Palestinian Khader Adnan dies in Israel prison after 87 day hunger strike

Khader Adnan, Palestinian hunger striker held under administrative detention
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Khader Adnan has died in an Israeli prison after an 87 day hunger strike. He was a prominent Palestinian prisoner being held under administrative detention.

Khader’s death came during his 13th stint in Israeli custody, with nearly eight years of his life spent behind bars. He was involved with Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that he spent two and a half decades in and out of Israeli custody. According to the group, Khader had carried out a string of hunger strikes in protest, and is the first Palestinian to die as a direct result of a hunger strike.

In 2012, a 66-day hunger strike turned Khader into a national hero. His actions revitalised hunger strikes as a form of protest among Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli jails. At the time it was the longest hunger strike ever staged by a Palestinian prisoner. The 2012 protest subsequently shone a light on administrative detention. Under this system, Israel holds people without charge for renewable periods of up to six months. It currently holds more than 1000 Palestinians in administrative detention.

Retaliatory strikes

Speaking at a press conference after his death, his widow Randa Mousa said:

We will only receive well-wishers, because this martyrdom is (like) a wedding, a (moment of) pride for us and a crown on our heads.

She also warned against retaliation for his death:

We don’t want anyone to respond to the martyrdom. We don’t want someone to launch rockets and then (have Israeli) strikes (on) Gaza.

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However, Israeli bombs already hit the Gaza strip as Palestinians mourned Khader. Al-Jazeera reported that:

Hundreds of people took to the streets in blockaded Gaza and the occupied West Bank to rally in support of Adnan and mourn his death, which Palestinian leaders described as an assassination.

Hasan Khreisheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament and friend of Khader, told AFP:

Adnan won more than once in the occupation prisons, and today he was victorious once again when he was martyred in his new battle.

Alongside his time in and out of custody, Khader ran a bakery in Arraba, and had also worked as a banker. Today, his face can be seen stencilled across walls in Palestinian cities and refugee camps across the West Bank and Gaza. As news of his death reached the rest of the world, many took to social media.

Grief and anger

Palestinian academic Dr Yara Hawari shared that Palestinians had called for general strike after Khader’s death:

Human rights attorney Noura Erakat noted that Khader’s imprisonment was ideological:

Journalist Lina Alsaafin recounted meeting Khader in 2012:

Electronic Intifada shared a quote from Khader where he talked of his yearning for freedom:

Addameer, which provides legal support to Palestinian prisoners, said:

The Palestinian Youth Movement vowed to use Khader’s life and teachings as a “compass”:

And the International Magazine echoed the thoughts of many, by pointing out Khader’s detention without charge:

Administrative detention

Friends of Al-Aqsa, a UK-based organisation, have previously defined the administrative detention that Khader died under as when:

Israeli Occupation Forces arrest Palestinians and hold them indefinitely, without charge or trial. This violates international law, but Israel still uses it to target activists who stand up against its illegal occupation of Palestine.

Israel holds Palestinians without charge or trial for months or even years. Administrative detainees are subjected to arbitrary beatings, solitary confinement, limited family visits and medical negligence.

Addameer explained that under international law, administrative detention is only supposed to be used in exceptional circumstances. However, this is not the case for Israel’s use of it:

In practice, Israel routinely uses administrative detention in violation of the strict parameters established by international law. Tellingly, Israel has claimed to be under a continuous state of emergency sufficient to justify the use of administrative detention since its inception in 1948.

Israel’s routine use of administrative detention, as Khader Adam’s life and death shows, is a travesty. What is the point of international law if Israel is able to wantonly flout it? Israel’s detention of Adnan without charge is yet another grave injustice it pushes onto Palestinian communities.

It’s rare that prisoners on hunger strike die from their protest. Like many of the acts of violence visited upon Palestinians, this is one which is not only physical and material but also ideological and emotional. Palestinians routinely and consistently have basic human rights stripped from them. Khader spent his life advocating for the freedom and rights of Palestinians. It’s a heartbreaking conclusion to his efforts that his death must also serve as yet another cry for justice.

Featured image via YouTube screenshot/AJ+

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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