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Khader Adnan: A selfless Palestinian hero

Feb. 23, 2012 11:18 P.M. (Updated: March 2, 2012 3:12 P.M.)
By: Daoud Kuttab
It might have been a small gesture, but it spoke volumes. After Khader Adnan, the Palestinian administrative detainee on his 66th day of hunger strike agreed to end his protest, he refused to eat until all fellow hunger striking Palestinians were informed about his decision.

Speaking on Voice of Palestine, Adnan Musa, Khader’s father, said his son would not eat until he was assured that his decision to end the hunger strike was transmitted to the hundreds of fellow Palestinian prisoners who were on a solidarity hunger strike with him.

The elder Adnan said that all prisoners had broken their fast after evening prayer at about 5 p.m. and Khader only agreed to take some butter milk at around 7 p.m., after being reassured that his supporters had first ended their hunger strike.

Khader Adnan is a hero by all counts. He single-handedly exposed the unjust Israeli practice of holding Palestinians in extended detention without charge or trial.

The military objections committee that is charged with supervising these detentions is a sham.

Israeli military judges are given secret evidence by fellow Israeli intelligence officers, which cannot be viewed or challenged for authenticity by the prisoners or their lawyers.

At present, over 300 Palestinian prisoners are held without official charge or trial. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, at one time over 1,700 Palestinians were held under such circumstances.

The so-called objections committee can renew the six-month detention orders as many times as it wants.

One prisoner was held for five years due to this legal loophole.

Ordinarily, Israeli military prosecutors use this form of detention that is based on the 1945 British Emergency Laws when they are unable to extract confessions from a detainee. Adnan said he was beaten up initially by Israeli interrogators in an attempt to force him to confess.

They clearly had no idea what kind of man they were dealing with.

When they realized they were unable to get a confession out of him, they changed his status from prison under questioning to prisoner in administrative detention.

Lisa Hajjar, author of "Courting Conflict", says that most convictions in military courts are based on confessions.

Some lawyers of Palestinian detainees note that over 90 per cent of all convictions of Palestinians are based on confessions.

Thirty three-year-old Adnan, a baker and a father of three, and his wife Randa, became household names to many pro-Palestinians around the world. While the traditional media refused to touch his case, social media was alive.

In his last week of hunger strike, Adnan-related hashtags were receiving top ratings around the world. The #Khaderexists hashtag created as a response to the "Palestinians were invented" rhetoric by US Republican presidential nominee Newt Gingrich was the number one tweet around the world as Khader was on his 64th day of a hunger strike.

Social media was not only informing the world about the brave protester, it was used to shame many international journalists into writing about his nonviolent act.

Of special note was New York Times Nick Kristof who had once written a column challenging Palestinians to use nonviolence. In a column in July 2010, Kristoff called on Palestinians to follow Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance tactics.

When Adnan entered his third month of hunger strike, his Twitter account was inundated with messages from people using the hashtag #waitingforkristoff, asking him to cover the Palestinian’s hunger strike. He did not.

One of his colleagues, Isabel Kreshner, referred to this Palestinian observing a hunger strike without mentioning his name.

"One Palestinian prisoner has been hospitalized because of a hunger strike in protest against being detained for months without trial," she said in a report about how Israeli military courts deal with child detainees.

Reporter Hala Gorani did give Adnan’s hunger strike time on CNN. In the report, an Israeli official claimed that Adnan posed a danger to Israel.

Adnan’s hunger strike ended with a compromise reportedly worked out between Israeli-Palestinian Knesset member Ahmad Tibi and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor.

The deal calls for Adnan’s release in mid-April, once his current four-month administrative detention ends. The Israelis pledged not to renew it.

The Israeli change of heart showed that the claim he represented some kind of mortal danger to Israel was a lie.

Thanks to an impressive, courageous man, Palestinians were able this week to register a victory of sorts.

It will require many more individual and group actions before a serious nonviolent movement can gather momentum and produce victories that can one day end the Israeli occupation and usher in a democratic and independent state.

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former professor of journalism at Princeton University.
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