The most violent form of non-violent resistance: Khader Adnan’s hunger strike

Much of political discussions on resistance remain caught up on the morality or effectiveness of non-violent tactics, violent tactics, inclusion and exclusion, what offends and what reaches out to enemies. But when these discussions happen in abstraction of the needs of particular circumstances, I believe they are almost entirely without value, and serve to do little but feed the egos of those who turn the discussions themselves into the conflict, and thereby create possibilities for positive emotion when they win the argument.

In the actual political arena, which means the complex struggle for public opinion, for force, and for the change and application of edicts, is not occupied by those who stop at theorizing about what’s right but only for those who decide what is right and then do it.

Khader Adnan is a Palestinian prisoner on administrative detention, also known as detention without trial, or internment in the Irish situation. He was kidnapped from his home on December 17th 2011, while I was comfortably at home with my family. He began his hunger strike on the first day of his detention. His detention has been characterized by disrespect and abuse from his captors. The Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights organization has reported that during his interrogation:

Each day, Khader was subjected to two three-hour interrogation sessions. Throughout the interrogation sessions, his hands were tied behind his back on a chair with a crooked back, causing extreme pain to his back. Khader notes that the interrogators would leave him sitting alone in the room for half an hour or more. Khader also suffered from additional ill-treatment. During the second week of interrogation, one interrogator pulled his beard so hard that it caused his hair to rip off. The same interrogator also took dirt from the bottom of his shoe and rubbed it on Khader’s mustache as a means of humiliation.

Now 54 days into the hunger strike, the BBC is reporting that he is in critical condition. Many sources are saying that if nothing is done, he will soon pass away.

A hunger strike fits into the category of “non violent resistance” because it does not target the bodies of the enemy. It is not a use of physical force which might limit the capacity of or induce terror in those who would oppose you. It is not a use of physical force at all – it is will against force,  the use of will to bring one’s own body to a halt a symbolic act of self-sacrifice. It is, however, only non-violent in the most superficial sense of violence, i.e. physical force. A hunger strike is an attempt to do violence not to an individual or a group, but against an idea – against something which holds a social fabric together. The idea that Khader is attacking is the idea of administrative detention – the idea that because Palestinians are terrorists, it’s ok to imprison them without trial. Many people might believe that it is not ok to detention Palestinians without trial, but if you just hear this as a fact you say “oh dear” and move on. Maybe because of this hunger strike, you might do something.

A hunger strike is a means of non-violent resistance that can only be effective if people agree with the cause being struggled for, but find themselves unmotivated to do anything about it. So, if you think prisoner abuse and detainment without trial is wrong, you should do something about it – you should let Khader’s non-violent sacrificing of himself motivate you to stand up against a way of treatment that affects many Palestinian prisoners, not just Khader. You can even support Khader if you are a zionist, so long as you believe in human rights.

To take action, please act as civic individual and

1.Call and demand the release of Khader Adnan, who has not been charged with any crime but instead is being held under Administrative Detention. 

Call the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa (613) 567-6450 OR your local Embassy (for a list, click here).

Call the office of the consulate general of Israel in Toronto (416) 640-8500

Demand that consulate general Amir R. Gissin bring this issue urgently to his counterparts in Israel and raise the question of Khader Adnan’s administrative detention.

2. Organize a protest outside your local Israeli Embassy (for a list, click here).

Post your local actions to the Khader Adnan facebook page here:


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