Today is day fifty-seven. Long past the hunger pangs and stomach cramps (day one-three), or even the sensation of thirst (lost at day fifteen). By day twenty-five, one is only left with the sensation of cold, and more cold, of light-headedness and mental sluggishness. Standing up is difficult to impossible. And the body becomes physically lighter. Such is the course of hunger. As Amany Khalifa writes, maintaining settler colonialism requires abominable violence. Today is day fifty-seven and Ghadanfar Abu Atwan’s famished body has gone into a coma. Ghadanfar has been beaten by the Israeli Prison Services (IPS) not once, but twice. IPS transferred his hungering body on the arduous journey from prison to prison and proceeded to eat food in front of him—all threats that Israel regularly imposes to strain a prisoner who refuses to eat. Yet, Ghadanfar continues to refuse. He denies supplements or treatments and only accepts water mixed with salt to keep his organs from rotting. Today is day fifty-seven and he has lost so much of his bodily fluids that his heart and kidneys are fighting at the brink of death.
But day fifty-seven for Ghadanfar was Amro al-Shami and Yousef al-Amer’s thirty-first. And day fifty-eight would become Jamal al-Taweel’s twenty-eighth, and Mohammed Masalmeh’s twenty-ninth. Somewhere in Hasharon Prison, al-Taweel’s body shed thirteen kilos, leaving chunks of itself behind. The shedding of his body and others’ marks a corporal count-down of sorts, keeping time through bodily decay. A hunger calendar, that seeks to break out of the endless waiting in administrative detention and reset the clock on one’s own bodily terms. In doing so, hunger-strikers against detention intervene into the temporal order of endless waiting characterized by Israeli governance at large post-Oslo.
Dawar el-Sa’a (The Clock Roundabout) | The Era of Administrative Detention
When a prisoner declares a strike against administrative detention, they (re)assemble different collectives into being. Prisoner solidarity tents pop up across colonial divisions, where people set up rows of plastic chairs beneath a blue tarp. Whether in the tent at dwar al-Saʿa in the heart of Ramallah or in front of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) in Bireh, or in Nablus, or in Dheisheh Refugee camp near Bethlehem, each hunger strike usually provokes the mounting of a similar blue-tarp. No matter which tent I sat beneath during my fieldwork in 2016, they were similarly familiar: I would always find mothers, fathers, or siblings carrying a framed portrait—their incarcerated husband, daughter, or grandson—beneath their chins. On the one hand, the multi-sited prisoners’ tents made detainees’ waiting collective. On the other, waiting in the hunger tent created, through the hunger-striker’s body, a temporality that rejected the passive waiting of administrative detention.
These strikes' weddedness to the policy of administrative detention without charge or trial, and their demanding of freedom from it, is central. Until 2011, the concept of hunger-striking to demand freedom from prison altogether was not a dominant mode of the repertoire of prisoners’ struggle. Certainly, there were several important strikes by female detainees over the years. But the overwhelming predominance of individual strikes since 2011 is considered, by many, a departure, that can be attributed to Khader Adnan's hunger strike that year. Before 2011, hunger strikes were predominantly collective and demanded improved eating, sleeping, and family visiting standards, or release from solitary confinement—that is, an improvement of prison conditions. The importance of these demands must be understood in the context of prisons’ centrality to Palestinian life—as of 2014, Israel had politically imprisoned forty percent of male Palestinians, in addition to many women and children, since 1967.
But these strikes are different. These are "freedom strikes," Khader Adnan would later insist when I asked him about his hunger strike in 2011, and its being cited as the trigger of ongoing “individual” strikes against detention that ensued. But Khader would not use the term "individual" while speaking to me: "Freedom strikes," he would repeat. "My administrative detention was a gift from god," he would continue, "because it gave me the chance to demand freedom."
Freedom Strikes | Refusing Detention
Mohamed Al-Qiq would similarly suture what some called idrabat fardeya (individual strikes) with the policy of administrative detention—almost implying the former would not have come about it if it weren’t for its centering around the latter; that the two are intrinsically sutured: "These hunger strikes are the illogic that responds to the illogic," Al-Qiq declared while speaking into a microphone during one of his speeches in the prisoners' tent in solidarity with Bilal Kayed. Kayed is another former prisoner who went on strike in June 2016 when an Israeli military court transmuted his 14.5-year prison sentence to administrative detention on the day of his scheduled release.
The illogic that Al-Qiq spoke of constantly came up when I interviewed family members of administrative detainees: "It makes no sense!" Administrative detention (AD) is Israel's policy of detaining Palestinians for six months at a time. The end of each six-month period is always up for renewal by Israel’s military courts, effectively keeping detainees and their family members in a constant state of stucked-ness in time and anticipation. The British Mandate was the first to introduce administrative detention to historic Palestine before Israel adjusted it to facilitate its settler colonialism. Since 1987, during the mass uprisings of the First Intifada, Israel arrested fifty thousand Palestinians in such a short period; time and space made the court cases necessitated by the British policy physically impossible. As a result, the Israeli military court, issued a military order that both (a) removed the ninty-six-hour limit requirement to bring a detainee to court and (b) did away with the requirement for a trial altogether (Alexandrowicz, 2012). Ever since Israel has used administrative detention to easily detain Palestinians under secret evidence without charge or trial, which denies detainees the opportunity to defend themselves— a practice Israel especially escalates to crackdown on Palestinian society at large during times of organized resistance.
While expressing the induced desperation this endless waiting creates, Manal, the wife of Shaher al-Rai, who spoke to me while scrunching a pillow that she had made for her six-year-old son with a picture of her then-detained husband on it asked out loud: "We waited the six months, and they were renewed. We waited again, and it was renewed again—until when will we continue to wait?”
But what happens when people refuse to wait? And why has this refusal, especially by Palestinians within Israeli prisons, largely taken the form of individual hunger strikes against detention? Waiting at dawar el-sa’a (clock roundabout) is perhaps a most apt snapshot of how temporality is experienced in contemporary Palestine at large. The administrative detention policy that hunger-strikers refuse—was almost a rite of passage for so many Palestinian men and fewer women who lived through the first and second Intifadas. But the way many former detainees I spoke to articulated their more recent hunger strikes speaks to a theorization that inextricably links their experience of endlessly renewable detention periods to the Oslo Accords; to the endless negotiations; and to the fallacy of a two-state solution. There is no more waiting for a peace process. What remains is a mode of Israeli governance that continually (re)inscribes an Oslo temporal order of administrative detention: not a waiting for but a waiting to wait (Abo-Basha, 2017: 38).
Hani Sayed (2014) argues that since the 1993 agreement, Israel could no longer be deemed an occupying power. That would imply the duty to govern inscribed in Article 43 of Hague relations. Israel has practically absolved itself from this duty by adopting a disengaged mode of governing whose only purpose is to exert control when needed—without acknowledging any responsibilities to “govern” as it continues to expand its settlements (2014:119). This was most clearly evidenced by Israel’s refusal to vaccinate Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank during the pandemic. Sayed calls this mode of governmentality one of "disengagement" or “Gaza-fication.” The latter is represented by the Gaza disengagement plan in 2005, when Israeli settlers and soldiers were removed from Gaza and four West Bank settlements in 2005 in order to vest the PA with responsibility to govern (without any real sovereignty) in the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
In this time-space, a hunger striker’s declaration—"I do not want to wait"—intervenes not only within Israel’s policy of administrative detention but the larger temporal politics of disengagement that it represents in Israel’s post-Oslo mode of governing (Abo-Basha, 2017:22).
Emptied Stomachs and Confused Nights |The Politics of Ishtibak
Fifty-seven days by Ghadanfar today. Forty-three days by Hanaa Shalabi in 2012. Seventy-one days by Bilal Kayed in 2016. How on earth do we wrap our minds around these numbers?
During my fieldwork, many people I spoke to feared that when a detainee goes on strike on their own they are "raising the ceiling" of hunger strike durations—from an average of fewer than thirty days during the general collective strikes up until 2004 to at least seventy, sometimes ninety or longer since Khader’s individual strike in 2011.
Many, like Khader, would agree that their individual strikes did indeed forge a different relationship to time—strikes that are incredibly taxing and especially prone to be drawn out. But Khader argues that this protracted period is not simply because of the spontaneous individuality of the strikes, but also because of what the strikes are targeting:
A lot of people are saying that Khader Adnan raised the ceiling of hunger strikes which was about 20 or 30 days before. Yes, they did not give me my freedom [in 2011] until after 65 days... But, here we compare the hunger strike to improve conditions of life which differs from the hunger strike for freedom. A freedom strike is a strike to break [and abolish] detention altogether. It is not a strike for a telephone, or a mattress, or food, books, or visits. This strike breaks. It breaks the prison authorities. It breaks the occupation. So, it is extremely harsh and the price is high—but so are its fulfillments.
The distinction Khader made is echoed by other Palestinians who describe strikes for improving prison conditions (idrabat maṭlabiya) as distinct from “political strikes” (idrabat siyasiya). This contrast can be compared to the distinction that anthropologists like Audra Simpson (2014) draw when comparing acts of resistance and refusal. Distinguishing between resistance and refusal, in theory, often centers around the former’s relationship to that which it resists. Maṭlaby hunger strikes for improving conditions of imprisonment are at once incredibly crucial, but also predicated upon prisoners’ very existence in jails and detention centers. Refusal, on the other hand, tries to imagine ways to bypass this relationship as one of mere confrontation and forges new spaces of politics altogether—spaces that offer themselves as sites of transformation where new alternatives of relating to time and space can be carved out. Alternatives that break as Khader put it, that break from the prison authorities, that break from the existing configuration of an Oslo time-space.
Bassel al-Araj was one of six people who went on a hunger strike in PA prisons in August 2016 after being tortured. The thirty-one-year-old activist and scholar was later pursued by Israel for nearly a year before they assassinated him in a pre-dawn attack on a home in 2017. If given the chance, I imagine he would have related the distinction between resistance and refusal to his theorizing of ishtibak. Rana Baker writes, Ishtibak denotes “entanglement and creative disruption” that (can couple, but also) departs from the tactics of muwajaha or confrontation:
Muwajaha mainly denotes direct, face-to-face confrontations with an enemy at points of friction already designed and designated by him… Ishtibak, extends points of friction to areas not designated as such by the enemy. The point is to entangle the enemy in multiple insurrectionary maneuvers and disruptive anti-colonial acts. In Palestine [during the May uprisings in 2021], this meant turning the entire country into multiple points of friction defined by a multiplicity of disruptive insurrectionary maneuvers that stretched, exhausted, and unhinged the enemy.
People are a product of their conditions and find ways to face or entangle their oppression accordingly. Gaza’s celestial ishtibak cannot be separated from Israel’s creation of a buffer zone. The latter, as Baker writes “eliminate[d] traditional points of friction that [still] puncture the West Bank.” Since the spatial is always temporal, I’d like to embed Baker’s analysis of Al-Araj’s writing in space within time.
Mohamed al-Qiq once summarized Israel’s attempt to impose inescapable waiting in a way that can be compared to the buffer zone around Gaza. Upon his arrest in 2015, his interrogators told him “you either confess or go to detention.” When Israel imposes waiting as the only option for Palestinians in its configuration of disengaged settlerism—in al-Qiq’s case either waiting out a prison sentence or waiting in detention—refusing to wait extends points of friction beyond the temporal buffer designed by Israel. In that sense, we can consider different modes of temporal ishtibak in Palestine today.
As Ghadanfar entangles his hungered body for freedom from uncertain detention renewals, Palestinians in Ramallah march to protest the Oslo dawar (roundabout) of endless waiting— a roundabout that enlists the PA to maintain a closed-off circularity of expanding settler colonialism. Meanwhile, the families of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, as well as the Mountain Protectors of Beita rise up to refuse passively waiting for settler encroachment to take up their homes—waiting that can be punctuated by constant court session delays in Sheikh Jarrah, or an impending house demolition at any moment in Silwan.
On Becomings | Understanding Detention-Freezing
As the PA cracks down on Palestinians protesting Nizar Banat's assassination in the West Bank, the Israeli authorities have frozen Ghadanfar’s administrative detention as a way to undermine his freedom strike. Ishtibak necessitates a constant becoming—spontaneously birthing new possibilities of struggle. This process of ishtibak in the becoming, is mirrored by colonial powers’ constant devising of new forms of violence (Deleuze, 1995). The Israeli state is continually (re)mapping its responses to hunger-strikers—whether by intimidating prisoners to accept deportation in exchange for ending their strike. And/or by requiring hunger-strikers to finish the remainder of their detention period even after they have secured a deal not to renew it. And/or, beginning in and increasingly after 2015, freezing hunger-strikers’ detention, as Israel is now doing with Ghadanfar.
During Mohammad Allan’s hunger strike in 2015, Israel threatened him with force-feeding and detention freezing. He was determined to die or be freed. Israel has continued to use force-feeding, even after they killed four hunger-strikers while attempting to force-feed them in 1970 and 1980. IPS has force-fed hunger-strikers, both illegally after the practice was outlawed following the Palestinians’ protesting of the 1980 deaths; as well as “legally” when the Israeli Kenesset re-legalized force-feeding in 2015. Though IPS threatens hunger-strikers with force-feeding tubes, they oftentimes order medical personnel to deliver vitamins intravenously without prisoners’ consent.
Detention freezing, in addition to re-legalized force-feeding, are Israel’s latest forms of violence born out of the threat posed by the growing modality of hunger-striking individually and collectively against administrative detention. In 2015, Israel froze Mohammad Allan’s detention, as he was on the brink of death. After two months of hunger-striking, on his fifty-ninth day of strike, Allan’s body shook with continuous shivering and seizures before he was unable to breathe and lost consciousness. The Barzilai hospital staff in the South of Israel immediately resuscitated him and put him on a life-supporting respirator while administering minerals and nutrients.
Israel’s High Court intervened in an unprecedented way: the court ruled to suspend the administrative detention order Muhammad Allan was hunger-striking against. Unlike some strikers who sometimes take vital vitamins during their strike to prevent their organs from decaying, Allan had refused to take anything but water insisting on freedom or death. And in visibly nearing the latter to the point of unconsciousness, he came dangerously close to piercing two aspects central to Israel’s regime. First, to avoid prisoners’ death in Israeli custody. Instead, Israel often releases prisoners it has medically neglected when they’re in critical condition to die outside of their facilities. Malak Shwaikh (2018:87) cites Yoel Adar, a legal advisor to the Ministry of Public Security who, when asked whether a hunger striker could harm the public, responded: “If [the hunger striker] dies in prison, it causes riots—in prison, in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], in Palestinian territories. This has a definite implication on Israel.”
The second central component of Israel’s post-Oslo governmentality is to impose a temporality of waiting in suspension through administrative detention. Countless individual hunger-strikers repeatedly defy this temporality by securing an end to their detention. Just a few days ago, Israel ordered an end to Khader’s repeated detention after a twenty-five-day strike.
In this way, the Israeli court’s freezing of Allan’s detention can be understood as an attempt to contain hunger-strikers’ successful threats to Israel’s temporal mode of governance. By simply suspending the detention order altogether, Israel desperately tried to prevent the possibility of a hunger-striker’s death, to preserve its liberal image and avoid resulting protests—but without agreeing to free Allan from detention. As long as Allan’s body was in critical condition, the detention would be suspended until his health "stabilized"—after which the court could decide to reinstate the detention order. After many prisoners joined Allan in a solidarity hunger strike, and Allan refused to accept being expelled to another country in exchange for his release, Allan secured the end of his detention in November 2015.
Israel’s freezing of Ghadanfar’s detention allowed medical teams to unshackle him from the hospital bed he had been handcuffed to and his sister to finally visit him in Kaplan medical center. Standing in front of Ghadanfar who needed a pillow to prop up his frail head in bed, his sister reiterated: “He is still demanding freedom. All that we want is freedom.” A few days later, Ghadanfar’s mom visited him as well and sat at his bedside with a Quran in one hand, as a recitation played in the background. Her other hand extended towards Ghandanfar who held on to it, stroking it ever so softly.
Watching this moment of family reunification and caregiving recalls Khader Adnan’s words: “The individual is not striking only for [her]self. He may be striking for his mother or his sister; his wife, his kids. Just his presence in her home is a benefit—to take care of his mother and family and his finances.”
Colonial violence has always been about producing crises of caregiving. Israel’s most recent arrest campaign of Palestinian citizens in Israel, “Operation Law & Order,” should be read as an attempt to instill fear and control Palestinian bodies. But, as Randa Whabe (2020: 325) writes, Israel’s “control and criminalization of Palestinian bodies” must be understood as inextricable from “its territorial land grabs.” Consider Israel beginning to demolish the homes of 1,500 Palestinians in Silwan to build a theme park, while arresting and assaulting community members. Mohammed al-Kurd explains: “In addition to forcibly expelling Palestinians and bolstering settler presence in Jerusalem,” the park is also designed “to form natural borders around Palestinian communities, suffocating them and preventing natural community growth.”
Carceral territoriality, in addition to instilling fear among Palestinians who refuse to wait out their dispossession, is also fundamentally about ripping apart relations of care that enable them to remain on their land. Livia Wick (2011) details how this process intensified after the Second Intifada when family members who may have only lived five minutes away from each other became separated by Israel’s building of the separation wall or in two West Bank towns by unpredictable checkpoints. As a result, Palestinian neighborhood committees found it more difficult to come together for weddings, funerals, and political and cultural gatherings (Wick, 2011: 29).
The intensified closure technologies Israel mobilized in 2000 and beyond were mirrored behind prison walls (Abo-Basha, 2017). Walid Daqqa (2009), who has been held in Israeli prisons since 1986, wrote Sahr el-Waʿy (The Melting of Consciousness) to trace the policies of Yaacov Ganot, who he describes as the engineer of the post-Oslo prison. Daqqa describes how this former Border Police Commander introduced material changes into prisons that would individuate and cut apart prisoners from one another. Some of these material changes included seizing shared kitchens where prisoners could work and cook together and increasing prisoners’ reliance on the commissary. The dividing of prison cells into faction-specific sections after the inqisam between Gaza and the West Bank in 2006 further contributed to prison divisions, as Ahmed Qattamish described in a personal interview.
Many Palestinians, including Rula Abu Duhou, have reiterated the importance of securing collective demands through collective hunger strikes, even if that means spending more time in prison. Yet, as Abu Duhou also added while speaking to me in the prisoners’ tent during Bilal Kayed’s hunger strike in June of 2016: “Khader would not have had to go on strike alone, if it weren’t for the weakening of our political factions. This is the essence of the matter. And all these other strikes… they are exemplars of the moment we’re living in.” This moment can be characterized by Israel’s intensified carceral divisions within and beyond prison walls, but also of Palestinians’ insistence to continue entangling their colonizers and caring for one another across barriers.
What caregiving acts Palestinians in these past few months have given us. Even as that care has come at extreme, even deadly costs. Khawwa. As Budour Hassan lyrically notes: Jerusalemites use khawwa in a way that means “despite your best efforts. And in Jerusalem, khawwa is a way of life.”
To echo Budour: families in Sheikh Jarrah and other Palestinians from lands colonized in 1948 gathered on a communal iftar table to break their fast in Ramadan. Iftar after iftar, amid persisting settler violence against their homes, they insisted to care for one another through a communal breaking of bread. Khawwa. Palestinians in Beita have mirrored the night confusion that Gazans once showcased during their March of Return in 2018: showing up for one another’s right to live on their land and care for one another in their homes. Khawwa. And protestors in the West Bank take to the streets with images of Nizar Banat in hand amid a brutal crackdown by the PA, embracing the Banat family’s grief and outrage as collective. Khawwa.
As for the hunger-strikers emptying their stomachs, I wonder what Khader Adnan would say if I had the chance to speak to him today. Perhaps he would reference his theorization of the collective unity provoked by a “Freedom strike” that refuses to wait on Israel for their liberation—and link it to what many are calling the “Unity Intifada” today:
The [freedom] strike also provokes other prisoners to strike: It provokes the family. It provokes the streets. And it also provokes the occupation to come out to the world and say these people are simply individuals, not an entire people, not an entire cause. It also provokes the NGOs and human right organizations, and legal, and medical institutions, many of which fall into this error… and use [the individual strike] expression…
Indeed, many people link the continual string of individual freedom strikes against detention since 2011 to the (re)opening of intersubjective bonds and attachments that enable collective prisoners’ struggle, even as Israel continues targeting these relational attachments.
After what might have been the longest period in Palestinian prisoners’ history without a total general collective hunger strike (between 2004 and 2012), the freedom strikes against detention since 2011 inspired the first collective strike of over 100 prisoners against administrative detention in 2014. Two other collective strikes were interspersed between the scores of individual freedom strikes: in 2012 (against isolation and securing the rights of families in Gaza to visit prisoners); and in 2017 (a combination of 2012 and 2014: demands for improved living conditions, increased monthly visits, and ending administrative detention).
Palestinian hunger-strikers’ theorization of the relationship between the freedom strikes against detention and their reconfiguring of what collective struggle can look like, flicker as pre-figuring radiations for the “Unity Intifada” today. Both the former and the latter emphasize weaving new forms of imagining and practicing collectivity beyond colonial “prison geographies.”
Khader insisted on calling them freedom strikes: “We [are] sending a message that the occupation [is] not fate. Just like people assume the occupation is fate and that detention is fate, perhaps freedom can also be our fate.”
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 For a detailed account of women individual hunger-strikers against detention in 1997 (Itaf Elan for forty-five days) and more recently in 2012 (Hanaa Shalabi in for forty-three days), see Malaka Shwaikh’s (2020) “Engendering hunger strikes”. Shwaikh discusses women hunger-strikers’ double refusal. On the one hand they refuse the same Israeli violence that male strikers do. On the other, they reject Israel’s manipulation of societal gender norms by threatening female prisoners’ with sexual assault, knowing that they are often shamed for this by their community upon their release.
 All referenced personal interviews date back to the Summer of 2016 and are documented in my MA thesis (Abo-Basha, 2017).
 Through the Gaza disengagement plan and the following division of Gaza and the West Bank after the 2006 elections, Israel has isolated the Gaza strip in its entirety into an open-air prison through a siege and multiple wars. Yet, as Sayed argues, the mode of governing inscribed in Israel’s disengagement in 2005 is not altogether separate from its approach to occupying the West Bank. Gazafication in the West Bank, as Sayed writes, facilitates Israel’s ability to isolate the cities into heavily-populated concentrations that are cut off from one another. The PA actis as a crucial player in this configuration as Israel shifted towards maintaining peace negotiations as the final solution; negotiations are an end not a means.
 My use of the term time-space is based on Jon May and Nigel Thrift’s (2003) elaboration of the concept of timespace duality (a geography that is always temporal and vice versa) in their edited volume Timepace: Geographies of Temporality.
 After a forty-three-day hunger strike, Hanaa Shalabi accepted Israeli authorites’ deal to be deported to Gaza away from her family in Jenin for 3 years in exchange for her freedom in March 2012. Shalabi is stil stuck in Gaza today, as Israel refuses to allow her return to Jenin (Shwaikh, 2020: 17).
 In “Dynamics of Prison Resistance,” Malaka Shwaikh (2018: 84) details these deaths: “‘Abd al-Qadir Abu al-Fahm, who [declared a] 1970 hunger strike in Ashkelon prison, died as a result of force-feeding on 11 May 1970, one of four documented cases of hunger-strikers who died during or after being force-fed.40 Rasim Halawa and ‘Ali al- Ja’fari were killed in July 1980, when the Israeli authorities inserted feeding tubes into their lungs instead of their stomachs. The fourth to die was Ishaq Maragha, who passed away in Beersheba prison in 1983, three years after being force-fed. Although it is not clear whether force-feeding caused his death, his health had been seriously compromised from having been force-fed.”