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The Martyrdom of Khader Adnan

Khader Adnan died after 86 days of refusing food in protest of his administrative detention by Apartheid Israel. The news prompted outpourings of anger and grief among Palestinians who saw him as an icon of steadfast resistance to Israeli oppression.

Adnan is the first Palestinian to die during a hunger strike in almost 40 years. His death brings to 237 the number of Palestinian prisoners who have died in Israeli custody since 1967.

Hailing from the occupied West Bank village of Arraba near Jenin, the 44 year old Adnan spent some eight years in Israeli detention, mostly without charge or trial.

A baker by profession whose job was to feed others, he refused any sustenance except water and salt in pursuit of a greater cause.

Over the years, he gained his freedom or limits on his detention by undertaking several long hunger strikes.

They include 25 days in 2004, 66 days in 2011 and 201255 days in 201558 days in 2018 and 25 days in 2021.Those successive protests took a toll on his body, causing several long-term health problems.

One of the appalling tools that Apartheid Israel uses to maintain dominance and control over the Palestinian Arab population, besides military rule and the military court system, is administrative detention (equivalent of Apartheid SA’s “detention without trial”).

The Israeli Prison Authority  holds 724 Palestinians under administrative detention, 11 of whom are Israeli citizens. None are Jewish.

There are currently about 7000 Palestinian political prisoners detained by Israel. Over 800,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been prosecuted in Israeli military courts since 1967.

The threat of administrative detention hangs over the heads of all Palestinians who are subject to instant and arbitrary detention without charge or trial at the whim of a military commander.

The procedure for challenging these decisions makes a mockery of Israeli justice, relying on “secret evidence” that neither the victim nor their attorney is allowed to see. This is a cruel decision that acts as a clear indictment against the court itself and its moral standing.

Hunger strikes is the only tool of resistance for Palestinian prisoners, who have used them for many years to obtain small, incremental improvements to the conditions of their incarceration and visitation rights, and to bring attention to the injustices experienced at the hands of their oppressors.

This struggle requires tremendous courage and perseverance and totally undermines the security justifications that Israel typically uses to justify its oppression of Palestinians.

Prisoners in Israeli jails are held in high regard by Palestinians, as was demonstrated with the escape of six Palestinian prisoners from the maximum-security Israeli prison of Gilboa in 2021. It has been described as “a major security and intelligence failure” by the Israel’s police apparatus.

To the Palestinians, it was a heroic feat of great proportions, exposing the vulnerability of the Zionist regime and belying their invincibility of the settler colonial entity.

Shaheed Adnan explained in an essay published in a book  A Shared Struggle—Stories of Palestinian & Irish Republican Hunger Strikers-

“Being locked in a dark dungeon, where Israeli soldiers beat my chained body was deeply humiliating and oppressing,” Adnan said. “Their punches and their weapons have left permanent scars on my body. Their barbarism itself stood before me, literally.”

“Freedom beckoned me from the moment I was first imprisoned, it haunted me. My quest for liberty also drove me to bolster the morale of my friends and brothers.”

By waging his hunger strikes, Adnan said he was determined “to teach the occupiers a lesson in dignity and defiance.” The oppressors failed to break his spirit!

Adnan never lost sight of what motivated him: his devotion to his people, his land and his family.

“I demanded to go home, to my family, to my daughters, who had spent long periods of their childhoods without me since I was jailed.”

Adnan began his final hunger strike after Israeli occupation authorities arrested him on 5 February and imposed an administrative detention order.

The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council described Adnan’s death as a “calculated and cold-blooded slow-killing.”

Adnan’s wife Randa Musa stated that his family would not open a traditional mourning tent to receive condolences, but would instead accept congratulations on his martyrdom.

“He is our pride and honor, even though we would have liked him to return to us victorious,” Musa said.

Musa has long stood by her husband, campaigning for him, speaking to the media and celebrating with him and their children on the previous occasions when he did come home victorious.

International support is critically important to build solidarity for the Palestinian prisoners and ensure they are not isolated or alone in their struggle for liberation.

FIROZ OSMAN: Dr Osman is the co-author of Why Israel? The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid: An SA Perspective, Shattering Zionist Myths 100 Distortions Identified and an executive member of the Media Review Network, an advocacy group based in Gauteng.