This week, Palestinian activist Khader Adnan ended his 66-day hunger strike. According to Al Jazeera, the 33-year-old Palestinian was arrested under an Israeli military order and held without charges or trial. Adnan broke his hunger strike, which was started the day after he was removed from his home in the West Bank, after the Israeli authorities agreed to release him in mid-April, given that they do not collect any new evidence against him. He is now referred to by some (specifically +972 Magazine) as a Palestinian hero for successfully challenging the Israeli detention system.
But Adnan is just one of hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli jails under “administrative detentions,” a system that allows for indefinite detainment without charges or trials. So why has Adnan gained international recognition? If you think it has anything to do with our favorite buzzword, social media, you’re absolutely right. Once again, the international community has witnessed the power of social media, specifically Twitter, demonstrating, once again, the potential for these technologies to challenge, criticize, and expose global injustices. As the Lebanese-based online news website Al-Akhbar’s writer Jalal Abukhater so eloquently wrote, “organizing a trending hashtag for Khader Adnan is just like organizing a large protest on the corner of the busiest and most crowded street in a city.”
Interestingly enough, it was only after organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Carter Center, and other human rights and social justice organizations spoke up, and, of course, tweeted about Adnan’s nonviolent protest that Israel and our mainstream media took note of the issue. According to the Electronic Intifada, an independent online website focused on Palestine, other individuals, including comedian Roseanne Barr and former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter criticized Israel’s use of administrative detentions of Palestinians and called attention to Adnan’s case.
While the importance of Twitter has been validated time and time again, Adnan’s case reinforces the idea that unless you have a large number (and sometimes popular figures) tweeting in support of your cause, your story may very well be lost among more popular so-called “trends.”
(The photo is by angrywhitekid of Oaxaca, Mexico via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see a report from Al Jazeera about Khader Adnan and the end of his hunger strike, please see below.)