Threat of 3rd intifada, says UN Rapporteur about Khader Adnan hunger strike

Nada El-Kouny & Osman El Sharnoubi , Friday 17 Feb 2012

In a special Q&A with Ahram Online, Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights in Palestine, urges international community to take action over Israel detained Khader Adnan, who has been given days to live

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Adnan Khedr's face from a poster calling for his release(Image:, the official website for prisoners of the Islamic resistance movement)

One of the most iconic cases shedding light on the consequences of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the unjust treatment of Palestinians is that of Khader Adnan. The 33-year-old mathematics graduate who usually runs a bakery in the West Bank, is on his 61st day of hunger strike in an Israeli jail.

The hunger strike is in protest of his unjust detention and the degrading treatment he has been subjected to by the Israeli authorities, his lawyer Jaward Boulous, confirmed.

Dubbed as 'Record' Palestinian hunger striker by a variety of media outlets over the past few weeks, Adnan was detained on 17 December, 2011 near the West Bank city of Jenin. The main reason for his incarceration is having served as the spokesperson for the Islamic Jihad, even though the Israeli authorities have yet to provide evidence against him or to formally charge him.

Adnan is currently in a very weakened state. His doctor, from Physicians for Human Rights, says that he is "in immediate danger of death."  While in detention, he has been shackled to his bed by both legs and one arm. Due to his deteriorating health, he has been transported to a number of Israeli hospitals since January.

In an attempt to garner international attention, support and action for Adan's case, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk spoke to Ahram Online.

Falk expressed that this is a "troubling case" that needs special attention, as doctors report he cannot survive beyond 70 days if he sustains the strike. "Outside of it being a humanitarian crisis, this is also a significantly sound political crisis," Falk added.

Although Israel have linked Adnan to Islamic Jihad, Falk also asserted that Adnan should be characterised as a "thinker" as opposed to an "activist", as no proof has been provided linking him to the group.

This case brings to light the inconsistencies in international public opinion and Israeli state policy. There are clear double standards in the way that Adnan's case has been dealt with in contrast to treatment of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli prisoner who was exchanged for 1,207 Palestinian prisoners on 18 October, 2011.

Falk compared the "fuss" made over Shalit’s case with the silence surrounding Adnan's.     

"If Adnan is to die, a third intifada is to rise... he will be considered a martyr," expressed Falk, further emphasising the importance of the issue. He explained that that whatever happens to Adnan, "the Palestinian political imagination has been fastened on this case and it will never be forgotten."  

The visit to Cairo, in addition to raising awareness about Adnan, was an attempt to cross over in the Gaza Strip, which had to be cancelled due to the turbulent security situation in Northern Sinai. Instead lawmakers and activists have met with Falk in Cairo.  

Egypt, Falk explained, was key to the situation: "it is important to use Egypt's relations with Israel, and to push the Egyptian authorities to take an initiative."

Randa, 31, Adnan's wife who is pregnant with the couple's third child, urged the Egyptian authorities to step in, as reported by MENA on Tuesday. "Our hope now lies in Egypt for Khader’s release,” said Randa. "There is talk of Egyptian efforts being made, which I hope is true as Egypt was instrumental in the last prisoner swap deal,” she added making reference to Gilad Shalit.

Falk sees that Adnan’s case is an opportunity for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), as acting president, to step up and show concern over what is taking place outside of Egypt.

However, it is important to note that the SCAF has behaved in a similar way to Israel when handling domestic affairs in Egypt. Since 28 January, 2011 the ruling military council has abused Emergency Law and randomly arrested over 12,000 civilians.

One of those people is Maikel Nabil, an Egyptian blogger who was recently released from military detention at the end of January 2012, after also sustaining a hunger strike in protest of his illegal detention

To what extent the Egyptian authorities will be motivated to intervene in Adnan’s case remains uncertain.

In a press statement issued on Wednesday, Falk said the Israeli government must take "immediate and effective action to safeguard Mr. Adnan's life" and also to uphold his rights.

Falk deemed Adnan’s imprisonment without charges illegal and called on the international community to pay attention to the way Israel mistreats thousands of Palestinian prisoners. This is a problem, Falk added, which should be of great concern to them.

Falk is due to present a full human rights report in Amman, Jordan on the 20 February.

Until then, Adnan's slim chance of survival should serve as a wakeup call to those who are responsible for his life.

As thousands are already rallying in Gaza calling for his release and Palestinian activists from different political parties are, unusually, coming together, Israel should be wary of the repercussions of Adnan’s possible death. For the regionally and locally isolated Jewish state, the demise of this new icon of Palestinian resistance could bring with it very serious problems. 

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