In the early hours of 2 May, 2023, Khader Adnan, after 86 days on hunger strike, finally succumbed to the terrible torture on his body, and passed away, kept from his family and any humanitarian care or assistance, in isolation in an Israeli jail. Although 237 Palestinian prisoners have died In Israeli custody since 1967, he was the first Palestinian to die on hunger strike in 40 years.
There has been an outpouring of grief and anger throughout Palestine, with protests held in countless towns, cities and villages including in Ramallah, Jenin, Hebron, Gaza and in his home village of Arrabeh, South of Jenin. General strikes have been called and resistance groups in Gaza fired rockets into Southern Israel in protest.
He has been hailed as a hero throughout Palestine and around the world with tributes pouring in from human rights groups, political and prisoners organisations.
It is clear that his murder was intentional and premeditated; Israel could and would not allow this inspirational figure to live, to continue as a leader of Palestinian resistance. A drive-past shooting in Nablus last year targetted him in an assassination attempt which Adnan claimed to be by the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli state and the Palestinian Authority feared this man who was rock steady in his convictions, in his belief in the fight for freedom for his people and the inspiration that he lit in those around him.
His death is widely being described as an assassination and cold-blooded execution amongst Palestinian commentators. As a representative of Islamic Jihad put it before his death, “Israel is fully responsible for the life of Khader Adnan.” Israel chose murder.
Khader is survived by his wife, Randa Moussa and his nine children who have stood by his side throughout his years of persecution and stood at the head of demonstrations following his death.
A life of Resistance
Adnan was born in March 1978 and was 45 years when he died. He had already spent eight years in Israeli jails over more than two decades, most of them in administrative detention, and had been arrested 12 times by the occupation forces including by the Palestinian Authority practising security co-ordination with their masters.
Adnan was also no stranger to the brutal torture by Israeli jailers, being held in interrogation for 18 days in 2011, and experiencing periods in solitary confinement. He had suffered many heavy beatings over his years of arrest and detention and his body bore the scars.
Adnan was said to have become a political supporter of PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) during his student days at Birzeit University and was first arrested and held for four months in 1999. He was arrested again eight months later for leading a student demonstration against the visiting French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. (Adnan held a BA in Maths and Economics, and later a Masters in Economics)
Khader Adnan became one of the most “prominent symbols of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and ongoing resistance after winning his liberation from administrative detention four times through hunger strikes,” in 2012, 2015,2018 and 2021. These hunger strikes, one lasting 66 days, took a significant toll on his body and health, but nevertheless, on being detained on 5 March this year, he immediately embarked on another hunger strike. He was later charged with being a member of PIJ and incitement, (i,e, making political speeches.)
Through its military judicial system and prison administration, Israel continually ignored calls for transfer to civilian hospital or for him to be released on bail. Court hearings were postponed for medical reports and even during the week prior to his death, the military court again postponed a hearing for more medical information; a cold calculated murder.
This murder presages the declaration of intent, called for by Israeli National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, to introduce the death penalty for prisoners convicted of “terrorism”. PIJ leader Ahmed Mudallal said “It’s as if Ben-Gvir’s law has already passed and has begun through medical neglect”
Adnan as Internationalist
Khader Adnan understood well the enemy he faced and how interconnected the Palestinian struggle for liberation was with other struggles for justice across the world. He drew parallels with the Irish struggle against British colonialism, sending solidarity messages to the families of previously martyred Irish hunger strikers, as Irish Republicans supported his.
The Bobby Sands Trust (Ireland) sent a message of condolence quoting Terence McSwiney: “It is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most who will conquer in the end”. Adnan also sent messages of solidarity to prisoners in the US, protesting their isolation and inhuman conditions, saying “the policy of isolation exposes the ugly face of these false democracies that are guilty of occupation, tyranny and social repression.”
He made common cause with the poor and oppressed across the world, and recognised their struggles as his.
Khader Adnan’s family
Randa Adnan has been vocal and active in her support for her husband. He already had two daughters when he was arrested for the sixth time in 2011. His wife and children have had to endure lengthy separations from their husband and father and live with the stress, uncertainty and fear of losing him time and again.
Their steadfastness has been legend. The family as a whole have championed the prisoners’ struggle and were always seen on vigils and protests for prisoners rights or in support of hunger strikers along with their father when he was free.
His wife worked tirelessly to support Adnan, issuing statements, campaigning for his release and supporting his resistance every step of the way. “My husband Khader Adnan represents the message of a nation and wages this struggle on behalf of his people. He does not like hunger or death but refuses a life of humiliation and fights for freedom and dignity.”
The Struggle Continues
Contrary to the wishes expressed in Khader Adnan's will, which he made in April, Israeli Authorities have removed his body for autopsy to an Israeli forensic facility. No doubt this is another attempt to punish his family and supporters and to target and undermine the symbolism and inspiration that is widespread in his community and all over Palestine.
This, of course, will fail.
Whilst Israel will become ever more repressive and brutal in its methods of putting down the legitimate struggle and aspirations of the Palestinian people, so will resistance continue and grow.
The importance of the Prison struggle cannot be overstated, and Khader Adnan has personified that struggle. He stands as an example of lifelong resistance and unwavering courage. Through his actions both inside and outside prison, he will have shown the way to countless new generations of revolutionaries and activists.
We, in Britain, must raise and amplify the voices of Khader Adnan and his comrades, and help to ensure they are heard. They must not be left to be picked off one by one by a brutal Apartheid State. Palestinians are resisting with all their might. We have a duty to support their struggle with redoubled vigour and genuine solidarity.
SPSC salutes Khader Adnan and all fallen Palestinian martyrs, victims of an Apartheid State, backed and sponsored to the hilt by our own government in the UK. We send sincerest condolences to his wife Randa Moussa Adnan and their nine children, Ma’ale, Hamza, Muhammad, Ali, Abedirahman, Omar, Zeinab, Maryam and Bisan. As the world lost a hero and an icon, they lost a loving husband and father.
Rest in Power, Khader Adnan
5 May, 2023