Hunger strikers shake foundations of Israeli justice system

Omar H Rahman writes: As midnight approached on April 17, Khader Adnan, a Palestinian political prisoner who made headlines around the world after going on hunger strike for 66 days, was given a hero’s welcome as he returned to his home. Fireworks coloured the night sky, horns blared and people on foot, in cars, and on tractors rushed off to receive Adnan at the gates of his village.

“I won’t believe he is out of prison until I see him for myself,” said his visibly anxious wife, Randa, who had borne a heavy burden during her husband’s four-month ordeal. Yet, in a gesture indicative of the leader Adnan has recently become, he refused to be taken to his own home before visiting relatives of those other political prisoners from his village who remained in prison and on hunger strike.

Adnan, who had been detained for four months, was never charged with a criminal offence or presented any evidence of wrongdoing. In addition, as part of the agreement that eventually led to his release, Israel had the ability to bring new evidence against him and put him on trial. By failing to do so in the nearly two months between the end of his hunger strike and his release, Israel tacitly admitted that it lacked such evidence to begin with. It has also exposed once more the ease with which a Palestinian can be taken from his or her home without charge and incarcerated for months or, in the worst cases, even years.

His hunger strike set off a wave of similar protests in Israeli prisons and on the day he gained his freedom, approximately 1,500 Palestinian prisoners began a collective, open-ended hunger strike to protest Israel’s continued policy of wide-scale detention and its treatment of prisoners. What has been billed the “War of Empty Stomachs” now has all the makings of a movement. [Continue reading…]

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