Khader Adnan death: Palestinians will not give up their struggle for freedom

Khader Adnan death: Palestinians will not give up their struggle for freedom

People hold portraits of Khader Adnan, who had been on a hunger strike, following the announcement of his death on May 2 (AFP)
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Israel’s occupation of Palestine has taken on a brutal escalation in recent months, with Israeli soldiers and prison guards appearing to believe that they are judge, jury and executioner. With the absence of accountability and almost zero investigations into Israeli field assassinations, it is clear that the death penalty has become a weapon of the occupiers.

The uptick in the number of shoot-to-kill cases has been widely reported, but it appears that Israel is also unhappy with the presence of an active community of prisoners. The handling of the case of Khader Adnan has shown that Israel has no respect or tolerance for prisoners’ rights, which are guaranteed in international humanitarian law.

The 45-year-old Palestinian activist was taken from his home in the West Bank town of Arabah on Feb. 5. Three weeks later, the Benjamin Netanyahu-led government progressed a bill that would allow courts to impose the death penalty for deadly terror attacks against Israelis. On the 86th day of his hunger strike, Adnan was found unconscious in his cell in an Israeli jail. He was later declared dead at a local hospital.

The introduction of a death penalty bill had been threatened by the far-right Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, who supervises Israel’s jails. A joint statement by Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir said that the initial bill stipulates that “courts will be able to impose a death penalty on those who committed a nationalistically motivated murder offense against a citizen of Israel.”

Adnan was on hunger strike demanding to know why he was in jail. Israel imposes administrative detention on Palestinians based on a draconian law — the British Defence (Emergency) Regulations from 1945. In a May 1951 Knesset debate, then-Jewish activist and future Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who was branded a terrorist by the British, described the emergency laws that Israel today uses to legalize house demolitions and administrative arrests as “tyrannical” and “immoral.” He said: “These are tyrannical laws, these are immoral laws, and these are Nazi laws. An immoral law is also an illegal law … If these laws, the terrorist laws of an oppressive regime, remain in place in the state of Israel — one day there will not be left a single part of society unhurt by them.”

The handling of the case of Khader Adnan has shown that Israel has no respect or tolerance for prisoners’ rights

Daoud Kuttab

As reported in the Hebrew media, an Israeli Jewish member of the Knesset, Ofer Kasif, from Hadash — the joint Arab-Jewish Democratic Front for Peace and Equality party — on Tuesday accused Israel of what he called the “cold-blooded” murder of Adnan, saying that the victim’s blood will be “on Netanyahu’s head.” Kasif stated: “The occupation got what it wanted — after 10 administrative arrests without charges or evidence and 10 hunger strikes, the occupation managed to assassinate Khader Adnan in cold blood.”

According to Kasif, Adnan did not die but was murdered and he already blames Netanyahu for any blood that is spilled because of the revenge taken by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. “He was murdered because of his views. This is not a mistake — that was the goal,” Khasif said.

The number of Palestinians held without charge or trial has reached more than 1,000, including children, professionals and elected officials. The Israeli human rights group HaMoked was quoted by the Associated Press as stating that, as of last month, the number of Palestinians held in administrative detention had reached 1,016. There were also four Israeli Jews being held without charge.

Israel knew that Adnan had previously, in 2015, been detained without being charged and that he went on a 55-day hunger strike before the authorities agreed to release him. That was the 10th time he had been held without charge. Israel also knew he would not end his hunger strike this time, but it failed to ensure that he was under constant watch by medical personnel.

Article 13 of the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War states that prisoners of war “must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention.”

And UN General Assembly Resolution 45/111 of 1990 states in its ninth clause that: “Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation.”

In a last testament penned in jail by Adnan on April 2, two months into his hunger strike, he called on the Israeli occupiers not to carry out an autopsy on his body and said he wanted to be buried in a simple grave next to his father’s resting place. He also addressed the Palestinian people, writing: “I send you this will with love and greetings, with complete confidence in God’s mercy … this is God’s land, and it is ours, and it contains a promise, the promise of the afterlife. Do not despair, for whatever the occupiers may do, no matter how much they may trespass upon us with their occupation and injustice … God’s victory is near.” Lawyers for Adnan’s family are now fighting in the Israeli high court to ensure Israel respects the will of the deceased Palestinian.

The story of Adnan, who is considered by Palestinians as a martyr who died for a cause, brings back memories of a hunger-striking Irish prisoner who died in jail 42 years ago. On May 5, 1981, 27-year-old Sands, the IRA’s leader in the Maze prison near Belfast, starved himself to death. Peter Taylor, who covered the story at the time, told the BBC his death was a watershed in Northern Ireland’s Troubles, helping to pave the way for the Irish Republican Army’s political wing, Sinn Fein, to become the largest party on the island of Ireland today.

Palestinians deeply believe that their long ordeal will ultimately achieve its goals, even though many will have suffered in order to do so.

Regardless of whether Israel legally imposes the death penalty or merely ensures that those who oppose it die in jail, Palestinians will continue their struggle for freedom and an end to the occupation. The sooner that sane Israelis and the international community realize that peace can prevail in Palestine and Israel the better.

  • Daoud Kuttab is a former professor at Princeton University and the founder and former director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Ramallah. Twitter: @daoudkuttab
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