision.  This comedy of errors by a leading government official should raise questions about Lieberman’s competence, not to mention his questionable political judgment as to policy. Lieberman’s mean spiritedness extended to attacks on Arab members of the Knesset who visited Mr. Adnan as somehow an indication that  by so doing they were ‘representing terrorists.’ Similarly, MK Danny Danon ignored the context and scorned the agreement ending the hunger strike by calling it reprehensible, an instance of a ‘[capitulation] to terrorism.’

 

            The issues directly raised by this hunger strike are ones of human rights and humane treatment, as well as reliance on administrative detention, and are quite independent of whether or not we endorse Mr. Adnan’s past and present tactics of resistance, which are not at all clear. Some apologists for Israel have tried to deflect these ethical and legal concerns by emphasizing Mr. Adnan’s association with Islamic Jihad and its record of violent attacks and extremist politics. Israelis casually refer to Mr. Adnan as a ‘terrorist’ without charges or proof. He has, in fact, been most often described in recent years more neutrally by those knowledgeable about his role and activities as a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, but not engaged beyond this. There is no indication in his past or present that he was directly involved in violence, although an undated and unverified YouTube video has surfaced somewhat suspiciously in which Mr. Adnan is depicted as advocating violent resistance and an active recruiter of suicide bombers. Although Islamic Jihad has been responsible in the past for suicide bombings it has seemingly abandoned the practice, which is in line with the repudiation of such forms of violent resistance by Hamas more than ten years ago. Mr. Adnan’s prior arrests  stemmed from militant peaceful demonstrations that landed him in Israeli jails seven times, a Palestinian Authority prison once, and induced him to undertake shorter hunger strikes on three previous occasions, one as recently as 2010.  From what is known, Mr. Adnan is definitely a committed activist who has associated himself with Islamic Jihad, but works on a daily basis as a village baker and maintains a strong family role and popular community presence in his small West Bank town of Arraba.

 

            It is important to pause long enough to take account of Khader Adnan’s achievement, symbolically, substantively, and with respect to future possibilities. We should note that Mr. Adnan’s hunger strike of 66 days is the exact length of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike in 1981 strengthening the bond between the two men, a bond that has been movingly confirmed by a number of Irish family members of their strikers. What is more, the date of Bobby Sands’ death, May 5, 1981, is generally viewed as the turning point in the Irish struggle, the time when the British Government finally started treating the IRA as a political actor with genuine grievances rather than as a terrorist organization that must be run into the ground and exterminated. We can only hope that Febuary 21, 2012 will live in history as a turning point in the Palestinian struggle. Only the future will reveal whether this is a pious wish on my part or becomes over time a historical reality.

 

            Substantively, it is crucial to support a campaign to free the other several hundred Palestinians currently being held in administrative detention and to exert enough pressure to end reliance on the practice altogether. Mr. Adnan’s brave stand will have been mostly without effect if his compelling exposure of the cruelty and arbitrariness of Israeli reliance on administrative detention is allowed to slip from view now that his strike is over. Instead, knowing what we have come to know, it is the responsibility of all of us to do all we can to discredit and force the abandonment of administrative detention by Israel, and as well, challenge its role in the United States and elsewhere. A fitting tribute to Mr. Adnan’s hunger strike would be to put opposition to administrative detention on the top of the human rights agenda throughout the world. We should begin by refusing to use the phrase ‘administrative detention,’ rechristening it as ‘administrative torture’ or ‘lawless captivity,’ and associate with past colonial and present authoritarian tendencies of ‘democratic’ governments.

 

            And finally, we will know the enduring significance of Mr. Adnan’s self-sacrifice by what takes place in the future. Will this event, possibly along with other influences, inspire a greater commitment to the Palestinian struggle for peace, justice, and liberation in occupied Palestine and throughout the world? Maybe ‘the regional threat’ that was being referred to by the Israeli official justifying Mr. Adnan’s detention was an indirect, and hopefully accurate reference to the growing impact of the positive sides of the Arab Spring, that is, as an occasion prompting a further awakening of self-empowerment among Palestinians both in relation to their struggle and in their renewed quest for unity among themselves. In effect, let us hope that Khader Adnan’s bravery becomes contagious and will be remembered as a charismatic event in the long narrative of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.


           

Saving Khader Adnan’s Life Saves Our Own Soul

18 Feb


             The world watches as tragedy unfolds beneath its gaze as Khader Asnan enters his 63rd day as a hunger striker in an Israeli prison being held under an administrative detention order without trial, without charges, and without any indication of the evidence against him. From the outset of his brutal arrest by scores of soldiers, featuring blindfolding, cuffing, and physical roughness in the middle of the night, a gratuitous ritual enacted the presence of his wife and young daughters Khader Adnan has been subject to the sort of inhumane and degrading treatment that is totally unlawful and inexcusable, and an assault on our moral justification. At present, approximately 300 other Palestinians are being held in administrative detention, and Mr. Adnan has indicated that his protest is also on their behalf, and indeed against the practice of administrative detention itself.

 

            The only plausible explanation of such Israeli behavior is to intimidate by terrifying all Palestinians who have lived for almost 45 years under the yoke of an oppressive occupation that continuously whittles away at Palestinian rights under international humanitarian law, especially their right to self-determination, which is encroached upon every time a new housing unit is added to the colonizing settlements that dot the hilltops surrounding Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank. While Palestinian prospects of a viable political future are continuously diminished by Israeli expansionism the world politely watches in stunned silence. Only resistance from within and solidarity worldwide can provide the Palestinians with hope about their future. They have been failed over and over again by the UN, by the EU, by their Arab neighbors, and above all by that global leader beholden to Israel whose capital is in Washinton, D.C.! It is only against this broader background that the importance of Khader Adnan’s resistance to the continuing struggle of Palestinians everywhere can begin to be appreciated as a political act as well as an insistence on the sacred dignity of the human person.

 

            The case of Khader Adnan is a revealing microcosm of the unbearable cruelty of prolonged occupation, and the contrast that is drawn in the West between the dignity of a single Israeli prisoner held in captivity and the steadfast refusal to be attentive to the abuse of thousands of Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails through court sentence or administrative order.  Mr. Adnan’s father poignantly highlighted this contrast a few days ago by reference to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas in captivity for several years and recently released in good health: “Where are the mother and father of Gilad Shalit? Do they not feel for me in this humanitarian case? Where are they?” The comparison pointedly suggests that it is Mr. Adnan who is the more deserving of such a global outpouring of concern: “My son was arrested from his house, from among his wife and children, was taken prisoner. He was not carrying any weapon. Whereas Shalit was fighting against the people of Gaza, and destroying their homes, and firing upon, and Shalit was released.” In fact, Shalit has not been personally associated with violence against the Palestinians and their property, but he was operating as a member of the IDF that has been consistently engaged in such activity, frequently in stark violation of international humanitarian law. While Shalit was being held foreign authority figures, from the UN Secretary General on down, displayed their empathy not only for Shalit but for the intense anxiety experienced by Israelis concerned for the wellbeing of Shalit, but these same personalities are notably silent in the much more compelling ordeal taking place before our eyes in the form of Mr. Adnan’s captivity seemingly unto death. It should not be surprising that surviving family members of IRA hunger strikers should step forward to express solidarity with Mr. Adnan and the compare the Irish transforming acts of resistance in 1981 (ten hunger strikers died, and Britain shifted from counterterrorism to a politics of reconciliation) to that of the Palesinians, increasingly referring to Khader Adnan as the West Bank Bobby Sands.

 

            And who is Khader Adnan? We do not know very much about him except that he is a member of the Islamic Jihad Party, a 33-year old father of two young daughters, a baker by profession, and viewed with respect and affection by his neighbors. There are no accusations against him that implicate him in violence against civilians, although he has a history of imprisonment associated with his past activism. A fellow prisoner from an earlier period of confinement in Ashkelon Prison, Abu Maria, recalls Mr. Adnan’s normalcy, humanity, and academic demeanor while sharing a cell, emphasizing his passionate dedication to informing other imprisoned Palestinians about the history and nature of the conflict: “Prison was like a university in those times and he was one of the professors.” Commenting on his hunger strike that has brought him extreme pain, Abu Maria says he is convinced that Khader Asnan wants to live, but will not at the price of enduring humiliation for himself and others held in administrative detention: “He is showing his commitment and resistance in the only way he can right now, with his body.”

 

            Addameer, the respected Palestinian NGO concerned with prisoner issues, “holds Israel accountable for the life of Khader Adnan, whose health has entered an alarmingly critical stage that will now have irreversible consequences and could lead to his fatal collapse at any moment.” Physicians who have observed his current condition conclude that, at most, Mr. Adnan could live a few more days, saying that such a hunger strike cannot be sustained beyond 70 days in any event. Any attempt at this stage to keep Mr. Adnan alive by forced feeding would be widely viewed as a violation of his right to life and is generally regarded as a type of torture.

 

            Finally, the reliance by Israel on administrative detention in cases of this sort is totally unacceptable from the perspective of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, especially so with no disclosure of the exceptional circumstances or evidence that might warrant for reasons of imminent security the use of such an extra-legal form of imprisonment for a few days. Given the number of Palestinians being held in a manner similar to that of Mr. Adnan, it is no wonder that sympathy hunger strikes among many Palestinians in and out of Israeli jails are underway as expressions of solidarity. Have we not reached a stage in our appreciation of human rights that we should outlaw such barbarism by state authorities, which is cunningly shielded from critical scrutiny by the anonymity and bureaucratic neutrality of the term ‘administrative detention’? Let us hope and make sure that the awful experience of Khader Adnan does not end with his death, and let us hope and do everything in our power to encourage a worldwide protest against both administrative detention and prisoner abuse and by the government of Israel, and in due course elsewhere. The Palestinian people have suffered more than enough already, and passivity in the face of such state crimes is an appalling form of complicity. We should expect more from our governments, the UN, human rights NGOs, and ourselves!

 

            



Help End the Hunger Strike of Khader Adnan

15 Feb

I am publishing here my press release of today expressing urgent concern about the fate of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian activist, who is near death resulting from his continuing hunger strike that expresses his refusal to accept the humiliating conditions of imprisonment without charges and accompanied by an Israeli court approved denial of visitation rights to his wife. Please do whatever you can to exert pressure to obtain the immediate release of Mr. Adnan, and to make the world aware that Israel is responsible for respecting his rights and protecting his wellbeing.  The text below is released under the auspices of the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, and prepared in my role as Special Rapporteur for Occcupied Palestine of the Human Rights Council.

*****

> Israel: UN rights expert appeals for international help for a Palestinian
> prisoner on hunger strike
>
> CAIRO / GENEVA (15 February 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur
> on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied
> since 1967, Richard Falk, expressed his urgent and extreme concern
> regarding the situation of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, and urged
> the international community to intervene on his behalf.
>
> “I call on the international community, especially States with close
> relations with Israel, to urge the Israeli Government to fulfill its
> responsibilities under international law, most urgently with regard to Mr.
> Adnan,” the human rights expert said. Mr. Adnan, whose life is reportedly
> in jeopardy, has maintained a hunger strike for 60 days in response to the
> humiliating circumstances of his imprisonment without charges by the
> Government of Israel.
>
> “In view of the emergency of his situation, the Government of Israel must
> take immediate and effective action to safeguard Mr. Adnan’s life, while
> upholding his rights,” stressed the Special Rapporteur, who is currently
> undertaking a fact-finding mission to the region.
>
> Mr. Falk also called on the Government of Israel to respect its legal
> obligations pertaining to the several thousand Palestinians it has
> imprisoned. “The improper treatment of thousands of Palestinian prisoners
> by the Government of Israel should be of great concern to the
> international community, and it is a problem that I am paying close
> attention to in the context of my ongoing visit to the region.”
>
> The Special Rapporteur will convene a press conference at the end of his
> regional visit, on 20 February in Amman, and will submit a full report on
> his mission to the Human Rights Council in June 2012.
>
> ENDS
>
> In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United
> States of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of
> human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate
> was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights.
>
> Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur:
> http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ps/mandate/index.htm
>
> OHCHR Country Page – Occupied Palestinian Territories:
> http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx
>
> OHCHR Country Page – Israel:
> http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx
>
> For more information and media requests, please contact Kevin Turner (+41
> (0)79 509 0557 / kturner@ohchr.org) or write to sropt@ohchr.org.
>
> For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
> Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)
>
> UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:
> Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights
> Twitter: http://twitter.com/UNrightswire
> YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/UNOHCHR
>
> Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en
>

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