The Palestine Chronicle / May 3, 2023
It was at the crack of dawn when, last February, the silence of the night was pierced by the roar of Israeli military vehicles that stormed the town of Arraba, south of Jenin, in the northern occupied West Bank.
When we say Arraba, Sheikh Khader Adnan immediately comes to mind. He is one of the most prominent Palestinian national leaders, known for his prolonged hunger strikes in Israeli prisons, and is the son of Arraba.
Indeed, Adnan was the target. The Israeli soldiers stormed his house and arrested him, denying him the farewell to his nine children, who were locked in a room by the soldiers throughout the arrest.
While he was handcuffed, Adnan immediately told his wife, Randa Musa, that, starting that very moment, he would be on a hunger strike. It wasn’t an unusual response, as this was his typical reaction to being arbitrarily arrested. This was his sixth arrest.
Randa bid her husband farewell as he was led to the Israeli military vehicle. Despite knowing the new burden she would bear in his absence, she did not realize that this would be the last time she would ever see him.
Randa called her acquaintances and the media to tell them about Adnan’s arrest. She confidently and calmly explained the details of how the Israeli soldiers had raided her house. She described the impact of the soldiers’ aggression on her children, the oldest being only 14 years old and the youngest one and a half years old.
The last hunger
Randa told The Palestine Chronicle that she followed her husband’s hunger strike moment by moment. She asked the lawyer to visit him whenever the Israeli Prison Administration allowed him to check on her husband’s health.
Every time the lawyer came back, he had a short message from Khader to his wife: “Take care of yourself, and take good care of the children, don’t worry about me… I am fine”.
“He was not fine at all, he was dying and suffering greatly this time, more than any time before,” the wife added with tears in her eyes.
The family thought that, as usual, Adnan would be detained under administrative detention. This illegal practice was the reason why Khader underwent hunger strikes several times in the past, to protest his detention with no charge or trial.
However, this time around it was different. The Israeli Public Prosecution told Adnan’s lawyer that it was preparing an indictment for him, in the hope that he will end his strike. According to Israeli authorities, the charges were clear, and Adnan would then face over five years in prison.
When Adnan learned of these charges and the harsh sentence, he became even more determined to continue with his hunger strike. He told the lawyer that he would only end the strike if the Israeli prosecution dropped the charges, which were, in his words, fabricated. His family supported him in his decision.
“We were surprised by the nature of the charges. All my husband did was visit the homes of martyrs and prisoners and show solidarity with them through peaceful activities in several Palestinian cities,” Randa added.
Who was Khader Adnan ?
Adnan graduated in 2001 from Birzeit University with a major in Economic Mathematics. He tried to obtain a master’s degree, but he was arrested by Israel and he was prevented from doing so. Due to the Israeli arrests, he could not obtain a job in his field of study, so he was forced to open a small bakery in his hometown of Arraba.
Adnan deeply cared about the families of the Palestinian martyrs and prisoners. He often visited their homes, giving them strength, and always trying to be supportive. These activities displeased the Israeli military administration. Something about Adnan’s leadership and charisma always bothered Israel, which is keen on eliminating real leadership among Palestinians.
Throughout his life, Khader went through six hunger strikes: the first, in 2004, which lasted 25 days, in protest against solitary confinement. Then, he went on a hunger strike four more times to protest the illegal Israeli practice of administrative detention: in 2012, for 66 days; in 2015, for 56 days; in 2018, for 58 days; and again in 2021, for 25 days. In all these cases, Adnan was able to obtain his freedom.
However, Khader’s recent hunger strike, which began after his arrest on February 5, was different.
During this last strike, Adnan’s health rapidly deteriorated, according to his family, which was denied any visitation.
The lawyer, who visited him after obtaining a permit from Israeli authorities, explained that he was in serious condition.
“His health deteriorated because his body was already weakened by the previous strikes. However, the Israeli prison administration must be blamed for deliberate negligence”, Adnan’s wife said.
“They wanted to bring him to a stage of complete exhaustion. On one occasion, he lost consciousness inside his cell, which was full of surveillance cameras. The Israeli guards only tried to save him after thirty minutes”.
Despite her concern for her husband, Randa traveled across the occupied West Bank and took part in various activities in support of her husband.
She also had to think of her nine children and the bakery that Adnan ran in their town. She worked tirelessly in an attempt to help her husband.
At dawn on Tuesday, news began circulating about Adnan’s death following a sudden deterioration of his health. Palestinians were in disbelief, some even in doubt. Adnan’s lawyer, however, soon confirmed the painful news.
The Israeli Prisons Administration said in a statement that the guards found Adnan laying on the ground in his cell. He was then taken to the hospital where they tried to resuscitate him, to no avail.
He eventually died, writing another Palestinian chapter of heroism, defiance, and quest for freedom.
“There are no words… We have always demanded that he be transferred to a civilian hospital so that this moment doesn’t come,” Randa told us.
“However, now that this has happened, we know that Khader is a martyr, no longer a prisoner,” she added.
“May he rest in peace. He has fulfilled one of his wishes, freedom or martyrdom”.
Fayha Shalash is a Ramallah-based Palestinian journalist