A Man on Hunger Strike for 64 Days Yet the World Stays Silent

Posted on February 19, 2012


At the time of writing, Khader Adnan, a Palestinian baker from the West Bank village of Arabeh, near Jenin has been on hunger strike for 64 days in protest to him being detained without trial, charge, evidence levelled against him or questioning.

He was taken from his home by force by Israeli troops in front of his wife and children. Initially taken in at the Ofer Military Detention to the west of Ramallah, he is now at an Israeli hospital under surveillance where his body has deteriorated dramatically. Adnan is said to have lost much of his hair, according to Wikipedia, from a medical perspective, after three days, the body when without food is still using energy from glucose. Hunger strikers usually pass away between 52 and 74 days of fasting.

A member of separatist movement Islamic Jihad, seen as a terrorist organisation by the West, it’s obvious to see why the IDF would take him in, that would bring justification to an action they view as preventing terrorism. The Israeli army has said in a statement he was arrested “for activities that threaten regional security”, when the reality is that it is a collective punishment of the Palestinian people at large, just for being on the land of their forefathers occupied by colonialists.

And yet, the world turns the other cheek to the non-violent resistance. Or rather, the world doesn’t know a thing about it. Very little is trickled from the mainstream press and news agencies regarding the plight of Adnan, other Palestinian prisoners or the day-to-day humiliations of a ruthless occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The stories that do reach the public consciousness are but a pebble drop in the ocean in comparison to the large list of atrocities that Israel commits willingly. So why is it that when Mahatma Ghandi for instance in the four times he was imprisoned to protest the rule of the British in India, and became a hunger striker, he symbolised what it is to be a pacifist, a peaceful protester.

Is it that a Palestinian life is of lesser value than that of a first world citizen? Take Gilad Shalit, a solider involved in the massacring and bloodshed of Gaza in 2009 captured by Hamas. He was released in fairly good health after being hostage for a period of time, albeit admittedly for several years. Then again, there was a reason for his capture from the Arab side when white phosphorous shells are being rained down by the enemy. Even Hamas, compared to the Israeli army are made to look like good Samaritans. But Shalit is synonymous of a glaring double standard set by the State of Israel where a cry of ‘wolf’ gets worldwide attention and a surge of public sympathy in their favour. Even adverts have been spotted on the side of London taxis for the sake of sympathy. But such is their reach that they are able to influence and shape public opinion towards their own agenda and interests.

What does this do for the bigger picture for the Palestinian people as a whole? If truth be told, not a huge deal on ground level in the short term. If a bus crash in Ramallah that kills 9 children and injures many others gets ignored, what hope of a single hunger striker. Though Adnan’s cause has not been entirely been in vain as other detainees have taken up a hunger strike, how will it help with the political discourse in the search of justice for the Palestinians imprisoned without a fair trial or charge? There’s now word of 300 other locked up detainees taking up a hunger strike, plus with Twitter users fighting for the cause of Palestinians, awareness is but a click or trend search away. There are definitely tremors underneath but not much felt on the surface as of yet. But even for a full scale story to break out of this, it has to get to a point where everyone cannot tolerate or ignore this any longer. George Galloway mentioned that Gaza was Israel’s Soweto moment where in the struggle against Apartheid, it was a huge turning point in South Africa where there were mass riots when the government made a policy to enforce education in Afrikaans over English, leading to police opening fire on students against the struggle.

But it is a catch 22 situation in that peaceful protest has achieved little, but violent uprising leads to heavier military backlash. The most vicious of circles in how to solve a problem like the Holy Land for the last 64 years. And it’s not going to end any time soon. No matter how many Geneva conventions, war crimes, UN resolutions or international laws that Israel vigorously flouts against, the ambivalent view of most of the world are looking at a red herring. Namely Iran.

Many people claim that they care about human suffering and justice for the oppressed, that they’re happy that the Arabs are fighting for their democracy against corrupt, unjust rulers, but irk at the mention of Israel and Palestine as though they don’t know who to root for. What price then for the freedom of the long suffering people of Palestine? A decade ago, the more extreme view would have been a bomb strapped to one’s chest and taking no prisoners.

Non-violent resistance would appear to be de rigour for 2012. But what they share in common is the philosophy that according to Malcolm X “The price of freedom is death.” A price that for Khader Adnan looks perilously imminent.

Posted in: Middle East