Khader Adnan: The West Bank’s Bobby Sands

The Independent reports: It was only after talking with lucidity and animation for an hour about her husband’s 61-day hunger strike that Randa Jihad Adnan’s eyes, visible though the opening of her nekab, filled with tears. Until then, this articulate 31-year-old graduate in sharia law from Al Najar University in Nablus, the pregnant mother of two young daughters aged four and one and half, had described with almost disconcerting poise the two months following the arrest of her husband, Khader Adnan, on 17 December.

He was seized at 3.30am by some of the scores of Israeli military and security personnel who surrounded the family home in a West Bank village south of Jenin, and is now being held in the Israeli Rebecca Ziv hospital in Safed. On Wednesday she was allowed to visit him with the children and her father-in-law.

There they found him, weak and extremely thin, his beard unkempt and his fingernails long. He was shackled by two legs and one arm to his bed, and was connected to a heart monitor. Though mentally alert, he could speak only with difficulty. “I was shocked,” she said yesterday. “I couldn’t speak for about three minutes, and it was the same for my daughters.”

Mrs Adnan is convinced that the Israeli authorities only allowed the visit because they wanted the family to put pressure on her husband to end his hunger strike. He had started this on 18 December in protest at his arrest, his treatment and the subsequent detention order served on him.

“My father-in-law said to him: ‘We want you to stay alive. You cannot defeat this state on your own.’ He told him he wanted him to end the strike. I told him I wished he would drink a cup of milk. But he said: ‘I did not expect this from you. I know you are with me all the time. Please stop it.” Mrs Adnan said yesterday: “I know my husband. He will not change his mind. I expect him to die.”

The day before the visit, a Red Cross delegation had gone to her home to warn her that her husband’s heart could fail “at any minute”. They told her that he was suffering from muscular atrophy, which was affecting his heart and stomach, that his pulse was weak, and that his life was now in extreme danger.

Richard Falk writes: The world watches as tragedy unfolds beneath its gaze. Khader Adnan is entering his 61st day as a hunger striker in an Israeli prison, being held under an administrative detention order without trial, charges, or any indication of the evidence against him.

From the outset of his brutal arrest in the middle of the night – in the presence of his wife and young daughters – he has been subject to the sort of inhumane and degrading treatment that is totally unlawful and morally inexcusable. Its only justification is to intimidate, if not terrify, Palestinians who have lived for 45 years under the yoke of an oppressive occupation. This occupation continuously whittles away at Palestinians’ rights under international humanitarian law – especially their right to self-determination, which is encroached upon every time a new housing unit is added to the colonising settlements that dot the hilltops surrounding Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The case of Khader Adnan is a revealing microcosm of the unbearable cruelty of prolonged occupation. It draws a contrast in the West between the dignity of an Israeli prisoner and the steadfast refusal to heed the abuse of thousands of Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails through court sentence or administrative order.

Mr Adnan’s father poignantly highlighted this contrast a few days ago by referring to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas in captivity for several years and recently released in good health: “Where are the mother and father of Gilad Shalit? Do they not feel for me in this humanitarian case? Where are they?” He went further in drawing this comparison: “My son was arrested from his house, from among his wife and children, was taken prisoner. He was not carrying any weapon. Whereas Shalit was fighting against the people of Gaza, and destroying their homes, and firing upon, and Shalit was released.”

It is true that foreign authority figures, from the UN Secretary General on down, showed their empathy for the agony experienced by Israelis concerned for the wellbeing of Shalit, but these same personalities are notably silent in the much more compelling ordeal being experienced before our eyes in the form of Mr Adnan’s captivity, seemingly unto death. It should not be surprising that surviving family members of IRA hunger strikers should step forward expressing solidarity with Mr Adnan and compare the Irish experience of resistance to that of the Palesinians.

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