This story originally appeared in Mondoweiss on May 2, 2023. It is shared here with permission.
On Tuesday morning, the Palestinian hunger striker and political activist, Sheikh Khader Adnan, died inside the Ramleh prison clinic.
Since February 5 of this year, Adnan, 44, has been on hunger strike protesting his imprisonment by Israel, which has been targeting and harassing the Palestinian political figure and advocate for resistance over the past decade. Adnan was the veteran of two previous hunger strikes before his most recent one and was unlawfully imprisoned by the Israeli authorities without charge or trial several times in the past decade.
Adnan’s latest arrest was due to his affiliation with the militant Palestinian resistance group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), whose armed wing, Saraya al-Quds, is part of the umbrella faction of the Jenin Brigade — the armed resistance group operating out of Jenin refugee camp. But beyond the immediate reasons for his imprisonment, the Israeli authorities have constantly harassed Adnan over the years because he has continued to be a well-known proponent of resistance during a period of political atrophy and persisted in advocating for the prisoners’ movement, for the families of martyrs, and opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s collaborationism and security coordination at a time when such figures of political struggle have been scarce. Moreover, after Adnan’s first victory over the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) in 2012 during his first hunger strike, after which he obtained his freedom, he became an icon of Palestinian defiance in the face of injustice.
His third long-lasting hunger strike, Adnan is the first Palestinian hunger striker to die since the 1970s when several Palestinian hunger strikers were killed as a result of being force-fed by the Israeli prison authorities. Adnan is also the 237th Palestinian to be killed inside Israeli prisons since 1967.
Adnan is from Arrabeh, Jenin, and is survived by his wife, Randa Moussa, 41, and their nine children. Mondoweiss interviewed Moussa a week earlier when she had warned that Adnan’s life was in peril due to the cumulative toll that his hunger strike and previous hunger strikes have had on his body and due to the intransigence and medical negligence of the Israeli Prison Services. (IPS)
Intentional medical negligence
According to the IPS, Adnan “was found unconscious in his cell” on the day of his death. The IPS also emphasized that Adnan had been refusing medical treatment, a statement repudiated by his lawyer, who stated that Adnan’s death came as a direct result of intentional Israeli medical negligence.
In an interview with Mondoweiss less than two weeks ago, Adnan’s wife Randa noted that the Israeli prison’s clinic was insufficient for providing the necessary care for a hunger striker and that her husband was being intentionally kept in the clinic for purposes of overriding international law concerning prisoners’ rights, which would allow for the prison’s medical personnel to force-feed Adnan should he fall into a coma.
Despite his deteriorating health, Adnan’s next court hearing was scheduled to take place on May 10, over a week after the day that he died.
On Sunday afternoon, April 30, the Ofer military court refused the appeal put forth by Adnan’s legal team in enforcing a previous court order for releasing Adnan. Due to his deteriorating health, Adnan had been joining his court trials via video. By late Tuesday morning on the day of his death, Israeli authorities moved the hunger striker’s corpse to the Abu Kabir medical facility near Jerusalem.
On Tuesday afternoon, hours after his death, Israeli authorities moved forward to perform an autopsy on the hunger striker’s body, against Adnan’s final will that his body not be cut open and autopsied in the event of his death.
According to statements made to the press by Adnan’s legal team, an appeal was submitted to the Israeli courts to ban the autopsy. Meanwhile, Adnan’s family awaits the ruling of Israeli authorities on whether the family will be able to receive and bury Adnan next to his father’s grave, in accordance with his final wishes.
General strike and final written will
In light of Khader Adnan’s martyrdom, Palestinian cities and towns were closed in the West Bank, while protests were already spreading sporadically, most prominently in Jenin, Adnan’s hometown.
In a statement to the press, Randa Moussa stated that “there will be no funeral wake for the Sheikh, but we will receive those that will congratulate us in celebration of his martyrdom,” echoing the common Palestinian reverence for martyrs — not only for martyrdom’s religious significance but because it is seen as a necessary sacrifice in the fight against colonialism and its injustices.
Palestinian protests and vigils have emphasized the intentional nature of Adnan’s death, describing it as a cold-blooded execution, especially in connection with his previous hunger strikes in 2012 and 2018, which had already caused permanent damage to his body and put him at greater risk of death.
By the early afternoon, Palestinian youth began joining protests near military checkpoints and illegal settlements in the West Bank, protesting Adnan’s killing and abuses against Palestinian detainees.
According to Palestinian legal experts, the killing of Khader Adnan is also part of Israel’s ongoing targeting of Palestinian political detainees, and the most recent policy pushed forward in the Israeli Knesset has called for the death penalty to be applied to Palestinian detainees convicted of “terrorism.”
The Palestinian Higher Emergency Committee for Palestinian Detainees released a statement on the occasion of Adnan’s killing, calling on all Palestinian political factions to rally against the crime, which resulted in Adnan’s slow killing. The statement asserted that Adnan’s death is a reminder of the moral obligation towards Palestinian political detainees.
Adnan left behind a final will that he wrote in April, in anticipation of his death. It reads:
“As my soul approaches martyrdom, it is my duty to write my final will…
Praise be to God that he enabled me to undergo a hunger strike for freedom…
I am writing to you my final words from our beloved Palestinian town of al-Ramleh, as my flesh has dissolved and my bones have wasted away and my strength has failed me. This is my final will to my family, my children, my wife, and my people.
To my wife, I implore you and my children to fear God…and to speak the truth in every time and place…and to know that the greatest Palestinian homes are the houses of martyrs and the injured and the righteous.
I implore my uncles, my relatives, my neighbors…not to leave anyone with a moral or material right over me, for I who loves you am in greatest need of God’s mercy…if I am martyred, do not let the occupier cut up my body, and bury me near my father, and write upon my grave ‘Here lies the impoverished servant of God, Khader Adnan’…and make my grave a simple one and ask of God to forgive me…
To [my wife] Um Abdulrahman, and to my children Maali, Bisan, Abdulrahman, Muhammad, Ali, Hamza, Mariam, Omar, and Zaynab, please forgive me…
To my people, I send you this will with love and greetings, with complete confidence in God’s mercy…this is God’s land, and it is ours, and it contains a promise, the promise of the afterlife. Do not despair, for whatever the occupiers may do, no matter how much they may trespass upon us with their occupation and injustice…God’s victory is near…
My greetings to the families of martyrs and prisoners, my greetings to them and to all revolutionaries and free peoples.
To Um Abdulrahman: I am your loving husband,
To my children: I am your loving father,
To my siblings: I am your loving brother,
To my people: I am your loving son,
Pray for me that He may accept me as his devoted martyr.
Apri 2, 2023”The final will of Khader Adnan