Many, and many more
Have you heard of Khader Adnan? I would not be surprised if you have not. His story is rarely spoken about in Israel and even less so in US news sources. His situation, however, is deplorable and I would like to call attention to what so many people have seemed to miss.
On Dec. 17, 2011, Israeli soldiers arrested, bound and blindfolded Palestinian Khader Adnan in the middle of the night in front of his pregnant wife and two small daughters. Placed in administrative detention—a renewable six-month period in which Palestinians can be held without charge or trial—Adnan suffered 18 days of torture and humiliation by Israeli soldiers for his association as an activist for Islamic Jihad before being thrown in jail. He has not been charged with committing violent crimes. For the injustices enacted against him and other Palestinians, he has starved himself and will continue to do so until he is set free—whether it be by death or the Israelis. Should he survive by the time this article is published, Adnan will have set the record for the longest hunger strike in the history of Israel.
As I write, 33-year old Adnan is on day 64 of his hunger strike. He has lost more than 88 pounds in the last two months of his incarceration. Even though he is very weak, his feet and hands are shackled to his hospital bed and his room is guarded 24 hours a day. His family has only been allowed see him twice, and until very recently, international doctors were denied access to monitor his health. He will probably never meet his unborn son.
This is not Adnan’s first detainment: he has been unlawfully arrested seven times since 1999. This is not Adnan’s first hunger strike; for 28 days in 2010, he starved himself after being placed in solitary confinement. Adnan is not the only prisoner in administrative detention—there are more than 300 Palestinians in this purgatory awaiting their judgment. And Adnan certainly is not the only Palestinian to witness a violation of his rights.
In actuality, Adnan’s story is only a very small part of the injustices committed against the Palestinians since the establishment of Israel in 1948. Israel’s obsession with securing a completely Jewish state has led many to turn a blind eye to a large problem: the fact that Jews are not the only people living in Israel. More than 25 percent of the population of Israel and the occupied territories (Gaza and the West Bank) is represented by Palestinian Arabs. These people have seen their basic human rights systematically violated for the past 64 years.
This is not to say that all Palestinians who have been incarcerated by Israel are innocent—there are many who are not. However, any denial of rights, no matter how serious the crime, is inexcusable and only exacerbates a cycle of hate that breeds violence. By denying the Palestinians their right to a fair and speedy trial, to associate or have their interests represented creates a situation in which the only outlet that is left is violence. And what is worse is that our silence allows it to happen.
When will President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton call for the release of Palestinian Khader Adnan, much like they did for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit? Why isn’t the Palestinian Authority—the supposed defenders of the Palestinian territory—coming to its brother’s rescue? Why does the world remain silent in the face of a humanitarian crisis that threatens to create even more animosity in the Middle East toward the West?
The answers to these questions lie in a complicated web of history and foreign policy strategies and relationships that I will not bore you with. However, I will say that the longer the US maintains a double standard for Israel and fails to demand the release of Adnan and the reform of Israeli politics so as to allow Palestinians their rights, the more dire the situation will become. Since the start of his hunger strike, 14 other prisoners and wardens have joined Adnan in starvation. In what may well be one of his last letters, Adnan states, “I starve myself for you to remain. I die for you to live. Stay with the revolution.” How many more will join his revolution in starvation? And how many more will join in violence? For this, the answers lie in the questions: there will be many, and many more.
Editor's note: On Tuesday night, Adnan ended his hunger strike, after the Israel authorities agreed to free him on April 17, ending his imprisonment without charge.