By Joharah Baker
They say internal organs begin to shut down around day 50. Forget about the hunger, which has probably subsided by now. The excruciating pain of liver, kidneys, heart and lungs not able to function properly must be unbearable. Severely deprived of nutrients, 33-year old Khader Adnan is now starving to death.
This fierce, faith-injected and conviction-filled battle that the lone Adnan is waging is one of a kind for Palestinians. Hunger strikes have been a part of the Palestinian struggle for years but this is unprecedented, in its length, its determination and the fact that he is waging it alone. But what Khader is protesting is hardly foreign to Palestinians, especially prisoners, and it is a pride felt across the board for the Palestinians that someone is speaking up with the voice of a lion against these horrible injustices, even at the risk of his own life.
This life we might add, is hanging by a thread as we speak. But unlike the rest of us who may pass on at any given moment, should Adnan perish, his mark on this troubled world will be indelible.
In a rare statement two days ago, Adnan explained why he would not relent. “I am defending my dignity and my people’s dignity and not doing this in vain,” he said.
“The Israeli occupation has gone to extremes against our people, especially prisoners. I have been humiliated, beaten, and harassed by interrogators for no reason, and thus I swore to God I would fight the policy of administrative detention to which I and hundreds of my fellow prisoners fell prey,” Adnan wrote in a letter.
For those less versed in the Israeli occupation’s evil machinations, administrative detention is the imprisonment without charge of a prisoner based on so-called “secret files” from the Israeli intelligence services. A person can be sentenced to up to six months administrative detention, a sentence which can be renewed repeatedly at the military judge’s discretion. During this time you are given no explanation for your incarceration. Khader Adnan is one of 315 administrative detainees currently in Israeli prisons according to Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization. Over the 45 years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, thousands of Palestinians have been in and out of Israel’s jails under this same arbitrary and unjust policy.
And while Adnan has been tortured, beaten, insulted and threatened by Israeli interrogators, he made it clear that he is not standing up only for himself but for an entire people. His courage and determination has sent tremors throughout Palestine and beyond, with a group of prisoners declaring an open hunger in solidarity with Adnan, some already into their 20th day. Solidarity protests and sit-ins are taking place and international calls are being heard for Adnan’s release as his body begins to collapse in total starvation.
Israel is very unhappy with the situation, that’s for sure. According to his wife Randa, when she visited her husband in the Zif Hospital in Safad, an Israeli interrogator pulled her to the side to try and persuade her to convince him to stop his strike. “For you, for your children and for the baby growing inside you,” he told her. “Tell him to stop.”
Even if she wanted to, she would not have been given a private moment with her husband, anyway. Shackled to the bed, there are Israeli security guards at all times in his room. According to one Israeli human rights physician who saw Adnan, the man could not even lift his head. But he is shackled to the bed nonetheless. Still, Israel does not want Adnan to die because it knows his death may ignite a brushfire of solidarity that will be very hard to smother.
To date, Khader Adnan has lost close to 45 kilograms, literally half his weight. His hair is falling out, he hallucinates and the color has drained completely from his face. These are typical symptoms of a starving body but what most starving bodies do not have is the iron determination that illuminates from within. It is a sheer miracle that Adnan has made it this far, not only because of the lack of food but because of the terrible and humiliating conditions he is forced to live in. Irish Republican Army volunteer Bobby Sands lasted 66 days without food before he perished in 1981, followed by nine others protesting British measures against them. Khader is a mere hairsbreadth away from that fateful number.
We all wish for his release, his recovery and his reunion with his family. We all think about Khader Adnan because even though we do not know him personally, he embodies all that we love about being Palestinian – the pride, the determination and the loyalty to the land.
We do not want Khader to die because he deserves life – probably even more than the rest of us for the simple reason that he would sacrifice it in the name of his people. As his hunger strike closes in on 60 days we offer prayers to whatever and whoever we believe in to spare him. He deserves life because he refuses to live it without dignity. And that is a lesson in gold.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at [email protected]