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Khader Adnan poem

Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, held for over 2 months by Israel without being accused of any crime, entered his 65th day of hunger strike Monday. 

Cy Twombly: "Min-Oe", 1951


O to go with a bang,

And not be made to stab you to death with toothpicks,

Year after year, a 168 hour work week.


In our minds the television sets are always on

In our skulls, always our childhood kitchens, parents conversing

About grownup stuff (do grownups exist?)

And in the paper: the cross-section of a rubber bullet, not made entirely of rubber.

So yes,

The radio in his town played different tunes,

Allah is merciful, we are not, and august is not. The gravel, he knows the gravel.

I know the gravel.

Allah is merciful. Is Khader Adnan?

February isn’t, February is a ribcage.


When I betray by caring, I betray,

And he, the suicide, betrays well.

To make them murder is to make the murder seen.

Here is what they never told:



Then, the gravel was outside, but the kitchen was clean, now the enemy plate

Is full of the most fluid mud,

And in the paper: the picture of the burning tire, made entirely of rubber,

And of the explosive belt, made of murder,

And of the gun, made of murder

And of Syria and Itamar and every wall and the gravel and mud and the blur, the blur

Of hunger

And of the judges and the doctors, made of murder

And of the silence

In place of justice (do grownups exist?)

And of his chained hands, changing hue, growing slender, made of murder

And of my typing hands, made of murder.


I yield, I extend them. Mother, if you want me to withdraw them, tell me what

This man has done. Then tell me what you have done

Tell me what I have done, for once, rubber bullet mother, tell me,

Because I’m fading too, so much more slowly, and choking

On on the paper, pictures and all.

And biting my cheeks


With blood

On what you cook for us.

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    1. David

      Campaign for enhanced due process in the legal proceedings, certainly.

      But could you not mention that this man is a leader in Palestinian Islamic Jihad? They’re not an organisation known for their concern for legal due process. In fact, they have a record of slaughtering hundreds of civilians.



      Mentioning this background doesn’t undermine the argument for due process.

      But failing to mention it in your report, undermines you.

      Reply to Comment
    2. David, the entire poem deals with the conflict I experience as an Israeli, watching this man dying while being told he may have been a terrorist out to get me. The question “Allah is merciful, Is Khader ‘Adnan?” is a candid one.
      In the end I choose to stick to the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”. Membership in a political party is no crime, even if it is militant (otherwise voting for likud would be a crime as well). So long as no charges were filed, Adnan is innocent and I treat him as such. If Israel wants me to think differently, it must press charges appropriately, and even then, a man who lived his life under our violent, criminal occupation cannot be tried under the same standards as, say, an Israeli.
      This is why I write: “Tell me what This man has done, then tell me what you have done. Tell me what I have done.” Only when all three conditions are met: the naming of the actual suspicion, the adressing of historical wrong and the taking of responsibility, will I be able to take a stand against this man if neccesary. For now, he is held against reason and against the basic standards of human rights. I stand with him.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Tal

      Thanks Yuval. I feel the same way.

      Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      Islamic Jihadis, Kahanists, we’ve got both under Israeli jurisdiction. How many of the latter have we placed in a series of administrative detentions (no accusations, no trials) for membership of Kahane Hai, a supposedly banned organization a few of the members of which have gone on killing sprees in the past? And if one of them was protesting such injustice by going on hunger strike and had reached the brink of death, would they be chained to their hospital bed while our courts nonchalantly fixed a hearing for five days hence?

      Reply to Comment
    5. mya guarnieri

      a gorgeous poem. well done

      Reply to Comment
    6. Jazzy

      yes…I suppose I have heard that Islamic Jihad are really into Cy Twombly. Seriously though this is comically narcissistic under the circumstances. You should realize that doing this kind of thing makes it look like you care more being the top dog bleeding heart than anything else.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Jazzy, No human being has to be into Cy Twombly for me to care for him or her. Nor do they have to share my view of the world or take my side in any matter. I promise you that as soon as Israel detains a Kahanist, a Neo-Nazi, or my worst personal enemy, without letting him know the charges, then lets him starve for two months, I will do whatever I can to let the story be known. Everyone deserves justice.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Jazzy

      Sorry, I wasn’t clear enough. I’m not arguing that we should care less care about Adnan or anyone else because they’re not into Cy Twombly or Chuck Close or Thomas Jefferson. I’m trying to point out that pretending Adnan’s situation is an individual rights issue, a freedom of conscience issues, is silly – the problem, the occupation, the existence of jihadi terrorism in the OPT, is a POLITICAL problem. So is Kahanist terrorism. I would want Israel or the PA to detain a Kahanist terrorist w/o due process if they felt it necessary. Why? Because we’re not in America. This isn’t the 1960’s. The problem isn’t that Israel needs to establish legal precedents that guarantee individual rights. The problem is that there’s an ethno-national conflict between Arabs and Jews. Freeing Adnan will solve absolutely nothing about the root causes of this problem. You Israeli human rights activist types want to pretend that you’re living in an entirely different place and time so you can write poems and be in solidarity with people and play songs on the guitar. Reality check: what helped America get over racism will not solve your problems. Your entire style of protest, sentiments like the ones above, are simply anachronistic and absurd. Invoking Cy Twombly here makes about as much sense as invoking Mickey Mouse. That’s my point. Its self-absorbed nonsense.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Oh really? because we seem to have just made a difference. It’s just been announced that Adnan’s hearing is set for tomorrow at 15:00.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Jazzy

      Maybe I’m still not making myself clear. Yes, ok, let’s say you free Adnan. Better yet, let’s say you end administrative detention altogether. Then what? So now Israel cannot detain people based on intelligence that isn’t up to western evidentiary standards (e.g. hearsay). Will the need to fight Islamic Jihad go away? No, and in the long run, you’ve solved nothing. Pat yourself on the back for being able to get some Palestinians out of jail now. The war will continue, and maybe people will even die because its not legal to administratively detain them anymore. Maybe Israel will get some bad PR too. Bravo – more sympathy for the jihadies. That’s definitely going to make the security problem go away.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Jazzy

      Again, I don’t think any of these macro/political/pragmatic arguments concern you, because hell, that is one sweet poem you’ve got there. and Mya is digging it. Damn it feels good to be a deep, sensitive, artistically inclined man of the world.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Jazzy, Islamic Jihad won’t go away, but Islamic Jihad is not the only threat we face. The threat to our humanity if we allow such things to keep going on is just as dire and even greater.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Jazzy

      “The threat to our humanity if we allow such things to keep going on is just as dire and even greater.”
      OK, I see where you’re coming from here. But, overall, you’re wrong. The threat of allowing little battles like this to obscure the urgency of the compromises Palestinians need to make (e.g. no more Islamic Jihad) actually IS more dire than the threat to your conscience. Whether its Haggai’s battle against a Modi’in neighborhood that already exists, or +972’s spat with Im Tirtzu, the threat of letting the BDS cult dominate the discourse about this conflict and waste time with sentimental crap about things that don’t matter in the long run IS a greater threat than Israel’s administrative detention. Maybe you think you think your opinion is about preserving something deep and moral and significant, but by American standards, its about moral vanity. Oh, you don’t care about American standards? Then what is the point of +972? Australians and British and Canadian readers? That’s funny.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Not only native English speakers read English, Jazzy. Europeans and Africans and Asians and others read English, and more importantly, in this case, both Israelis and Arabs around the Middle East read English. This site is not about adhering to “American standards”. This site is about communicating ideas.

      Reply to Comment
    15. sh

      “The problem is that there’s an ethno-national conflict between Arabs and Jews.”
      Oh, really? I thought it was about the Palestinians and the Jews each claiming the baby’s theirs and theirs alone.
      “Freeing Adnan will solve absolutely nothing about the root causes of this problem.”
      I understand that if Adnan had been charged he would have given up his hunger strike. They could even have charged him with belonging to a banned organization, but they didn’t (wonder why). Freeing him would maybe still save his life and one of the nicer things about religious Jews and Muslims is that when they are not squabbling, both subscribe to the teaching that saving the life of one man is as if you’ve saved the whole world.
      There are several pieces on Khader Adnan in +972 that do not involve poetry or painting. Seems a shame to spoil something that some appreciate just because it’s not the kind of thing that speaks to you.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Jazzy

      SH: I’m spoiling this because its symptomatic of a larger problem – and I’ve made the same criticisms of other pieces about Adnan on +972.
      Yuval: Other bloggers here seem to disagree with you about how +972’s raison d’etre relates to your intended audience. In any case, that’s not a big part of my argument.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Jazzy

      Obviously this poem, in and of itself, is not really a problem – Yuval’s sense of humanity is a very good thing. The problem is a misdirection of mental resources and a lack of perspective.

      Reply to Comment