Why Israel freed Khader Adnan

Khader Adnan will reportedly be released in April, assuming no new evidence is introduced to uphold the assessment that he is a high-risk threat as a member of Islamic Jihad. He has ended his hunger strike after his lawyers and the High Court of Justice worked out this arrangement.

Adnan’s case, as numerous commentators rightly note, has drawn attention to Israel’s practice of administrative detention. But by promising to release Adnan, the Israeli government headed off what could have been an embarrassing political and legal debacle. The Times gets right to the point:

“In making the deal, Israel averted the possibility of widespread unrest that many expected if the detainee, a 33-year-old member of Islamic Jihad, had died, as medical experts had determined was an imminent danger. More important, it forestalled an emergency hearing at the High Court of Justice that could have set off a broader review of Israeli military courts’ practice of administrative detention, which has been used against thousands of Palestinians over time.”

Of course, even had this hearing occurred, it is unlikely it would have prompted much judicial debate because the High Court has never shown any inclination to challenge the practice. As a New York Review of Books article noted last month:

“To protect Israel’s sources in the territories, Palestinians often could be shown only a “paraphrase” of the charges against them, the judge explains. And what if the security forces made unreliable accusations? “As a rule, I didn’t doubt what they said,” says the judge.

The potential for abuse of the system by both Palestinians and Israelis should be quiet clear: informers could manufacture evidence to land political rivals in Ofer Prison. And the potential for abuse of the system against Palestinian minors should be self-evident – they are not allowed parental or legal counsel while under interrogation. As Glenn Greenwald noted, it is disturbing from a judicial perspective that anyone (Blake Hounshell, specifically) needed to point out that “If Khader Adnan is really a member of Islamic Jihad, he should be charged and tried in court. If he’s committed no crime, release him,” as though this was a radical notion.

The release also, as the Times noted, benefits the present Palestinian leadership. It was hugely embarrassing for the Palestinian Authority that the courtroom and prison hospital Khader went through were within Ramallah’s city limits. Most significantly, Khader and the hunger strikers in solidarity with him represent the third way, if it can be called that*, between the “peace process” and violent resistance, a way of protest and civil disobedience against the Occupation, which are already practiced by both Palestinians and Israelis (and international activists) and are likely to become more visible in the US media as a result of Khader’s actions. 

For now, though, the “facts on the ground,” and the Israeli narrative, have not changed, but they have had light shone on them. Mitchell Plitnick, on what he hopes will be the next step now that the system has caught the world’s attention:

“I only wish that the eyes of the world had enough scope to focus not only on his effort, but also on this abhorrent practice that is a stain on the admittedly tattered honor of not only Israel, but also the United States.”

—–

*As Mariav Zonszein notes, it’s not clear whether Khader, as an Islamic Jihad affiliate, would himself see this form of nonviolent protest as a means of opposing the Occupation in general. Hopefully, he and his fellows will come to see its broader applicability since it is an assertion of their individual and collective dignity, as well as a direct challenge to the Occupation.

About Paul Mutter

Paul Mutter is a contributor to Mondoweiss, Foreign Policy in Focus and the Arabist.
Posted in Activism, Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government, Occupation, One state/Two states

{ 10 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. EdithLake says:

    The title ought to be changed; Israel did not “free” Khader Adnan. Israel “released” Khader Adnan. There is an enormous difference.

    • Henry Norr says:

      I agree with EdithLake that the title of this piece should be changed, but not to “released,” because the Israelis haven’t “released” him any more than they have “freed” him. All they’ve done is to state that they don’t intend to extend his administrative detention when his current term expires on April 17 – unless they come up with new evidence against him.

      In other words, even in the best of cases, he faces almost two more months in prison, probably with even more than the usual abuse because of his courage and notoriety – even though he very likely did nothing whatsoever even by Israeli standards. (If they actually had anything on him but found themselves unable to extend the administrative detention, surely they would put him on trial, not promise even conditionally to let him loose in April.)

  2. Khader Adnan, an innocent man according to the Israeli military court (which finds 99.74% of Palestinians “guilty”), will be held in Israeli prison for 5 months.

    Michael Plitnick hits the nail on the head. This abhorrent practice is now routine for Israel and the United States, among other countries which find it politically expedient in their repression of alternative political perspectives.

  3. chris o says:

    I thought it was interesting that the NY Times (Isabel Kershner) published a rather sympathetic piece on Adnan’s plight on Monday. Then on Tuesday, Israel relents. Coincidence?

  4. Am I the only one who thinks all under ad detention should now commence with a massive hunger strike? In fact, all political prisoners as well? I would say *all* prisoners, but that could muddy the water, and blunt the press (plus Israel will not budge on those “convicted”).

  5. benedict says:

    Talking about human rights I think it will be most illuminating to hear the Islamic jihad’s perspective on human rights in general. Assuming that that IJ will achieve its ultimate political goals, what kind of society is it planning to create?

    What is the IJ position regarding non-Muslims, terrorism, woman’s rights, religious law versus liberal values, abortion, marriage, freedom of speech (for instance, in a IJ dominated society will I be allowed to criticize Mohammad or aspects of Muslim religion?).

    If we take the IJ seriously as a political force I think these are important questions that should be explored. I admire adnans personal courage but being that he is essentially a political figure I think his political position should be placed under scrutiny.

    • Shmuel says:

      By all means, discuss the goals of IJ and Adnan’s personal, political views. You might also want to address the sources of the movement’s popularity, and extend your speculation about the future to the ways in which it might change (or disappear altogether) under different circumstances.

      None of this however, has anything to do with the individual rights of Palestinians – to be charged with a crime or freed, not to be tortured, to know what they are being charged with and to defend themselves against those charges, etc.

      There was an article in Haaretz yesterday (by Avi Issacharof) on the “hypocritical” use of non-violence by Palestinians, and Adnan’s own (admittedly indirect) relationship to violence. What the author somehow forgot to mention were the violent and illegitimate tools employed by Israel – first and foremost the administrative detention that precipitated Adnan’s hunger strike.

      • GalenSword says:

        Despite Zionist propaganda the Ottoman tanzimat period shows that it is certainly possible to develop a framework for concepts of human rights from within Islam just as it is possible to do so within Christianity.

        A full discussion of Islamic approaches to human rights would clear up many misconceptions and show the total disconnect of Zionist Islamophobic incitement from reality.

        Likewise, we should discuss the Zionist position on the rights of non-Jews, for Zionism presupposes that the mythological historical and national rights of Eastern European ethnic Ashkenazim to Palestine trumps the human and democratic rights of the native non-Jewish population.

        It is hard to imagine an ideological position that is more racist toward non-Jews or more oblivious of their human and democratic rights.

        • gamal says:

          “I admire adnans personal courage but being that he is essentially a political figure I think his political position should be placed under scrutiny.”

          sure but he is not the only one whose positions need examining, are you really impressed by “western” liberal values, and being that Adnan is primarily a victim of unconscionable oppression he is only incidentally a “political figure” for example does Jacob Zuma’s clearly expressed sexism obviate his right to equality before the law with his white co-nationals, some of whom may indeed espouse anti-sexist views.

          “Why human rights are wrong
          Human rights conflict with the principle of moral autonomy, and form an excuse for oppression. Any harm to others can be justified by claiming that it is intended to respect certain ‘rights’, even if the victim does not know of their existence. Revised June 2004.

          A Serbian or Iraqi child who is shot to enforce human rights, suffers just as much pain, as an American or British child. Yet the US and British governments do not kill or injure their own citizens, to protect their human rights. That fate is reserved for Eastern Europeans, Arabs, Africans, and Asians. The western human rights lobby claims, that it is wrong to deny people human rights. They claim opposition to human rights is based on ‘ethical relativism’, and that their own ‘moral universalism’ is superior. Yet they would not bomb their own cities like they bombed Belgrade or Falluja or remote Afghan villages. Clearly, the ‘moral universalism’ of the human rights lobby is itself relative: it is turned on and off to conform to geopolitical interests. It was never much more than a propaganda slogan anyway.

          Increasingly, the doctrine of human rights is itself a cause of suffering, oppression and injustice. Increasingly, the argument that superpowers have a ‘moral duty’ to enforce human rights, is used in the same way as the doctrine of the ‘civilising mission’ once was used to justify colonialism. Since this was first written, it appears that the civilising mission – or at least crusades in defence of western civilisation – are not quite dead yet. American reactions to the attacks of 11 September 2001 have re-emphasised the so-called “Clash of Civilizations”. In that vision of history and geopolitics, democracy, freedom, and human rights are seen as universally valid, and yet historically specific to western civilisation. They are seen as a gift, which the West must bring to the rest of the world, or at least defend against the rest of the world. The position presented below is a rejection of human rights, without any appeal to cultural relativism or ethical relativism.
          Human rights, sovereignty and military intervention
          Universal human rights and sovereignty are two separate issues. It is possible to believe in universal human rights, but also in national sovereignty. In fact, until recently, this was the standard view among foreign policy elites.”

          link to web.inter.nl.net

          might i recommend.

          Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law) [Paperback]

          link to amazon.co.uk

  6. Talkback says:

    “To protect Israel’s sources in the territories, Palestinians often could be shown only a “paraphrase” of the charges against them, the judge explains. And what if the security forces made unreliable accusations? “As a rule, I didn’t doubt what they said,” says the judge.”

    In dubio pro accusatio. Last time I read about this middle age practice, the side which was of lower blood had to prove it’s case.