‘Bad guy’ or not, Adnan hunger strike was about due process

As Khader Adnan’s case took over the news cycle this week, I noticed comments by thoughtful readers, generally on my Facebook feed, pointing out Adnan’s association with terror. They have circulated a video in which Adnan asks who the next suicide bomber will be, pointed to his affiliation with Islamic Jihad, and  asked: How can you root for a terrorist? How can supposed progressives like us rally around him?

(I would have posted the video but YouTube has blocked it in recent hours, claiming it violates its content standards. Note: Adnan does not make an explicit call for suicide bombing in the video but he does seem to call for violence and certainly it does not show him in a “Gandhist” light)

I do not know Adnan and did not know of his existence until recently. I cannot vouch for his character and do not know what he has or has not done. He may seek to cause me harm without even knowing me. He may be a really bad guy who just wants to kill Jews.

But his behavior and possible crimes are not at issue – and have not been demonstrated. How the state treats him is. The man has been held in prison by the government to which I pay taxes without charge, due to an unethical and longstanding practice used by Israel to punish and deter all kinds of acts of resistance. And no one can argue that it is okay just because administrative detention falls under Israeli law. The documentary The Law in These Parts effectively displays the ways in which an entire system of Israeli law and justice has been built to fit a specific political agenda.

The fact is that the man went on a hunger strike that lasted over two months and severely endangered his health. He had to risk his life in order to get the state to reach the logical conclusion that the military court must release him if it cannot provide evidence against him within an allotted period of time. But this is how the practice should always be. Even in exceptional cases, in which is it acceptable under international law to detain someone without trial due to security concerns, there is a period of time by which the person must either be tried or released. Yes, even if that person is a terrorist. And if that suspect is indeed a future murderer, then the law has failed humanity – this has happened many times in the world and unfortunately will continue to happen. It is a price that is paid in societies where people are innocent till proven guilty, and not the other way around.

I wasn’t rooting for Khader Adnan the individual, and those that believe that us “radical lefties,” “so-called peace-loving progressives” are celebrating a terrorist are simply missing the issue at hand.  As Mitchell Plitnick poignantly just expressed it:

I am delighted that Khader Adnan will not starve to death. I only wish that the eyes of the world had enough scope to focus not only on his effort, but also on this abhorrent practice that is a stain on the admittedly tattered honor of not only Israel, but also the United States.

My opposition to this Israeli policy (a policy rampant in plenty other countries, east and west, more democratic and less) does not translate into cheering for Palestinians. I was not rooting for Adnan so much as I was lamenting the fact that in the country I live in, a person must starve himself in order to receive basic fair treatment. While the deal is a step in the right direction, unless it leads to fundamental revamping of policy, I fear it will have merely been a way for Israel to continue administrative detention under the guise of a morality check.