Rebecca Burns is an In These Times contributing editor and award-winning investigative reporter. Her work has appeared in Bloomberg, the Chicago Reader, ProPublica, The Intercept, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter @rejburns.
Palestinian detainee Khader Adnan agreed today to end his 66-day hunger strike after his lawyers reached a deal with the state over his detainment status.Adnan was arrested last December, but he has not been charged with any crimes, and his lawyers have not been allowed to see any of the evidence that the state allegedly has against him. The 33 year-old baker serves as a spokesperson for the militant group Islamic Jihad, and on January 8 a military judge dispensed a four-month administrative detention order, which can be renewed indefinitely without charges being brought against the detainee. The state has now agreed not to renew Adnan’s administrative detention, which ends April 17, if no new evidence is presented. This announcement comes on the heels of a surprising amount of attention to Adnan’s protest in the mainstream media. His hunger strike has been the longest in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and successfully focused attention on the draconian military justice system to which Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have been subjected since 1967.In an unusually effective interview yesterday on CNN International, reporter Hala Gorani tries several times to get Israeli spokesperson Mark Regev to explain why Adnan hasn’t been charged, firing back at Regev’s flippant insistence that “he’s no boy scout.”
Of course, most of this coverage came only as Adnan neared death. As Adnan passed the 55th day of his hunger strike and international humanitarian organizations warned that his life was in serious jeopardy, a group of Palestinians began calling into Al Jazeera English’s Jerusalem bureau to ask why they had yet to cover the story. According to an account on the Electronic Intifada, one caller was told that “there are other important stories we’re covering,” and then, in response to the caller’s insistence that he was dying, “there are people dying everywhere.”The other irony about the timing of the Khader story finally breaking, as Glenn Greenwald noted in his column yesterday, is that it coincides with the annual release of the U.S. State Department’s country reports on human rights practices. Predictably, as Greenwald notes, the report for China denounces the use of administrative detention and the “lack of due process” attendant to it. Last year’s report for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, by contrast, paints administrative detention as an affair that’s unfortunate but still largely on the up-and-up: the document notes that administrative detainees were permitted legal representation within seven days of detention and that the Israeli state had provided free legal representation where necessary (both largely irrelevant when legal representatives are denied the evidence used to detain their clients). Though the report acknowledges that “several NGOs claimed that Israel continued to overuse the administrative detention,” it describes the practice as “an exception when intelligence sources could not be presented as evidence in regular criminal proceedings.”On the long silence on Khader’s case, Greenwald concludes that it is the“objections to [practices like administrative detention], rather than the practices themselves, that are considered fringe and radical. That’s because tyrannical practices, when acquiesced to for a long enough time, become norms, and only radicals, by definition, object to those.”