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Publication: Middle East
Author: Lancaster, Pat
Date published: March 1, 2012

SLOWLY, VERY SLOWLY, THE WORLD turned its head to focus attention on the plight of Khader Adnan, a 34-year-old baker from a village outside Jenin in the Israeli Occupied West Bank. Adnan was summarily arrested by Israeli forces towards the end of last year; he was guilty of no wrongdoing although, it is said, he once served as a spokesman for the militant group Islamic Jihad.

Thrown into prison in Israel on 17 December, Adnan refused to eat and continued to do so for 66 days until a deal was struck with the Israeli authorities on 20 February, to secure his release in mid-April.

His hunger strike was intended to act as a potent reminder to the international community of the draconian laws Israel continues to impose upon Palestinians and, over the course of the last 30 days or so, interest in Adnan's ordeal successfully achieved those ends, although not sufficiently to rattle the powers in Tel Aviv overmuch. And it was not until Adnan's life hung by a thread that the world s media began to take notice which, predictably, stirred the Israelis into action. Now, the international press shakes its great sage head and despairs - for a short time - over how, under laws dating back to the British Mandate, Israeli military tribunals can order the incarceration of prisoners for up to six months without charge, and then for a further six months if a hearing approves it. Suddenly, nobody knows anything about the hundreds of Palestinians who languish in Israeli prisons for months, and years, without any charge being brought against them.

Clearly fearing Adnan's death, the Israeli authorities brought his 'trial' forward by two days and struck the deal for his release in April. For Adnan to use his health and his life to make the point about Israel's continued abuse of power was a courageous act and there is no doubt that, if even for a short time, it did heighten public awareness. The sad fact remains that until presented with the spectacle of a man's life hanging so publicly in the balance, the international community simply refuses to see what is - and has always been - right under its nose.

Pat Lancaster

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