Khader’s village, Arrabe must be one of the most utopic places I’ve been to in Palestine. Two years ago I spent Eid al Adha (an important Muslim holiday) there with my friend and her family. As soon as I walked into the village I lost track of time and after a few days even the occupation became a surreal, far-away, notion, as I saw no settlers or soldiers for a while and no night raids took place while I was there. Only during walks around the village would writings on the walls, martyr posters, and flags remind me of the circumstances the people around me were living in. No flower garden, family visit, stroll through the old quarter, or breath-taking landscape could undo the momentarily invisible yet omnipresent threats and oppression.
Khader Adnan, a 33-year old father of two who runs a bakery shop, probably never went a day without realising the impact and threats of the occupation and oppression. Being a Palestinian living in the occupied West Bank he knows all too well how much suffering Israel can cause through. Over the past years Khader had been arrested several times, and was once convicted for being a spokesman for Islamic Jihad. The last time Israeli forces violently arrested him from his home, in front of his pregnant wife (Randa) and two young daughers (aged 1 and 4), during a night raid on 17 December 2011. Khader was not informed of any reason for his arrest and he was not charged with a crime. The following day he initiated a hunger strike to protest against his unlawful arrest and detention, demanding his freedom. That was 63 days ago.
As I am writing this blog post, Khader is suffering through the 63rd day of his hunger strike. Doctors of the ICRC and Physicians for Human Rights are warning of his imminent death, as muscular atrophy could cause cardiac arrest at any moment. Still Khader remains determined; he won’t end his protest unless and until he regains his freedom and dignity. Calls for his freedom are coming from all over the world, and Khader’s outcry is resonated by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and relatives of Irish prisoners who died during the notorious 1982 hunger strike. However, western media remains silent. Through blog posts, facebook statuses, and twitter hashtags (#KhaderAdnan, #CoverKhader, #Khader63) many are trying to force mainstream corporate media to pay attention to Khader’s case. Their question is; where are the international journalists? Surviving 63 days of hunger strike; that in itself is worth media coverage, let alone when the life threatening hunger strike is a way to demand your dignity and freedom, being released from illegal detention by an occupying power. Demonstrations across Palestine in support of Khader and against administrative detention have started to become bigger and more coordinated over the past days, with different factions marching side by side (which has become a rare occasion). Numerous people are hunger striking and fasting in solidarity.
Unfortunately, Khader Adnan’s is not the first nor the only Palestinian facing prolonged detention without charges or trial, through an ‘administrative detention’ order. The measure of so-called ‘administrative detention’ is only allowed under international law as a last resort and in very exceptional cases. Instead Israel has been using it systematically and on a large scale for decades, as a tool to oppress, silence, and scare the Palestinians it occupies. At any given time hundreds of Palestinians are held under administrative detention in Israeli jails. They are not informed of any evidence existing against them and their lawyers are not allowed to see their ‘secret’ files, making it impossible to defend the prisoners. Their detention is (usually) extended with 6 months at a time administrative orders, and can be extended indefinitely. To make matters worse and more illegal, the administrative detainees are transferred from the occupied territory into Israel, contrary to the Geneva Conventions. It is made extremely difficult, and often impossible, for their family members to visit them in jail. The number of Palestinians held in administrative detention has steadily increased since June 2010, and now reaches over 300. Some of these detainees (read: prisoners of conscience) have been kept in jail, without charges or trial, for several years.
When discussing the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails some people say “it’s a political issue”. I think they’re wrong. Unlawful detention of civilians is not political. It is a straightforward crime, as are the annexation wall, checkpoints, closure of Gaza, the shooting of protesters, etc. (the list is endless). Calling any of these actions ‘politics’ creates the impression that they are justified and legitimized by political interests. Let’s call them for what they are; acts of inhumanity and violations of international law, regardless the motivation behind them.
In solitude, Khader is surpassing his human nature, battling with the pain inside his body and the will to see his family again. He is risking his life to live in freedom and dignity. His may loose everything. Like many people in and outside of Palestine following his case, I wake up every morning afraid to check the news, afraid to find out how is doing. Against all odds I hope he will survive and soon be reunited with his family and see the birth of his third child. Regardless of how this will end, I will do my best to make as many people as possible hear of his cry for justice.