Unpopular resistance: Khader Adnan's second hunger strike

Unpopular resistance: Khader Adnan's second hunger strike
Comment: Adnan's hunger strike defies the PA's crackdown on political organising not under its control - and that is one reason we are not hearing about it.
6 min read
10 June, 2015
Adnan's first hunger strike became a rallying point across the occupied territories [AFP]

Randa Adnan began our interview like she was commencing a race, and then proceeded to answer each question thoroughly, speaking rapidly and with great vigour.

Even while tending to her children - her young son tugging on her head scarf, her second daughter in tears needing her mother's comfort - her pace didn't slow.

Randa doesn't have a lot of time, she tells us, between taking care of her five young children and attending protests in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners.

When I met her in her home just outside of Jenin in the northern West Bank, Randa's husband, the Palestinian political prisoner Khader Adnan, had refused all meals from his jailers for more than a month and showed no sign of ending his complete hunger strike.

The strike, just like the one he prominently waged in 2012, is Adnan's protest against administrative detention - a practice that allows Israel to indefinitely renew six-month periods of internment, while the prisoner is held on secret evidence, and without charge or trial.

Khader's detention was renewed twice before he began an open-ended hunger strike on 6 May.

According to the prisoners' rights group Addameer, the day after he began his hunger strike, the Israeli Prison Service held a "hearing" inside the Hadarim prison, where Adnan was being held. There it was decided that his punishment for refusing food would be denial of family visits and access to the canteen for one month, and seven days in isolation.

More than a month later, he is in the Assaf Harofeh Hospital in Tzrifin, Israel, in a room guarded by three policemen, and handcuffed to his hospital bed.

Last week, Issa Qaraqe, the minister of prisoners' affairs, reported that Adnan's heart rate had dropped and he was plunging in and out of comas. Others are now reporting, however, that he is fully conscious and "lively".

Khader has refused all treatment by Israeli prison doctors.

Randa Adnan speaks lovingly about her husband, who works as a baker in their village, using the same words as others who have had only passing encounters with him - even those with whom he has ideological differences.

Khader "is more than just a husband, he's a partner in struggle", she says. Many describe Adnan as sincere, kind; a very attentive listener.

     [Adnan Khader] is more than just a husband, he's a partner in struggle. - Randa Khader, wife of Adnan

Khader, whose previous 66-day strike reinvigorated the Palestinian prisoners' movement in 2012, achieved a hero status that notably breached Palestine's notoriously factional politics.

The mass prisoners' hunger strike that followed Khader's resulted in the restoration of certain rights for prisoners. The strike also successfully curbed Israel's use of administrative detention, a practice that even Israel's former minister of public security admitted was overused at the time.

But that came to an end when three Israeli teenagers went missing in June, and Israel launched a wide-ranging "manhunt" in the West Bank, raiding homes and arresting hundreds of people.

At the height of the war on Gaza, launched on 8 July, 550 Palestinians were being held in administrative detention, including Khader Adnan, who was arrested the same day Israel began its aerial assault on the besieged coastal sliver of land.

Today there are 422 prisoners held under the practice.

Since the 1990s, Adnan has been arrested by Israel numerous times for his affiliation with the Islamic Jihad political party, but Israel has never managed to mount a formal charge against him.

For him, Randa says, it will be a victory just to be released, even though he knows Israel can just arrest him again.

While Adnan is a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, his focus is on all prisoners.

"He has seen their suffering and he has been in and out of prison for the past 16 years," Randa explains.

After he was released on 17 April 2012, Adnan returned to work at his bakery - but also remained dedicated to working with prisoners and their families. Randa said that in the course of his two years of freedom he met with the families of 500 prisoners.

When he was released in 2012, his widespread popularity made it impossible for the Palestinian Authority not to endorse and participate in the mass community celebration. But it wasn't long before such support waned, and was replaced with the kind of intimidation the PA has conducted against its opponents at an increasing rate over the past year.

The PA has repeatedly harassed Adnan and other members of Islamic Jihad since his 2012 release. In late 2013, PA security forces briefly detained him after he protested against their arrest of his cousin.

Just last month, Islamic Jihad again accused the PA of intimidating its members in the West Bank, summoning prisoners Israel had released with the pretext of cracking down on "criminal" activity.

     [Palestinians] are afraid of the Palestinian Authority.
- Musa Khader, father of Adnan

Palestinian Authority arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank were up 36 percent in 2014 from the previous year, according to Hamas.

A recent Human Rights Watch report also noted an increase in arrests by Palestinian security forces of students whose political positions dissented from those of the Palestinian Authority, particularly after a Hamas-aligned group won the student elections at Birzeit University at the end of April.

Following the ceasefire reached between Hamas and Israel on 26 August last year, the PA's crackdown on its domestic political opponents surged. Within just two months, Palestinian security forces reportedly arrested 250 Hamas and Islamic Jihad members under the dubious auspices of "preventing riots".

The PA conducted yet another wave of internal arrests in March, when it arrested 50 Hamas and Islamic Jihad members, saying this was aimed at preventing a "terrorist" attack that could lend support to a far-right Likud victory in the upcoming election.

These arrests of members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have mostly been conducted in Area C - the 60 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli military control - meaning the PA must coordinate them with Israel.

An extensive report by the International Crisis Group in 2010 showed that Israel generally only allows Palestinian security forces to make arrests in Area C to arrest mutual political opponents - not "criminals". Israel will, for instance, request the PA to repress demonstrations in Area C.

Most of the information about Adnan's condition has been delivered to the media through the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, which is a a PA group. But, according to Adnan's family, Jawad Boulos, a lawyer with the Prisoners' Club, has encouraged Khader to relax his strike and accept treatment from the Israeli prison doctors.

As Khader Adnan enters his second month refusing all sustenance except for water and salt, his strike has not garnered international attention or even widespread attention within Palestine.

After speaking with Randa, I interviewed Khader's father, Musa Adnan, who directed most of his ire at the Palestinian Authority.

Musa spoke much more slowly than Randa, his eyes cast down. He began by remarking on the notable absence of Palestinian solidarity with Khader in contrast to the 2012 strike.

Musa believes that it is the fear of reprisal that stops people from protesting for his son: "The worker is afraid for his permit, the teacher is afraid for her wages. People want to make ends meet; people want to fight for bread and butter."

Of whom are they afraid? Musa becomes focused and answers, quickly and firmly. "They are afraid of the Palestinian Authority."

And is Musa afraid to speak out now?

"No," he said. "I am at the end of my life. I am ready to challenge anyone who has failed my son."