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Opinion | What It Means When a Palestinian Starves Himself to Death

A man starves himself to death. Eighty-six days without food. Eighty-six. Day after day, in prison, in solitary confinement.

The body withers, the stomach slowly shrinks, the consciousness becomes blurred, the pain takes over. A man with a family refuses to eat, day after day. These are the first things to think about when you think about the death of Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad activist who died this week in prison after an 86-day hunger strike.

Long before we talk about who he was and what the charges were, long before we entertain any thoughts about ideology and politics, before our automatic justifications and self-convincing, we need to focus on this event in which a man starved himself to death. We need to reflect on it deeply and listen to the voices coming from it, to the cry that rises up.

We can’t draw some irrelevant conclusion about this event. An 86-day hunger strike transcends language, and any attempt to frame it will fail.

A man – and it doesn’t matter who he is and what he represents – goes on a hunger strike for 86 days. What’s going through his head? How much pain must he be suffering to do such a thing? How much anger and despair does he need so as not to break along the way, not to be tempted by the delusions of the mind and the stomach? Instead, he starves himself to death.

What does Khader Adnan’s death say about the power of freedom? And what does it say about us Israelis?

Actually, the roots of his hunger strike, the adherence to it, the refusal to give up on freedom, are the real story of his death. We mustn’t let anyone use it, anyone, from whichever side. A man killed himself by an 86-day hunger strike. Eighty-six days.

Let this information seep in, remember the hunger and weakness that you know maybe after a one-day fast. And now imagine this number: 86.

Can you imagine it? And what does it say about the person who chose to fight this way, about his freedom? What does it say about his consciousness? What does it say about the situation that brought him there? What does it say about the value and power of freedom? And yes – what does it say about us?

These are the questions that must be asked, more than tactical or ethical questions such as who’s to blame, or whether he should have been force-fed or released. A much greater cascade of words will be spilled on the tactics and ethics, and they’re not simple at all. There really are two sides.

But this moment, in which a man kills himself in an 86-day hunger strike, is much deeper than any of the words, questions or arguments; it goes much farther than the accompanying political, social and moral game. To a great extent, it undermines this game, ridicules it, for its arrogance in trying to control what isn’t its to control.

Khader Adnan’s death, before being a political statement, is an existential human statement on the limits of power, on the human spirit, on the power of the desire for freedom. His death also demonstrates a basic question: If life cannot be lived properly, is it worth being called life?

This is why this death, the way it occurred, everything it expresses, is maybe also a piercing glimpse into what is accumulating in the minds, spirit and souls of millions of people who live under our occupation: the despair, lack of trust, lack of hope, lack of a future, a feeling that they have nothing to lose. We’ve got all this here, and we can’t keep repressing these thoughts for much longer.

Article link:
Article source: Haaretz | Yair Assulin | May 5, 2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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