Washing your hands of Khader Adnan: My response to weasel words of EU’s Catherine Ashton

The wife, daughters and father of Khader Adnan walk out from Ziv Hospital in the city of Safed, after visiting Adnan, 15 February 2012.


Today my colleague David Cronin wrote about the weasel worded response of the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, for comment on the case of Khader Adnan. Here is my response, which I sent her by email.

European Union High Representative
Ms. Catherine Ashton
To: catherine.ashton@ec.europa.eu

Dear Ms. Ashton,

Forty-eight hours after my colleague David Cronin first requested it, your spokespersons found the time to issue a statement on the plight of Khader Adnan, who could die at any moment, shackled to his bed, now in his 62nd day of hunger strike against his arbitrary detention by Israel.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Carter Center, and numerous civil society groups all over the world have called for Israel to immediately release or charge Mr. Adnan, as well as the more than 300 other “administrative detainees” including 21 elected members of the Palestinian legislative council currently being held by Israel.

But you didn’t do that. Instead, you washed your hands of Khader Adnan, and to the extent that Khader Adnan has become a symbol of Palestinians’ desperate determination to stand up for their rights against overwhelming Israeli oppression, you washed your hands of all Palestinians too.

As Adnan wrote weeks ago:

“The Israeli occupation has gone to extremes against our people, especially prisoners. I have been humiliated, beaten, and harassed by interrogators for no reason, and thus I swore to God I would fight the policy of administrative detention to which I and hundreds of my fellow prisoners fell prey.”

Addressing you and other members of the “international community” he wrote: “I hereby assert that I am confronting the occupiers not for my own sake as an individual, but for the sake of thousands of prisoners who are being deprived of their simplest human rights while the world and international community look on.”

“It is time the international community and the UN support prisoners and force the State of Israel to respect international human rights and stop treating prisoners as if they were not humans.”

But you decided to look away. Your weasel-worded statement merely “requests the government of Israel to do all it can to preserve the health of Mr. Adnan and handle this case while abiding by all legal obligations under international law.” You even affirmed Israel’s right to use administrative detention.

What is this “case”? Let us remind ourselves that Mr. Adnan was abducted from his home at 3.30AM on 17 December. He was taken from his pregnant wife Randa and his two young daughters. He has not been charged with a crime, despite lengthy harsh interrogation, humiliation and abuse. This is what led him to go on hunger strike. He has not eaten since one week before Christmas.

Randa described what might be her last time seeing her husband on Wednesday:

“My father-in-law said to him: ‘We want you to stay alive. You cannot defeat this state on your own.’ He told him he wanted him to end the strike. I told him I wished he would drink a cup of milk. But he said: ‘I did not expect this from you. I know you are with me all the time. Please stop it…. I know my husband. He will not change his mind. I expect him to die.”

He is still alive and he wants to live. Randa Adnan recalled that her husband told one of his lawyers: “I do not want to go to oblivion or death. But I am a man who defends his freedom. If I die it will be my fate.”

You have frequently asserted that “human rights” are at the center of your policy. But we know that any such statements come with an asterisk. Palestinians are exempt from such rights, and Israel is exempt from any accountability. You proved that again today.

What makes this all the more revolting is that you spared no opportunity to call for the release of an Israeli occupation soldier who was held in Gaza, a soldier taken prisoner while bearing arms to enforce the deadly siege and occupation of Gaza.

Perhaps if Khader Adnan had been an armed Israeli occupation soldier, instead of a father who was at home with his family, you would have had more sympathy.

I have not lost hope that Mr. Khader can be saved. I dream of a day when people like you will lead instead of follow. But perhaps that isn’t your function.

What gives me hope still is that people all over Europe, all over the world, are joining the demands that Israel release Adnan, so he can return home.

Read some of their messages to him and his family. Perhaps you will rediscover some of the humanity that your shameful statement so painfully lacks, end your complicity and call on Israel to free this man and all other prisoners of its brutal, merciless, inhumane and EU-subsidized occupation.

Ali Abunimah




We are all Palestinian-We are all Khader Adan. For any with conscience to be silent to injustice is a scream of betrayal to ones Maker and to all what you stand for. Without justice for one their is no justice for any. Without egalitarianism then we simply slip slide into a perdition that stains us all. What amazes me is that so few understand these simple premises. We must learn and grow to be exclusive not inclusive in our compassion. And to allow one group to tyrannize another for any reason is most odious and inhumane.


'Human rights' is an issue to is to be raised when it is in 'our' political interest(s) to do so, e.g. Libya (removal of head via bullet in head) or 'human rights' in Syria, when a government not considered suitable has to be 'removed'.


While powerful developed countries violently intervene in the internal affairs of other nations, nothing is said or done about Israeli colonialism and the aggression which accompanies having to subdue a people whose land is being lost to illegal settlements. That any Palestinian, man, women or child, can be kidnapped from their homes and held without trial or charge on an indefinite basis, shows that Israel considers Palestinian lives to be without value or purpose, in other words, not human and deserving of rights or dignity. This sort of sadistic cruelty is unacceptable. That Catherine Ashton spoke out against the capture of an occupation soldier and now shows a lack of interest in the plight of Khader Adnan shows that Europe is not impartial on the subject of Israeli human rights abuses. As if trading and arming an apartheid state is not cause for shame, Europe nods to Israel to continue with the de facto death sentence given to Khader Adnan. Morally, if we allow these abuses to continue, what right have we to preach democracy to others? Our leaders display their rotten cores for all to see. Shame be upon you the rest of your political career, Catherine Ashton.


I love your letter. Maybe its naive but sometimes I think, damn, how can people be so cold? Don't they have families, children, husbands, brothers. . . ? Thank you Ali for your letter. Thats all I can say. I just posted a letter for Khader on the website Ben sent. Take care, Maha


Ms Ashton,
Please use your influence with the EU and with Israel to insist that Israel release Mr. Adnan. As an American Jew and former member of AIPAC, I implore you and your colleagues of influence to start making efforts in favor of human rights, international law and simple human decency instead of constantly giving a green light to Israel's never-ending abuses and dehumanization of people for the crime of not being Jewish. More and more people are getting disgusted at the obsequiousness of leaders who kow tow to the Jewish state out of fear of being labeled anti-Semitic and being voted out of office. Your position in government is not worth the lives of millions of human beings who have been dispossessed and denied their rights for decades and who are regularly character assassinated by narcissistic individuals and groups that have no interest in documented fact. Sincerely, Richard Forer, Author: Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion - A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict