Khader Adnan, who became the symbol of Palestinian administrative detainees after refusing food for 66 days in 2011, is once again on hunger strike. Adnan’s wife: ‘He has no other choice. He is very strong and won’t budge until he is free.’
By Yael Marom
Khader Adnan, the symbol of Palestinian administrative detainees, is once again on hunger strike, having refused to eat for the past 37 days. He was transferred last Thursday to Assaf Harofeh hospital near Rishon LeZion, where he is being handcuffed to his bed by his legs and hands. Adnan, a baker from the West Bank village of Araba is striking against his prolonged detention with no indictment after being arrested in July 2014. His administrative detention was extended for a second time on May 6.
Adnan’s 2011 hunger strike ended in victory, after he refused food for 66 straight days. Israel decided to release him at the last minute before his administrative detention was up, after which Adnan ended his strike. Thus, the man who upon beginning his hunger strike was described by Israel as a “dangerous terrorist belonging to Islamic Jihad” was eventually released, after the state was unable to present evidence or put together an indictment. (Full disclosure: At the time I was the spokesperson for Physicians for Human Rights, which was very active in the struggle for his release.)
Adnan was re-arrested last summer during the IDF operation in the West Bank following the murder of three Jewish teenagers. The former administrative detainees — who were released after a successful hunger strike — were the first to return to Israeli prisons. Adnan was once again placed in administrative detention, without knowing what he was charged with, without the chance to prove his innocence, all while the state has the power to perpetually extend his detention every six months. On May 6, when his administrative detention was extended for the third consecutive time, Adnan announced that he would use the only nonviolent tool at his disposal and go on hunger strike.
Adnan’s hunger strike is considered a “full strike,” meaning that he refuses food, salts or additives, and drinks only water. He is also refusing all medical treatment by the Israel Prison Service or the hospital, and is demanding to be treated by an independent doctor. Creating a situation of mistrust between the hunger striker and the doctor is significant for the former; in many cases, the doctor is seen by the political prisoner as a representative of the establishment. In the case of a hunger strike, a doctor’s decisions, treatments and ethics (which forbids granting treatment to anyone who refuses it) carries great weight, since trust is critical for the health of the hunger striker.
Adnan is currently suffering from pain throughout his body. This week he will enter the most difficult stage of the hunger strike, both physically and mentally. According to the World Health Organization, between the 35th and 42nd day of a hunger strike, the hunger striker will have difficulties moving his eyes, will experience jittery vision, as well as a feeling of vertigo, vomiting and difficulty swallowing water.
According to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, “Khader does not agree to be looked at by a doctor on behalf of the Israel Prison Service. In accordance with his demands, we have filed a request for an independent doctor. The request was recently approved, and we hope that the doctor will visit in the coming week. Khader is solely drinking water, and is facing not only a health hazard, but palpable danger. PHR calls for Khader to be released immediately, as well as the release of all other administrative detainees being held by Israel.”
‘Administrative detention is one big injustice’
Adnan’s wife, Randa, has been left at home with her six children. She says that her lawyer updated her that Khader was forcibly moved to a hospital and that he refuses all medical treatment. “I am very worried. I know my husband. He is very stubborn and he won’t give in. This is his war and his last tool in his struggle. He has no other choice. He is very strong and won’t budge until he is free. He demands to be released, since he is not guilty of anything, and because using administrative detention is one big injustice.”
“Many people think that Khader is tough, but in my eyes he is warm,” she tells me. “He helps around the house. He washes the dishes. He is a family man and the children simply miss him and are praying for his health.” Randa says that she hopes that by the beginning of the Ramadan fast, which begins in seven days, her husband will already be back with the family and they will be able to “fast together, but for good reason.”
Adnan’s previous hunger strike led to a wave of widespread hunger strikes among Palestinian prisoners, first by administrative detainees, followed by thousands of other prisoners. The prisoners’ struggle has a central role in Palestinian society. In fact, it is one of the only issues over which there is consensus, perhaps due to the fact that nearly every Palestinian family has seen at least one member be sent to prison.
Israel Prison Service: “The detainee was transferred to the hospital in order to monitor his condition, where he was hospitalized under doctors’ orders. The detainee is a security prisoner who is being guarded and granted visits according to the rules, in accordance with the circumstances and the proper evaluation.”
Israel Medical Association: “Dr. Tammy Karni, chairperson of the Israeli Medical Association Ethics Board, visited the detainee, saw that the he had comfortable hospital conditions and that no ethical violations whatsoever are taking place.”
Assaf Harofeh Hospital: “The decision regarding handcuffing security prisoners is the sole responsibility of the Israel Prison Service. We cooperate with the IPS in accordance with regulations.”
According to Amani Dayif, who heads Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’s Prisoners and Detainees Department, the hospital takes no ethical responsibility toward its hunger-striking patients: “According to medical ethics, a doctor cannot treat a patient while the latter is handcuffed. According to the Israel Prison Service, the hospital must demand a written explanation for handcuffing. Ethically, the only circumstance that could justify short-term handcuffing is if the person is a danger to himself or others.”
IDF Spokesperson: “Khader Adnan was arrested after intelligence gather on him showed that he is active with Islamic Jihad. His detention has been extended until September 2015. The intelligence will be examined around that time, and a decision will be made regarding further extension.”