Why Israel freed Khader Adnan

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
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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.”

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*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.

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