Khader Adnan and Theodore Herzl

Israel/Palestine
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adnanherzl
Khader Adnan and Theodore Herzl

“A lot of the hair on his face and head has fallen off,” The Aljazera article quoted Randa, Khader Adnan’s wife, as saying.

I had been alarmed by the evidence of Khader’s deteriorating health because of his hunger strike, now approaching the two-month mark. He is protesting his arrest by the Israeli occupation authorities with no trial or specific charges and of the attendant humiliation. He has declared his readiness to sacrifice his life in defense of dignity, his personal dignity and that of Palestinians under occupation in general. After all, fully one fourth of all Palestinians under occupation have experienced incarceration by Israel’s armed forces. In fact Palestinians everywhere have proclaimed Khader as their representative in the face of injustice. I have signed letters initiated by Physicians for Human Rights, a group I am proud to have participated in founding in Israel, asking for his immediate release on humanitarian and medical grounds. And I have read the few reports from Khader’s few visitors. Had I been back home, I would have agitated to visit him as a physician on behalf of one concerned group or another. But at my current location in New York I have to be satisfied with what I can glean about his health from second hand sources.

Something about the statement from Khader’s wife interested me beyond my real concern for his life. I knew that the loss of hair was a sign of advanced malnutrition. And I knew that starving for over fifty days is staring death in the face. But the man’s exceptional valor was not the only source of my intrigue at this point. There was something I saw the previous day that struck a deep note in my soul. I scrolled back in my email list and found the link to the article by “the great Amira Hass” as my source had written. Here it is, and I want you to take a look.

“Khader Adnan has already broken a Palestinian record for the longest solo hunger strike,” she wrote. But I had known that already without going back to the article. I studied it in detail without discovering my source of enchantment with it. I leaned back in my chair and looked at the screen from a distance in total disappointment. Suddenly it leaped at me: By God, Khader in this cropped picture has an uncanny resemblance to the young Theodore Herzl! Somehow I had managed to suppress the thought on the first round and needed to search deep in my subconscious for it. Not only would both parties scoff at the thought in contempt and be mad at me, I imagined. But also I had not envisioned Herzl as a human being before. He has always been the image behind a specific polity and way of thinking, representing an attitude and a worldview that negates my very existence. Instead of a face, the name evokes such forceful but foreboding images as Mephisto, the Greek Apollyon or the Islamic Azrael to name a few. Or the Archangel Gabriel if you are a Zionist.

About Hatim Kanaaneh

Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh is a Palestinian doctor who has worked for over 35 years to bring medical care to Palestinians in Galilee, against a culture of anti-Arab discrimination. He is the author of the book A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel. His collection of short stories entitled "Chief Complaint" will be published in the spring of 2015.

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4 Responses

  1. john h
    February 13, 2012, 7:33 pm

    Could anything be a more stark reminder of the chilling legacy of Zionism than this?

    I had not envisioned Herzl as a human being before. He has always been the image behind a specific polity and way of thinking, representing an attitude and a worldview that negates my very existence. Instead of a face, the name evokes such forceful but foreboding images…

    And still so many in the West have no idea about Palestine and Zionist Israel. Liberal Zionists think of Herzl’s Zionism as so benign compared to today’s Zionism.

  2. kalithea
    February 14, 2012, 2:08 am

    Allow me to hypothesize on the meaning in the resemblance of Khader Adnan and Theordore Herzl.

    Perhaps Herzl’s spirit inhabits Adnan; and Herzl from his other-worldliness is warning all Jews through Adnan but Zionists could care less. Perhaps, God, in his infinite wisdom, had Herzl reincarnated through Khader Adnan and ironically the reincarnated Herzl is being prematurely killed by Zionism, his own creation. If only God could cry out and stop this. But alas, he just gives us a sign: maybe, their resemblance is the truth that none, but the very few, can see.

    If Herzl gave birth to the monstrosity that is Zionism today then I hope the suffering of Adnan represents the death of it. Herzl had 3 children and 1 grandchild and all of their lives and thus his lineage ended tragically. If ever there was an omen; that would be it. Herzl’s only surviving creation, Zionism, will end tragically as well.

    • wondering jew
      February 15, 2012, 6:50 pm

      kalithea- “Herzl had 3 children and 1 grandchild and all of their lives and thus his lineage ended tragically. If ever there was an omen; that would be it.”

      A short visit to wikipedia reveals that one daughter died of an overdose, the son of a suicide and the third daughter at the hands of the Nazis. I suppose that one might take the drug overdose and suicide as omens, but the death of the daughter by the Nazis, this is an omen? That is twisted.

      I acknowledge that to Palestinians, Zionism is a monstrosity. I further acknowledge that all individuals can choose who to root for: the Jewish Zionists or the Palestinians and obviously you have chosen (or it has chosen you) the cause of the Palestinians.

      I suppose the best place to start for me is the fact that I attribute to Zionism the survival of my grandfather’s four siblings, who emigrated from Poland to Palestine in the 30’s. All the logicians on this site have pointed out to me that their survival was due to the roll of the dice and the soldiering of the Allied forces in North Africa rather than to Theodor Herzl and Zionism. Their logic does not sway me. Theodor Herzl and Zionism saved the lives of my grandfather’s siblings. Others can view it how they will, but that is how I view it.

      So while I accept that to Palestinians Zionism was/is a monstrosity, to my family it was a life saver.

      I think that those who ignore this point of view in imagining the future will be stunted by their refusal to see this through the eyes of the “other”.

  3. wondering jew
    February 14, 2012, 5:43 pm

    Anyone with an eye for Jewish faces who has walked the Palestinian sections of Jerusalem knows that there are many Jewish faces among the Palestinians. So seeing a resemblance between dark bearded intense Herzl and bearded intense Adnan is not really such a leap. As far as the truth that such a similarity foretells us of the future course of Zionism, I will leave that to the antiZionists to speculate upon.

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