Palestinian political prisoner Khader Adnan ended his 65-day hunger strike in an Israeli prison last night, after Israeli authorities made a deal that he would be released in April at the end of his current term. There are a few conditions that might allow breaking the deal, such as if any new evidence against him is unearthed. One learns never fully to trust that outcomes will occur as promised. Nevertheless, this is a tremendously hopeful moment for Adnan and all Palestinian prisoners.
It is a victory on behalf of prisoners' rights and against the Occupation. My guess is that the Israeli Defense Force knew that, in Thursday's previously scheduled hearing, the Israeli Supreme Court would likely set the victim free, possibly on the spot. So, tactical retreat was the better part of valor and common sense, in order to avoid a far more embarrassing strategic defeat. The Army may also have feared an even more devastating ruling, which might've undermined the entire apparatus of administrative detention. Though it's unlikely the Supreme Court, which is normally extremely deferential on security matters, would've gone that far. In this case, the court proved it had a useful purpose in the system. Merely having the threat of judicial review hanging over its head made the otherwise immovable security system move, albeit incrementally.
Adnan has spent half his life in Israeli prisons, much of that time without having charges brought or a conviction. In this case, he was charged with acts which "unsettled regional order," a suitably vague notion. No evidence was ever offered or presented. He was never tried or convicted. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of similarly imprisoned Palestinians. It is much easier for Israel to administer its counterterror system in this fashion than to adhere to conventional norms of charging and trying suspects in a timely fashion. Those suspects who are charged and tried normally get to see little, if any, of the evidence against them. Because guilty verdicts are almost guaranteed, Palestinians routinely agree to plea bargains which offer them a somewhat reduced sentence than if they went to trial and were found guilty. This is what happened in the cases of Israeli Palestinian Ameer Makhoul and Israeli Jew Anat Kamm. This is Israel and justice, Israel-style.
Israeli government spokespeople are using the "Gitmo shield" as their get-out-of-jail-free card, claiming that many Western democracies use such administrative detention practices (audio news report). This, of course, is a half-truth. Some democracies have used the system for limited periods when facing specific crises. Britain during the Troubles (and in the period of the Palestinian Mandate), and the US since 9/11. But Israel has used the system the longest, the most widely and with the least level of judicial review.
The world media have not acquitted themselves well in covering this story. CNN finally reported it a few days ago as did the BBC. The New York Times' Isabel Kershner mentioned the case without naming Khader Adnan two days ago in a story she wrote about the Israeli torture of Palestinian children. Yesterday, shortly before Adnan accepted his deal with the Israeli authorities, she finally actually spelled out his name in print. The Israeli media reported the story, but grudgingly. Most other papers, especially those in the US were left out in the cold.
Which, once again, shows that for the most comprehensive coverage you need to follow the blogs and social media. Every day, the #KhaderAdnan hashtag trended in the top ten. His supporters kept his cause alive on Twitter and, in a sense, Adnan owes his life to his followers on Twitter and the application itself. As with the Arab Spring revolts and Iran election protests, score another victory in the fight against authoritarianism and injustice to Twitter.
On a less hopeful note, February 18 marked the one-year anniversary of Dirar Abusisi's kidnapping by Israeli and Ukrainian security forces and his rendition to Israel on charges of directing Hamas' missile technology program. Israel has still not brought him to trial and he has refused plea deals offered by the state prosecutor because he claims he is innocent. Abusisi's lawyer is suing before the Supreme Court for access to all evidence the prosecution has used to build its case. The state has used various delaying tactics and excuses to deny the materials and fend off any hearings on the matter. For every Khader Adnan in the Israeli justice system, there are two or more Dirar Abusisis.