Hunger Striking for Justice
by Stephen Lendman
Behind bars, prisoners have few ways to resist injustice. Refusing food’s a common tactic. Khader Adnan’s the latest detainee to attract attention. His heroism made it worldwide.
After 66 days, he began eating after a deal was agreed to release him in April. It’s not without strings, may unravel, or find him again unjustly detained.
Israel’s a rogue terror state. It can’t be trusted. Its word lacks credibility. It spurns rule of law principles. It imprisons innocent victims like Khader and many others unjustly. If freed, Adnan risks re-arrest. He was wrongfully detained nine times. Is number 10 next?
Monitoring his health, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) said he’s “expected to go through a complex recovery process and will have to undergo a variety of medical procedures, some of them risky.”
PHR-I’s committed to help him struggle to live. His condition remains precarious. He’s now slowly eating three meals daily in small amount portions.
Safed Hospital said:
Remaining cautious is important. “(E)ach day of recovery holds major risks due to the complexity of balancing all of his needs and the potential failure of his heart. He is still suffering from extremely weak muscles, preventing him from being able to walk.”
In an unprecedented decision, potentially affecting other Palestinian prisoners, an Israeli District Court ordered his shackles removed, effective February 23. Judge Avraham Tal’s opinion said:
“In light of the petitioner’s medical condition, shortly after a hunger strike, shackling him to the bed during all hours of the day and night, even only by one limb, is not proportional.”
Tal’s ruling permits shackling Adnan by one limb in the presence of visitors “not authorized by the IPS (Israel Prison Service) or the medical staff that treats him.”
He, PHR-I and the Addameer Prisoner support group fear he’ll be transfered back to prison too soon. Both groups expressed dismay that “no effective change has been made” for hundreds of other administrative detainees.
In fact, during Adnan’s strike, their numbers increased. Hana Ash-Shalabi’s among them. In October 2011, she was the first female detainee released in exchange for Gilad Shalit after being imprisoned without charge for two and half years.
On February 16, she was re-arrested and again administratively detained without charge. Numerous others released like her suffered the same fate. They’ve been hounded, persecuted, and again imprisoned.
She hunger struck in protest. In Ha-Sharon Prison, it’s now ongoing 11 days. Inspired by Adnan, she said she’ll refuse food until released.
Hamas Detainees Minister Atalla Abu As-Sabah said already her health’s deteriorating. Isolation in solitary confinement exacerbates her condition. Shalabi’s elderly parents said they’ll fast in protest against Israel’s abusive treatment.
Her father Yahya said soldiers assaulted Hana and ransacked their home. It’s standard Israeli arrest procedure. It happens virtually multiple times weekly, including for children young as 10, and at times younger.
Addameer highlighted two “currently longest-held administrative detainees.” For Ahmad Saqer, it’s since November 2008. In June 2011, after three and a half years, Ayed Dudeen was released. In August he was re-arrested. He’s still lawlessly held without charge.
So are 24 Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members. As a result, the body can’t convene to conduct parliamentary functions. Israeli state terror prevents it.
A Brief History of Hunger Striking
They protest abusive treatment nonviolently. They’re most effective when publicized. Most take liquids but not solid food. The longer they continue, the greater the health risk. Bodies need sustenance to stay healthy. Too long without it risks death.
Previous strikers died after 52 to 74 days. Starvation deteriorates muscles and vital organs until they entirely break down.
Perhaps Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi was history’s most noted hunger striker. Against Britain’s Raj, he resisted nonviolently, including non-cooperation as a political weapon.
Imprisoned four times in 1922, 1930, 1933 and 1942, he hunger struck in protest. His world stature made Britain loathe to let him die. He used Satyagraha, a philosophy of nonviolent resistance. For Gandhi, it went beyond passivity. He said:
“Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I began to call the Indian movement Satyagrapha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or nonviolence, and gave up the use of the phrase ‘passive resistance,’ in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word ‘satyagraha’ itself or some other equivalent English phase.”
He also stressed patience and said “vindication of truth (comes) not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself.”
Numerous Palestinians also hunger struck in protest. Some didn’t survive. They include Abdel Qader Abu Elfahm (1970), Rasem Abu Elhalawak (1980), Rasem Ali Jaafari (1980), Mamoud Fritkh (1984), and Hussein Nemr Obaidat (1992).
Palestinian hunger strikes began in 1968 in Nablus Prison. Protesting against abusive and humiliating treatment, it lasted three days. Numerous others followed. Some include:
At the time, other incarcerated Palestinians participated supportively. Israeli authorities tried forcing liquids into strikers. Two deaths resulted – Ali Al-Ja’fari and Rasim Halawah.
At the time, the Palestinian prisoners ministry spokesman said:
“Palestinian prisoners in all Israeli jails were the target of an unprecedented terrorizing campaign of repression, isolation, and transfer from one prison to another over the past few weeks.”
“The campaign peaked with the beating of the oldest serving prisoner Nael al-Barghouthi, which prisoners condemned as a violation of all red lines, along with the isolation of many prisoners serving high sentences.”
Many dozens, perhaps hundreds, of individual hunger strikes also occurred. They always protest abusive, negligent, humiliating treatment, including torture, isolation, and denial of medical treatment.
Israeli authorities want them suffering out of sight, mind, and public consciousness. In 2004, former Israeli internal security minister, Tzahi Hanegbi, said:
“They can strike for a day, a month, until death. We will (act) as if it never happened. (F)or all I care, they can (all) starve to death.”
Throughout its history, that mindset’s been Israeli policy. Heroic freedom fighters resist. Many imprisoned hunger strike.
For now, Khader Adnan’s courage aroused worldwide attention. Sustaining it for justice is vital until Palestine’s again free.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.