Activists liken hunger-striker to IRA’s Bobby Sands

Pro-Palestinian activists evoke IRA member who died on hunger strike protesting British rule in N. Ireland.

Palestinian students hold signs depicting Khader Adnan 390 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini)
Palestinian students hold signs depicting Khader Adnan 390 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini)
As Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan begins his 66th day on a hunger strike Tuesday, comparisons are being drawn with Bobby Sands, a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) who died in 1981 protesting British rule in Northern Ireland, after spending 66 days refusing food.
Already on Sunday, American singer/songwriter and human rights activist David Rovics uploaded a song, “Khader Adnan, Bobby Sands,” onto his YouTube channel.
In its opening lines, Rovics, who has used his music to condemn Israel’s actions in the Gaza conflict and US involvement in Iraq, sings: “Khader Adnan grew up near Jenin City/You could say he was a product of his time/Ever since he was a kid he’d get arrested/ Though he was never charged with any crime.”
He continues: “They say Khader Adnan is a terrorist/Just like they said of Bobby Sands/Because he dares speak out against injustice/Because he dares to make a stand.”
As Rovic’s song comparing Adnan and Sands made social media rounds Monday, the official Bobby Sands Trust also highlighted Adnan’s ongoing hunger strike via its website (
On its home page, the trust’s secretary Danny Morrison called on the Israeli government to “immediately release Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, who is close to death.”
Morrison wrote: “Here in Ireland the British government’s prime minister Margaret Thatcher thought that she could break the will of our struggle by killing our prisoners who were hunger-striking for their rights as political prisoners.
She was wrong and the violence that the British sewed only reaped a whirlwind of resistance, but at a heavy cost in Irish and British lives. The lesson from history is that one must talk and negotiate and recognize the rights of people to be free and to be free from injustice and persecution.”
Sands joined IRA in 1972 and spent periods of time in British prisons throughout the 1970s until being charged in 1976 with involvement in a deadly bombing. During his time in jail Sands was elected as a Member of British Parliament and became Officer Commanding of other IRA prisoners.
He started his hunger strike to protest the treatment of Republican prisoners and encouraged others to join him.
His death on May 5, 1981 not only inspired Irish Republicans in their pursuit of freedom from British rule but, according to the trust, has since become a symbol of human rights around the world.
Gerald Foster, a former Republican paramilitary turned peace activist, told The Jerusalem Post Monday that people often like to compare conflicts.
“When people live in a conflict zone, they seem to fall into the trap of looking for similarities with their own conflict, but of course all conflicts have one thing in common: the hurt and pain that conflicts cause,” he said.
“I now believe it is naïve to compare conflicts. Each conflict has it own dimensions and those in Ireland who offer support for Khader Adnan do so in the belief that they are offering empathy to the Palestinian Struggle as a whole,” said Foster.
However, he said he wondered whether those who sympathize with Adnan would have had the same sentiments for recently released Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit if, during his internment by Hamas, he had also gone on a hunger strike.
Former Loyalist paramilitary Alistair Little also said that he did not think the situation in Israel or Palestine could be compared to the 1980 hunger-strikes.
“I think as always there will be a lot of support that will be pure emotionalism, with little understanding of the complexity of the Israeli\Palestinian conflict,” commented Little, who is also now a peace activist for the Beyond Walls Organization. “Concern for the human rights of Palestinians, but not Israelis, does little to help those who are living with the human tragedy of conflict on both sides.”
Little, who spent 13 years in Maze Prison at the height of Northern Ireland’s “troubles,” said that often in the midst of a conflict “we can only see what is done onto ‘us’ and not what we do onto ‘them’ or the ‘other.’” “No one has a monopoly on suffering when it comes down to personal pain and loss of loved ones,” he added.
Little pointed out that while the demands of Sands and the other hunger strikers were met to a degree by the British, many loyalists at the time remained indifferent to their deaths, believing that those not concerned about the human rights of those they had murdered did not deserve sympathy.
Adnan, a leader of militant organization Islamic Jihad, is seen as a terrorist by Israel.
He started his hunger strike on December 17, when he was arrested and held without charge by Israeli authorities.
On Monday, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told CNN that there was solid evidence that Adnan was a threat to Israeli society. A High Court of Justice hearing is set for Wednesday.