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The Only Democracy? » Discrimination, Featured, Victories for Democracy » Palestinian Prisoner Khader Adnan Stops Hunger Strike after 66 Days, Having Defeated the Regime

Palestinian Prisoner Khader Adnan Stops Hunger Strike after 66 Days, Having Defeated the Regime


The Palestinian Authority minister of prisoners affairs said Tuesday that Israel intends to release hunger striking prisoner Khader Adnan after he completes his current administrative detention term.

In return, Adnan agreed to end his strike, according to Issa Qaraqe, the prisoners minister. The term will end April 17, he said. Adnan has not confirmed he intends to end the hunger strike, but prisoners rights group Addameer said one of Adnan’s lawyers negotiated a deal with the Israeli military prosecutor freeing him on April 17 instead of in May.

He also received guarantees the term will not be extended, the group said.

…Israel’s Justice Ministry confirmed the deal to end the strike. “There is a deal. (Khader Adnan) will stop his hunger strike. They will not extend his administrative detention and he will be free on April 17,” an Israeli Justice Ministry spokeswoman told Reuters.

Khader Adnan’s strike was a central theme of The Troubadour’s diary yesterday about the Occupation’s military “justice” system. And soysauce wrote diaries specifically on Khader’s strike, here and here.

Make no mistake: Adnan’s strike and his victory are an integral part of the Arab Spring.

The Joys of “Administrative Detention”

Distractors would have you believe this is about “security” or “extremism”. In the past Adnan was convicted in military court and served in prison for being a spokesman for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group responsible for some notorious terror attacks. Here’s the thing: for the present arrest, Mr. Adnan wasn’t charged. He is held under a six-month arrest without charges, known in Israel via the Orwellian term “Administrative Detention”. At any given point in time since 1967, there have been Palestinians in Israeli prisons under that ruse – especially since the start of uprisings in 1987. According to the Palestinian NGO Addameer dedicated to prisoner’s rights,

…in late 2002-early 2003, there were over one thousand Palestinians in administrative detention. Between 2005 and 2007, the average monthly number of Palestinian administrative detainees held by Israel remained stable at approximately 765. …As of 1 February 2012, there were at least 309 Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem being detained in administrative detention, of which 24 were members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

According to Btselem, the all-time record number of Palestinian prisoners without charges (a.k.a. “Administrative Detainees”) in Israeli jails, was close to 1,800, in November 1989 at the height of the First Intifada. Around that time, civic figures such as Faisal Husseini and Sari Nusseibeh (yes, he of the Ayalon-Nusseibeh peace initiative) were also “administratively detained.” Currently, there are 17 Palestinian prisoners who have been in Israel’s jails without charge for over 2 years – including one who’s imprisoned for over 5 years now.

Why, one might ask, would a country claiming to be a democracy, a country whose Prime Minister has said from the Congress podium “Israel is what’s right about the Middle East” to standing ovations – continue to chuck hundreds and hundreds of people into prison for a half-year at a time, without bothering to write up a charge sheet?


Very simple: because it can.

If you’ve ever been in charge of any human system, you know how much easier it is to run things when you don’t have to ask anyone for any permission or buy-off, and can just do as you please, calling all the shots all the time. And once you’ve gotten used to it – you will fight tooth and nail to keep enjoying this privilege. Israel’s Shabak secret police and military feel the same way about the set of lovely toys in their Occupation toolbox, such as “Administrative Detention”. And the Israeli public, with all its democratic self-image, cannot for the life of it understand what’s wrong with that.

All this – And YOU, the Western Reader

The Occupation dictatorship that my government, my economic system and my civil society have chosen to set up and maintain over milions of Palestinians is, in its basic nature, no different from Mubarak’s or Assad’s regime. For a quick primer, see my 2009 diary describing it. The Occupation regime’s distinction is that it has stellar connections with the West, which for the past 20-plus years, once the Occupation stopped being as profitable as it initially was, has essentially bankrolled it financially and propped it up diplomatically. Unlike Arab client regimes like Mubarak and Ben Ali, the Israeli social-economic-political elite is seen by Western elites as one of their own.

Another key distinction is that the Occupation has extensively used lies to mask its true nature, first and foremost from Israeli citizens themselves. See, Mubarak could never credibly claim he was running a “democracy”. If he could – he certainly would. The Occupation uses Israel’s more attractive features as a front to hide and confuse everyone in the outside world, regarding what’s going on in the back yard.

The rationale of the “Brand Israel” project with its Pinkwashing and Greenwashing flanks – is the same rationale that drove the Soviets to prop up their sports, sciences and arts. Everything that might make one proud to be an Israeli, is now being prostituted in order to con the world into supporting our Occupation. And so far, in the West, the lies have worked. Hasbara, contrary to constant qvetching in Israel about its “failures”, has in fact been an unbelievable success. First it had sold ethnic cleansing as historical justice, and now – for 44.5 years and counting – it has been selling a thieving racist dictatorship, as if it was some accidental set of no-choice measures temporarily used by an enlightened democracy. Better yet, more often than not Israel’s propaganda manages to sell its Occupation regime as thin air! Something whose very existence is ignored or impatiently denied.

The most favorite lie in the arsenal is of course “security”. What a joke. The Occupation system had been set up when Occupied Palestinians were considered docile as sheep, when they were building and cleaning Israeli homes, tending Israeli crops and gardens, cooking and washing dishes in Israeli restaurants, fixing Israeli cars. They had done that for 20 solid years, while patiently and meekly petitioning for their rights, and seeing them trampled and their lands robbed. More than any other factor, it is the Occupation itself that has transformed Palestinians from docile subjects to “dangerous objects”. As my friend Ishai Rosen-Zvi had once put it, that regime has been the perfect greenhouse for raising homegrown terror groups such as Islamic Jihad – whose statements and actions then serve as perfect fodder for the “security” hoax.

But just like in North Africa, all it takes is a single determined subject of that dictatorship, to expose its inherent weaknesses. Even more poignantly, Khader Adnan like the activists of Tunisia and Egypt before him, is exposing the hypocrisy and deliberate impotence of Western governments. For decades, the latter have issued lip-service about this or that specific Occupation policy – with no discernible effect. Along comes one Khader Adnan, a 33-year-old baker from some two-bit small town in the West Bank backcountry, who’s been in and out of Israeli prisons and secret-police interrogation chambers, and with his hunger strike not only cuts short his own imprisonment, but also exposes the entire structure of repression and trans-continental lies.

Indeed, the Occupation has become so morally bankrupt, its nature so tyrannically lazy – that an Islamic prisoner who (to my knowledge) had never bothered to – say – pledge nonviolence, on the contrary – has nevertheless just managed to score a moral victory over it.

It’s the same pathology wherever you turn. The Occupation’s military “Justice” system, even when it does bother to run a trial, deals out Draconian punishments, including to children, mostly via confession/snitching-driven plea bargains – then never bothers to release anyone even a day early on parole (Israeli prisoners get the last 1/3 off as a default). To add insult to injury, the regime then turns a deaf ear towards its pocket underlings who do its bidding, Abbas and Fayyad, when they beg for some meaningful prisoner release. Guess, then, what happens? An Islamic organization such as Hizbullah or Hamas takes an Israeli prisoner, and eventually there’s a prisoner deal. The Islamists score a political victory over both Israel and their moderate Palestinian foes, and the prisoner-release list, instead of being composed of the thousands who had barely done anything wrong and rot in prison for years – is heavily stacked with real terror masterminds.

Indeed, it is no coincidence that things finally come to a head around that pinnacle of Israel’s Occupation hypocrisy, its “justice” system. I hope the Sundance-winning film about this system, The Law in These Parts, together with the efforts of activist-prisoners like Adnan and human-rights organizations, finally coalesce into the perfect storm that brings it down.

Adnan, by the way, has known exactly what he’s doing all along. He started his strike on the first day of his arrest, and here’s how he explains it in a letter from the Israeli hospital:

I started my battle offering my soul to God almighty and adamant to go ahead until righteousness triumphs over falsehood. I am defending my dignity and my people’s dignity and not doing this in vain.

The Israeli occupation has gone to extremes against our people, especially prisoners. I have been humiliated, beaten, and harassed by interrogators for no reason, and thus I swore to God I would fight the policy of administrative detention to which I and hundreds of my fellow prisoners fell prey.

…Here I am in a hospital bed surrounded with prison wardens, handcuffed, and my foot tied to the bed. The only thing I can do is offer my soul to God as I believe righteousness and justice will eventually triumph over tyranny and oppression.

I hereby assert that I am confronting the occupiers not for my own sake as an individual, but for the sake of thousands of prisoners who are being deprived of their simplest human rights while the world and international community look on. It is time the international community and the UN support prisoners and force the State of Israel to respect international human rights and stop treating prisoners as if they were not humans.

Time will tell whether Adnan has succeeded in his mission on behalf of all other Palestinian prisoners. But in the Arab world, everyone knows what is the original inspiration for the Arab Spring: the first Palestinian Intifada that began in 1987. Khader, like the Palestinian youth protests that finally forced the inept/corrupt Fatah and Hamas leaderships to forge a unity deal over the past months, reminds the world that the Palestinians are not going to sit out of this one. They will not put up with remaining enslaved and imprisoned, while their neighbors are gaining their freedom using the methods they themselves have pioneered.

Will the West and Israel, especially the liberal-progressive sectors of those socieities, be ready to finally do right in Israel-Palestine? Or will we be shamefully dragged, kicking and screaming and hemming and hawing, together with the regime we have been propping up, just like has happened to other Western-backed dictatorships in the region?

(A much shorter version of this post appeared yesterday on Daily Kos)

————– Last words:

A favorite theme in the Israeli press and its Diaspora-Jewish copycats has been that Adnan is “just a scumbag terrorist who has found an original way to get his own ass out of prison.” Or something of the sort. Besides being laughable – someone fasting 66 days to death’s door portrayed as a sleaze looking for an easy way out – this talking point, as usual, misses all points.

I don’t personally know Adnan or his views. Anyone who knows anything about the military-court system, can easily conclude that Israel has never had evidence against him for operational involvement in terror – otherwise he would have long ago been jailed for a double-digit sentence. According to Adnan’s wife quoted on his Wikipedia entry, he has since ceased his involvement with Islamic Jihad and instead has been active in intra-Palestinian reconciliation efforts between the various factions.

But suppose for a moment that he hasn’t left Islamic Jihad. No less than 4 Israeli Prime Ministers – Rabin, Begin, Shamir and Sharon – had been active in armed underground militia before 1948. Not as spokesmen like Adnan, but as militants who actually killed people. In fact, one of them – Shamir – is widely reputed to had assassinated one of his own militiamen when the latter “went astray”. Two of them – Begin and Shamir – were the chief leaders of radical militia fully committed to terror against civilians. Just like Palestinian militants today, they were wrong to target civilians. But just like today’s Palestinian activists – militant or nonviolent – they were right about the main thing that mattered in their day: trying to deliver their people from tyranny and injustice. And in both cases, their people have been grateful for that.

So, dear mainstream-Israeli and Diaspora-Jewish pundits, please spare me the moral hypocrisy. When a nation is trampled underfoot for decades and generations, its young men go out and try to fight to reclaim its pride. That’s human nature, that’s the nature of human society. Adnan is a man who fights with his words and with his passive resistance – which, given the situation on the ground, are weapons far more potent than the petty games of armed militia. The last thing he cared about was his own ass.

Written by

Assaf Oron works as a statistician and moonlights (voluntarily) as a human-rights activist and blogger. He arrived in Seattle from Israel in 2002 for studies, and for now is sticking with the local greyness, dampness and uber-politeness, while plotting his glorious repatriation to the land of eternal sunshine and rudeness. Meanwhile, he tries to explain to anyone who cares to listen, what the Occupation is and why it must be ended now, not later. Assaf is webmaster for the Israeli human rights organization "Villages Group"

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