Who was the Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan who died in Israeli prison?

3 May

People gather to demonstrate in front of the Red Cross (ICRC) building in Gaza City, Gaza while they hold the poster of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan who died after an 87 day hunger strike at an Israeli prison, on May 02, 2023. Photo by Anadolu Images.

By YOUSEF M. ALJAMAL, Politics Today, 3 May 2023

On May 2, 2023, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) announced the death of iconic Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan in his cell following 87 days of hunger strike. Adnan’s health started to deteriorate in the past few days and his family was not able to communicate with him via video conference as they had done in the past at court due to what many believed a serious deterioration of his health. His family and lawyer were also not able to visit him for the past few days.

This was not the first time Adnan went on hunger strike: he was well-known on the Palestinian streets for his previous prolonged hunger strikes to protest his administrative detention without charge or trial in Israel jails.

Adnan was 44 years old and married to Randa Adnan. He was the father of nine children who live in the town of Arraba in the West Bank, southwest of Jenin. Israel arrested Adnan 12 times in total; he spent eight years in prison and went on six hunger strikes.

Read: “I Kept Three Copies of My Novels Lest They Get Confiscated”: An Interview with Freed Palestinian Prisoner Esmat Mansour

Multiple hunger strikes

In 2004, he went on a hunger strike for 25 days; in 2012, he went on a hunger strike for 66 days; in 2015. he went on a hunger strike for 56 days; in 2018, he went on a hunger strike for 58 days; and on May 2, he lost his life following 87 days of hunger strike. Due to multiple hunger strikes, he suffered from long-term health implications in his kidney, lungs, and throat.

In A Shared Struggle: Stories of Palestinian and Irish Hunger Strikers, published by An Fhuiseog in Belfast in 2021, Adnan’s story is featured along with 23 other Palestinian and Irish hunger strikers. While working on the book, I had a brief phone call with Adnan. I remember his voice was very weak and he was barely able to talk due to his illness and the damage his vocal cords suffered from past hunger strikes.

He shared with me that he works as a baker and that he does not subscribe to Palestinian factionalism. His discourse tended to be focused on Palestinian unity and nationalism, and one could find him at different political and social events across the West Bank.

In the book, he spoke of how he inspired a generation of young Palestinians to stage hunger strikes to win their freedom, “I came to the idea of how I could break the chains and destroy the arrogance of the jailer by declaring that I would go on hunger strike, alone.” He added, “Time for me was unlimited, everyday passed like a year, each day became heavier than the day before. Mentally, it was not easy at all. However, I was determined to teach the occupiers a lesson in dignity and defiance. They, the occupiers, spared no means to weaken me. I will never forget their insults. I was usually showered by the jailers. I will never forget how they moved my weak, faint, and emaciated body from one position to another; even my organs collapsed. They tried to kill me by neglecting me medically.”

Read: A Shared Struggle: How A Book Brought Palestinian and Irish Hunger Strikers Together

No revenge

Speaking at a press conference after his death, his wife said that there is no point to “take his revenge now, after people failed to show solidarity with him,” when he was left to go on a hunger strike alone. She added, “We don’t need to have rockets fired and blood spilled now.” Adnan concluded by asking people to “remember the faces of her children” who she said will follow the same path as their father.

Following a previous hunger strike, Randa Adnan had stated, “Khader does not need someone to carry his coffin today; if he loses his life, then let people enjoy a life without a dignity, in which a brother abandons his brother.”

Following his death, Palestinians announced a general strike in Jenin, Adnan’s hometown. Protesters took to the streets in Gaza, Ramallah, and Nablus to express solidarity as every Palestinian household had become familiar with the name of Khader Adnan in the past few years.

Randa Adnan noted that Israeli jailers “left him without help until his flesh blended with his bones,” referring to his medical condition and loss of weight following 87 days of hunger strike.

Blackout about the conditions leading to Adnan’s death

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir gave orders to the IPS to crush any attempt by Palestinian prisoners to protest Adnan’s death. Although his death is likely to lead to more unrest in the Palestinian Territories, Adnan was left to die and it is suspected that he lost his life as he was forced-fed by his jailers, according to Majed Al-Najjar, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners Club in Ramallah.

As of yet, it is uncertain exactly how Adnan lost his life; however, his death brings to mind the death of three Palestinian hunger strikers on July 14, 1980, after they were force-fed by Israeli jailers while on hunger strike.

The Palestinian Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees called for “forming an international investigation committee to look into the conditions that led to Adnan’s death,” noting that Israel’s prevention of Adnan’s family and lawyer from visiting him in the past days was an introduction to his death.

Similar to his past hunger strikes which won him his freedom, this time too Adnan will win his freedom, but in a coffin – that is assuming that Israel, which holds the bodies of dozens of Palestinian prisoners who lost their life in jails, will release his body. It is certain that his death will cause more tensions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as Adnan was an iconic figure, taking the region once more time into unchartered waters.

Israel, especially under its current government, fails to understand the symbolism of Palestinian political prisoners for Palestinian society. This is why it seems to be unaware of the implications of leaving a Palestinian hunger striker to die.


Yousef M. Aljamal is a researcher in Middle Eastern Studies and the author and translator of a number of books. He is a co-author of A Shared Struggle: Stories of Palestinian and Irish Hunger Strikers published by An Fhuiseog (July 2021). Kia Ora Gaza and Palestine Solidarity Network NZ hosted a speaking tour of Aotearoa with Yousef in 2013.

Link to the original post: https://politicstoday.org/palestinian-hunger-striker-khader-adnan-dies-in-israeli-prison/

One Response to “Who was the Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan who died in Israeli prison?”

  1. Elizabeth JonesAo May 3, 2023 at 11:05 am #

    I cannot fathom how many “human” beings can do this to an innocent man who has done them no wrong. To see him day in, day out, seeing his pain, his family’s pain, and STILL, after all that time, just watch him starve to death!! “They” have no human feelings! RIP brave Palestinian Warrior

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