Interview with Addameer’s Mourad Jadallah: hunger strikes reignite prisoner movement
1 March 2012
The group’s ten lawyers visit more than 500 prisoners inside Israeli jails each year. They also represent prisoners held by the Palestinian Authority, representing more than 400 Palestinian prisoners arrested by PA security forces in 2009-10.
Addameer was a key player during the recent campaign to free Khader Adnan, a prisoner in Israeli “administrative detention” (internment without charge or trial) whose 66-day hunger strike ended in February after a deal was struck to release him in April.
Addameer representative Mourad Jadallah was in London this week to speak about the Palestinian prisoners movement at a meeting called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Israeli Apartheid Week organizing committee.
Asa Winstanley: Maybe you could start by telling me about yourself and what you do.
Mourad Jadallah: My name is Mourad Jadallah. I’m a legal researcher working with Addameer, a human rights organization based in Ramallah. Addameer was created in 1991 in Jerusalem and we were forced to move to the West Bank, because we lost our Israeli permission to work in Jerusalem in 1994. It’s part of the soft transfer of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
AW: You’ve been working on the case of Khader Adnan. There’s more than 300 Palestinian “administrative detainees” held by Israel, so why did Khader Adnan gain so much attention?
MJ: He was arrested by Israel many times before this last time, and he was arrested also by the Palestinian Authority. And he got a request from the Israeli intelligence forces to meet with them seven months before his arrest on 17 December and he refused to go. We think Khader Adnan is a special prisoner, because on the second day after his arrest he started a hunger strike.
His hunger strike went on for 66 days, refusing the torture, the ill treatment and also the administrative detention. During this time he refused to talk to the Israeli interrogator, to the Israeli prison director and to the guards. He refused to give any legitimacy to the Israeli prison services and the occupying power and as well to the Israeli military court in Ofer.
AW: So his hunger strike was a rejection of the entire system.
MJ: Exactly … He continued the hunger strike of the Palestinian prisoners in September [which started when Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Ahmad Saadat went on hunger strike]. And he said: I am not doing the first hunger strike, I’m just continuing the Palestinian resistance inside the prisons and I don’t want to give legitimacy to the Israeli occupation and I don’t want my people to be divided. So we shouldn’t leave the PFLP prisoners alone, because what happened after the hunger strike in September and October …
AW: The prisoners deal happened — the deal between Hamas and Israel to release a captured Israeli soldier in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
MJ: Yes … After the hunger strike, [Israel] arrested 150 Palestinians from the PFLP, because they want to punish all the activists who supported the hunger strike. All of them got administrative detention. They are under administrative detention, just because they supported the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike which was between 27 September and 18 October.
AW: Because it’s administrative detention in those cases, there are no charges. But have the Israelis been saying anything about those prisoners? Have they accused them of anything in the media?
MJ: No. They arrest them and the day after, sometimes on the same day, they inform them that you got an administrative detention order, which is on for six months or three months or four months …
You have children under administrative detention, you have women. You have journalists. You have human rights defenders. You have directors of human rights organizations in Palestine who spent many years under administrative detention: Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al-Haq, a human rights organization. He was under administrative detention for a couple of years. Ali Jaradat, a journalist, spent 19 years under administrative detention, on and off. And we have cases where people spent six years continuously under administrative detention.
AW: A deal has now been made between Khader Adnan and Israel for his release in April. Do you think Israel will stick to the deal or will they renege on it?
MJ: In both cases, Khader Adnan won his case. Because he forced the court to say that this administrative detention will be the first one and the last one. Here is where he marked his victory. But there is no guarantee that Khader Adnan will not be the subject of [another] administrative detention after a couple of days from his release. But what is important about Khader Adnan’s case is that he encouraged a lot of people to go on hunger strike against administrative detention. He opened a new school for the Palestinian prisoners. And all the administrative detainees today since Khader Adnan’s hunger strike, they boycott the military court.
AW: So Khader Adnan’s case has reinvigorated the prisoners’ movement, you think?
MJ: Exactly. And this is the second push for the prisoners’ movement. The first one started with the latest hunger strike in September, then you have the exchange on 18 October and then the second phase on 18 December, and you have Khader Adnan’s hunger strike. And today you have Hana al-Shalabi’s hunger strike. All these things happened within less than six months.
AW: I understand that Arrabe, Khader Adnan’s village where he was arrested, is part of Area A under the Oslo agreement, meaning it is theoretically under the control of the Palestinian Authority forces. Did the PA have a role in his arrest?
MJ: His secret file was basically built by the information that the Palestinian security forces provide. And that’s why when we at Addameer prepared his profile after ten days on hunger strike and we sent it to the Palestinian media, they refused to publish it. The Palestinian Authority started to talk about Khader Adnan [only] when he was on his 34th day of hunger strike. I remember with the hunger strike in September, all the youth movements asked [Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud] Abbas to give a speech for the people about the hunger strike, and he refused.
So Khader Adnan, I think he’s very clever. Because everyone, even inside Fatah, they are talking about the peaceful, popular resistance. What do you need more than a hunger strike to support, if you are really interested in popular resistance? Why did the Palestinian media and the Palestinian Authority ignore Khader Adnan and his hunger strike? Because he’s [affiliated with] Islamic Jihad? Or because he’s taking the memory back to the days when the prisoners were leading the national resistance?
He’s a young man — he’s 34 — and he proved that he’s a leader. All the people in the street called him The Leader Khader Adnan. So you have a youth movement in the street, and finally they get a leader. So during the protests and demonstrations to support Khader Adnan, all the youth from all political parties, they were in front of Ofer to support him, because they saw they have identification with this leader, they said: here’s a leader. [PA negotiator] Saeb Eerekat is not a leader for the Palestinians.
AW: Something of an international movement built up around Khader Adnan, with people on Twitter getting it to “trend.” What difference do you think that made in bringing attention to the case?
MJ: We saw that social media has played a very important role during the Arab Spring. I think I can call the Arab Spring the third Palestinian intifada. I think it was normal to see this lobbying for the case of Khader Adnan on social media. We have friends who prepared every day a new poster for Khader Adnan, counting his days [on hunger strike to take to the demonstrations].
During [another] hunger strike in 2000, people were killed, and that was just three to four months before the second intifada, so the Palestinian Authority know this very well and the Israelis know this very well, so they avoid [talking about it]. Now the Palestinian Authority is saying Khader Adnan achieved this deal because we spoke to the Egyptian commanders, and the Egyptian authorities then spoke to the Israeli authorities.
Where have they been since the beginning? This is what we say in Arabic: they have one [person] responsible for the failure, but you have a hundred fathers for the victory.
But we think that this victory belongs to Khader Adnan and the youth who supported him on the street, in Ofer prison and in all the protests.
AW: What is the future for Palestinian prisoners’ resistance?
MJ: I think Khader Adnan [teaches] us a good lesson: that if we support the individuals, they can succeed. So now we will encourage other prisoners to use this network and this is what we want to see with Hana al-Shalabi’s hunger strike.
One thing that Khader Adnan confused the Israelis with is [that] when they put him under administrative detention without charge, they made it easy for everybody around the world to support him, because he’s not part of the political parties; they don’t charge him [with being] part of Islamic Jihad — there’s no charge [so people just said to Israel, try or release him].
AW: That’s an important point, because it brought in a lot of people who would otherwise have nothing to do with it.
MJ: Exactly. This is the weak point of administrative detention. We all know very well that administrative detention is against humanitarian law and the Geneva conventions, et cetera. But we never succeed as human rights defenders to fight against the administrative detention the way that Khader Adnan did.
Asa Winstanley is a London-based investigative journalist who has lived and worked in occupied Palestine. His website is www.winstanleys.org.