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Using deadly force — as a first resort

The ‘mistaken’ killing of a 13-year-old boy by the Israeli army is a reminder that all too often, Israeli security forces use deadly force against Palestinians as a first resort.

The Israeli army sharpshooter not only shot the wrong person, he or she also shot the wrong person in the wrong part of the body — his chest instead of his leg. That is the official explanation the Israeli army gave on Tuesday for mistakenly killing 13-year-old Abed al-Rahman Abdallah a day earlier during clashes in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.

The use of .22 sharpshooter rifles in Aida camp is not a new occurrence, and Abdallah was not the first 13 year old to have been shot there in recent years — mistakenly or deliberately.

The “mistaken” shooting by the sharpshooter having an off day comes as Israeli authorities are publicly stating they will start using .22 rifles and sharpshooters within its borders, and not only in the West Bank as has been the case for the better part of 15 years.

Fifteen years ago, Israeli police killed 13 unarmed Arab protesters in northern Israel, many by using sharpshooters, in what came to be known as the events of October 2000. Israeli police had since stopped using live ammunition against protests inside the Green Line.

In the West Bank as well, Israeli military forces greatly restricted the use of .22 Ruger rifles in 2001 after an internal army report stated that the smaller caliber bullets must be used according to the same rules of engagement as all other types of live ammunition. They could not, as had previously been the case, be used as a form of crowd control. As a result of the internal report, use of the .22 Ruger rifles was suspended until 2008.

In response to a spate of stone-throwing incidents in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Benjamin Netanyahu set into motion a process resulting in Israeli police preparing to use live ammunition — .22 Rugers —against stone throwers. The new regulations were expected to be implemented in East Jerusalem and in the Negev desert against Bedouin citizens of Israel.

Arab stone throwers, that is. In a number of Israeli settler attacks against Palestinian vehicles and farmers in recent days, often times in full sight of Israeli security forces, there have been no reports of soldiers...

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WATCH: Settlers hurl burning tires, boulders at Palestinians

Hundreds of settlers launch dozens of attacks against Palestinians across the West Bank, in the wake of two Palestinian attacks that left four Israelis dead. Rights groups demand the army intervene to protect Palestinians from settler violence.

Israeli settlers carried out dozens of violent attacks across the West Bank over the past two days in the wake of the murders of four Israeli civilians by Palestinians.

In the northern West Bank village of Bur’in masked settlers were filmed rolling boulders and burning tires down a hill toward Palestinians.

Groups of settlers, at times accompanied by the Israeli army, threw stones at and attacked Palestinian residents, who threw stones back at them. The settlers also set fire to a number of Palestinian-owned agricultural fields.

The soldiers did nothing to stop the settler attacks, instead choosing to shoot tear gas, rubber bullets — and reportedly live ammunition — against the Palestinians defending their property.

Acres of fields and olive orchards were damaged in the settler arson attacks.

Elsewhere in the northern West Bank, settlers gathered along major highways and threw stones at Palestinian vehicles, shattering windshields and resulting in a number of injuries, according to Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din.

Settlers also reportedly surrounded a number of Palestinian houses and pelted them with stones.

In one case, a Palestinian woman and her children traveling in an ambulance were pelted with stones near the Israeli army’s Huwwara checkpoint near Nablus.

The Israeli military has a clear obligation under international law to protect the Palestinian civilian population, including from Israeli citizens. Human rights groups like Yesh Din have long protested what they call “standing idly by,” whereby the army does nothing to stop settler attacks against Palestinians.

“Yesh Din condemns the revolting murder of Itam and Na’ama Henkin and hopes that the murderers will be caught quickly, are put on trial and sentenced to prolonged sentences,” the human rights organization said in a statement.

“However, the murders do not justify acts of revenge against an innocent population,” the statement continued. “We call on the army and police to fulfill their duties and protect the Palestinians from these aggressive acts.”

Rabbis for Human Rights and B’Tselem put out similar statements.

Near Beit El, which abuts the de facto Palestinian capital of Ramallah, some 300 Israeli settlers threw stones...

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Searching for hope on days of unconscionable tragedy

The only thing that can stop the killing, that can turn desperate people from violence, that can stop the creation of new orphans, is hope. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere to be found.

The most tragic part about the violence that strikes civilians in Israel and Palestine is that it is largely preventable. That is not to say that the victims are in any way to blame for their own murders — of course not. But political violence is a direct result of the political conflict, of the occupation, incitement on both sides, and an utter lack of vision being offered to both Israelis and Palestinians.

There is no justifying the murder of four innocent people. Non-combatants. Parents. Civilians. Human beings. It might make those of us living inside the Green Line feel safer to point out that all four people murdered in the past 48 hours were killed on occupied land, but that is not the reason they were killed. They were killed because they are Israeli Jews, regardless of who they were as individuals. Likewise, the three members of the Dawabshe family, burned alive in their own home as they slept, were murdered not because of who they were as human beings, but because they were Palestinian.

Being murdered because of your nationality, or your ethnicity or religion is the same thing as being killed completely at random. And random violence is terrifying. Even more terrifying is the snowball effect random nationalist violence tends to have in Israel and Palestine. Price tag. Cycle of violence. Revenge attacks. Call it what you will.

Revenge attacks are a misnomer, however, because revenge is not really being sought on behalf of the victims, nor is it directed at the actual sources of violence. Revenge attacks in both Israel and Palestine erase the individual value and worth of each every one of us as human beings. There are no human beings when it comes to revenge, there are only Jews and Palestinians. Revenge attacks don’t seek justice. They aim to satiate a national appetite for blood, to inflict pain.

So we are left with orphaned children, widowed husbands and wives, parents burying their children. Shouldn’t that pain be enough to stop everything we’ve been doing up until now and try everything left under the sun to prevent the next death? Do we really believe that...

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WATCH: Netanyahu's deafening silence, the extended version

The Israeli prime minister digs deeper into his bag of UN shtick. (Updated below with even better versions.)

Israeli Prime Minister is known for his antics and shtick at the United Nations. In the past he has flaunted cartoon drawings of bombs, waved blueprints of Auschwitz and now he used a new prop — deafening silence.

Deriding the entire world for ignoring threats to Israel by Iran, Netanyahu accused the representatives present in the UNGA chamber: “the response from every one of you here, utter silence. Deafening silence.”

And then he went silent. With the most terrifying evil stare, or perhaps an attempt at inducing shame . For 45 seconds. It was scary.

Here’s the video with an extra two minutes of terrifying silence added for dramatic effect

Netanyahu also pulled out another of his favorite tricks during this year’s speech: animal comparisons. In years past we’ve been graced with nuclear ducks, insatiable crocodiles, and now — we have “rapacious tigers.”

The rapacious tiger, played by Iran, won’t be turned into a kitten by the Iran deal and unchaining it from international sanctions, Netanyahu said.

Then there’s the side note that it took the Israeli prime minister over 30 minutes to mention the Palestinians or the peace process.

Responding to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ declaration the night before that there is no point in peace talks just for the sake of peace talks, Netanyahu demanded a new round of peace talks for the sake of peace talks.

Somebody was more creative than me:

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Israel is egging the boycott movement on

In attempting to hold off European plans to label West Bank settlement products, Israel could easily overplay its hand. The Netanyahu government’s bunker mentality will only increase international isolation.

It’s pretty difficult to find a minister in the Israeli government who will go on record supporting a two-state solution in any sincere terms these days. Of course we want a Palestinian state, they say, but god forbid we hand over control of the West Bank and withdraw our troops.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been saying as much for years. “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan,” Benjamin Netanyahu said last summer, long before his now-famous dis- and subsequent re-avowal of the two-state solution.

It’s pretty clear these days that the status quo of occupation — and all it entails — is here to stay for the time being. There is no peace process, nor is there any reason to think a new peace process could succeed as long as the current Israeli leadership is in power.

In an interview laying out her strategy to fight EU labeling of settlement products, a strategy that might sound absurd to someone unversed in the absurdity of Israeli intransigence vis-à-vis the occupation, acting Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Hotoveli told the Times of Israel:

The EU wants to make the point that the West Bank is not a part of Israel, she said. But according to the official policy of the Israeli government, “[Handovers of] Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians,” she announced. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while professing to support the creation of a Palestinian state in principle, “never said that the evacuation of Judea and Samaria is an option. He says we learned the lessons of the [2005 Gaza] Disengagement and that the world needs to get used to this idea. That’s one of the messages that I place great emphasis on.”

The world needs to internalize that the West Bank is to remain under Israeli “de facto sovereignty,” Hotovely said. “It’s not a bargaining chip. It does not depend on the Palestinians’ goodwill. It’s the land of our forefathers. We don’t intend to evacuate it, certainly...

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The questions nobody is asking about Hebron shooting

Could Israeli soldiers have arrested, instead of killed a young knife-yielding woman in Hebron? And what will happen to those soldiers if it turns out they shot when they didn’t need to?

A young Palestinian woman was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the occupied city of Hebron Tuesday morning, hours before the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

As usual, there are — at least — two conflicting narratives. There are also a number of details everyone agrees on.

Hadeel al-Hashlamon arrived at the “Shoter” checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron Tuesday morning. She set off a metal detector and soldiers started yelling at her in Hebrew.

Here is where the narratives diverge. According to Palestinian witnesses who spoke with the press, she did not understand the commands being yelled by the soldiers, froze and pulled out her bag for inspection. Soldiers then shot toward her, striking her in the lower and upper body.

Israeli military spokespeople told reporters that Hashlamon pulled a knife out of her bag and did not respond to soldier’s commands, and moved toward them with the knife before they shot her. The army supplied media outlets with photos of a knife on the ground, purported to be the one held by Hashlamon.

Let’s assume that she had a knife. Attempted stabbings are no rare occurrence at West Bank checkpoints.

And although no footage of the shooting itself has been released (the military most likely has surveillance footage of the incident), there are a few things we do know about what went down.

In photos of the incident, in which two soldiers can be seen with their guns trained on Hashlamon, there is a distance of at least a couple of meters and a metal barrier separating between her and the soldiers. Photos and video of Hashlamon’s body after she was shot show that she was behind the metal barrier at the time the soldiers shot her.

Why were multiple M16 rounds necessary to stop a young knife-wielding woman meters away behind a metal barrier?

One might even ask why combat soldiers with assault rifles, instead of say, police with Tasers and batons and pistols, are manning a checkpoint for civilians in the center of a city. (Ironically, the checkpoint’s name, “Hashoter” actually means policeman...

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Why does Netanyahu think he can stop rock throwing?

If live ammunition hasn’t stopped stone throwing in the West Bank, what makes the prime minister think it will work in Jerusalem? The one thing we can be sure the change in policy will do is kill more Palestinians. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants security forces to start shooting Palestinian stone throwers.

During the First Intifada, which included a lot of rock throwing, then defense minister Yitzhak Rabin also tried to stop the phenomenon. The future Nobel laureate’s answer was an order to “break their bones.”

There were a few problems with that tactic. Firstly, it didn’t work. Secondly, it didn’t look very good, especially when broadcast in living color by an American television network. But the bottom line was that you simply can’t stop an occupied people from resisting, and often times, rocks — and far worse violent implements — are involved.

And yet, every once in a while occupying forces feel pressure to try and “stop” the stone throwing. Sometimes that pressure is a result of an outcry from affected constituents. Sometimes it is political pressure — an attempt to look like more of a strongman, or even deflect from more troubling issues.

It’s not entirely clear why the renewed push against stone throwing in Israel is happening now. There was a death as a result of a stone recently, but there is no radical uptick in violence compared to past rounds of now-perennial “escalations” in Jerusalem, most often connected in one way or another to — perceived and real — Israeli violations of the Aqsa Mosque.

Perhaps in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the famous CBS video of Israeli soldiers trying to break stone-throwers’ arms, Israeli police in Jerusalem have increased their obstruction of Palestinian journalists in the city, including using violence against them.

Here is another question. The weapons Israeli police have been using in Jerusalem for years, that is before live fire was approved, were already maiming and even killing protesters and passersby. So why add live fire to the mix?

Of the two possible explanations, increasing deterrence and increasing the public perception of heavy-handedness, the latter is far more likely. The new rules of engagement being adopted by police in Jerusalem are very similar to those already used by the IDF in the West Bank,...

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Mainstreaming administrative detention

Israel is currently imprisoning over 350 Palestinians and three Jewish Israelis without trial and with no way of defending themselves against charges they often aren’t even allowed to see. As Palestinians demand international intervention, Israeli lawmakers move to codify the practice.

Activists in the West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday demanded that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) intervene on behalf of Palestinians being held by Israel in administrative detention.

Administrative detention is a practice, taken from British Mandate law, which Israel uses to detain Palestinians (and some Jews) without charge or trial — indefinitely.

Administrative detention orders are reviewed every six months, but the detainees are often not told of what alleged crimes they are being accused or shown the evidence against them. The result is that it is virtually impossible to defend oneself against an administrative detention order.

Israel is currently holding 350 Palestinians and three Jewish Israelis in administrative detention.

The practice has been the focus of unusual public attention in recent months. International attention tends to surround Palestinian administrative detainees, mainly including Khader Adnan, Muhammad Allan and Oday Stiti, who won their freedom after staging lengthy and dangerous hunger strikes.

More recently, following the murder of three members of a Palestinian family in the West Bank village of Duma, Israel announced it would start using administrative detention against Jewish terrorism suspects. (I wrote earlier this week about how Israeli authorities are using administrative detention as a substitute for good ol’ fashion police work.)

The Israeli government is using the Duma murders — and authorities’ difficulty in prosecuting those responsible — in order to push through massive, new anti-terrorism legislation. The draft law, which consecutive governments have been failed to push through the parliament for years, seriously erodes already tenuous civil liberties and due process, and recklessly expands the definition of what constitutes terrorism and who can be classified a terrorist.

In addition, the new law takes a number of draconian Mandate-era “emergency laws” such as administrative detention, and codifies them into regular Israeli civilian law. If it passes, administrative detention will become even more mainstreamed and acceptable when security forces have trouble bringing strong enough indictments.

An unnecessary practice

In most modern legal systems, police or prosecutors release suspects when they don’t have enough evidence to charge them with a crime. In Israel, especially...

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Ya'alon casts doubt that Dawabsha family will see justice

Israel’s defense minister says he knows who is responsible for burning an entire family alive, but that charging them in court isn’t the state’s top priority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed at least a handful of times to do everything in his power to bring the murders of the Dawabsha family to justice. His defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, on Wednesday hinted that the state’s priorities may have shifted — or that it may have a different definition of justice.

“The security agencies know who is responsible for the [Duma arson attack] but are abstaining from putting them on trial in order to not expose intelligence sources in court,” Haaretz reported on Thursday, citing a talk Ya’alon gave to young Likud activists. (My translation of the original Hebrew.)

The report offers very few clarifications and there is a sweeping gag order on the entire investigation, but we can draw a number of possible conclusions from Ya’alon’s seemingly deliberate leak.

In the days following the Duma attack that killed three members of the Dawabsha family, Israeli authorities announced they had put three alleged Jewish extremists, two of whom are U.S. citizens, into administrative detention (a tool for imprisoning somebody without trial). The state has never, however, publicly connected those three men to the Duma murders.

One of the three is said to be a suspect in an unrelated arson of a church, and in briefings with journalists, the Shin Bet painted a second man as a ringleader of sorts without making any direct connections to the violence.

(I asked the State Department to comment on the administrative detention of U.S. citizens at the time. I received the following response from a spokesperson for the Bureau of Consular Affairs that I didn’t deem worthy of publication at the time: “We have seen the reports that a U.S. citizen is being detained in Israel. We take our obligation to assist U.S. citizens detained overseas seriously. We stand ready to provide all possible consular assistance. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.”)

So we do not know if the three men being held without charge or trial are in fact suspects in the Duma murders. If they are, however, we can presume that Ya’alon was referring to them and the decision not to put them on trial.

When it comes to violent settlers, Israeli law...

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Four simple things Israel can do to help refugees

There’s no reason contributing solutions needs to be scary. Here are four viable steps Israel can take that will actually help the various refugee populations in its midst.

Israeli politicians and prominent figures in the local media have begun paying attention to the refugee crisis playing out in Europe in recent days.

Well, actually, that’s a misnomer. Europe is starting to pay attention to the Syrian refugee crisis because massive numbers of Syrian refugees are now arriving on its shores and borders.

In recent days, one set of prominent figures has called on the Israeli government to start absorbing in a symbolic number of Syrian refugees. The country’s prime minister and another group of politicians rejected the idea out of hand.

Here are four things Israel can do for the — various groups of — refugees in its midst that everyone should be able to live with.

1. Let Palestinian refugees in Syria to come to the West Bank

A significant number of those fleeing Syria are Palestinian refugees who have been living in refugee camps there for decades. We came to know about some of those camps, like Yarmouk, as they faced unimaginable blockades and attacks in recent months and years. Others long ago fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Europe.

Nearly three years ago Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with help from the United Nations, asked Israel to allow him to settle some Palestinian refugees from Syria in the West Bank. Mind you, Israel controls Palestine’s borders and population registry, so Abbas needs Israeli permission to give anybody, let alone an entire, population permanent — or even temporary — status in Palestine.

Israel responded with a trick answer. You can bring the refugees from Syria into the West Bank and Gaza, Netanyahu’s government reportedly responded at the time, as long as each and every one of them signs away their right of return to the cities and villages they fled and were forced from in 1948.

Abbas, unsurprisingly, said no. There is no Palestinian leader today who has the political capital to abrogate even one refugee’s right of return. Abbas, the “best partner Israel will ever have,” announced that he was waiving his own right of return a few years ago and he paid a huge political price. (Abbas is from Safed, deep inside Israel proper.) Netanyahu, “Mr. No Preconditions,” probably thought he...

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In English Bibi calls Syrians migrants, in Hebrew they're 'infiltrators'

Netanyahu’s message is clear: in Hebrew there is no such thing as a Syrian refugee who might find shelter in Israel; instead, there are infiltrators and terrorists.

Israeli officials are rather fond of pointing out the different messages Palestinian and Arab leaders put out in Arabic and English. It turns out Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu isn’t much better.

Netanyahu responded Sunday morning to a call by opposition leader Isaac Herzog, in light of the refugee crisis in Europe, for Israel to open its border with Syria to refugees fleeing ISIS and the civil war there.

Explaining why he will do no such thing, the statement sent by Netanyahu’s bureau to foreign reporters read: “Israel is a small country, a very small country, that lacks demographic and geographic depth; therefore, we must control our borders, against both illegal migrants and terrorism.”

Here’s the thing. He didn’t actually call the refugees from Syria migrants, he used a far more pejorative term that has come to be used by officials in recent years to refer to African asylum seekers.

The original Hebrew version of the statement, available on the Prime Minister’s Office website, refers to Syrian refugees as “infiltrators.” Mind you, none of the refugees have entered Israel, legally or illegally, so it’s not quiet clear how they could be infiltrators.

In a later paragraph, the whitewashing of Netanyahu’s unfortunate semantic choice goes even further. The Hebrew version quotes Netanyahu as saying (my translation): “We won’t allow Israel to be flooded with infiltrators, work migrants and terrorists.”

The English version entirely omits “infiltrators.” It quotes Netanyahu as saying: “We will not allow Israel to be flooded with illegal migrants and terrorists.”

The message here is clear. In Hebrew there is no such thing as a Syrian refugee who might find shelter in Israel; instead, there are infiltrators, work migrants and terrorists. All of those words are meant to scare the average Israeli into rejecting the possibility of taking in refugees.

That the English version omits the word infiltrator, opting instead to describe displaced Syrians as illegal migrants, we can see that Netanyahu understands his government’s rhetoric doesn’t go over very well with the rest of the Western world.

Israel has long been under pressure from Western states regarding its policy toward asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea. In rejecting the possibility of taking in any significant number...

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Netanyahu is the Iran deal's victor, he'll just never admit it

For 20 years the Israeli prime minister has been demanding the U.S. and the world put a stop to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and that’s exactly what Obama delivered. And no, there won’t be any consequences for the public fight with the American president.

It has become somewhat of a trope in recent months to warn of the damage Benjamin Netanyahu has done by so openly and directly working to oppose the Iran deal, the flagship foreign policy achievement Barak Obama’s legacy. Most of those warnings, however, can be attributed to either wishful thinking or veiled politicking surrounding the deal itself.

Benjamin Netanyahu is a political mastermind. The Israeli prime minister may have made some faulty assumptions and made questionable moves in the United States, but the consequences have never approached anything of substance. In fact, nearly every move he has made regarding Iran in recent years has resulted in an achievement.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing the United States to do something about what he then termed an imminent threat of a nuclear-armed Iran for two decades. In a 1996 speech to a joint session of Congress, then Prime Minister Netanyahu implored the United States to assemble and lead an international effort to put a stop to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. He has made similar speeches at any and every opportunity ever since.

Domestically, Netanyahu has used the Iranian threat to craft and perpetuate a brilliant and resilient political career based almost entirely on fear-mongering (periodically substituting the Palestinian threat when timely or expedient). He made the Iranian nuclear threat a mainstay of his Mr. Security political persona, which has helped him become Israel’s second-longest-serving prime minister. (If Netanyahu manages to stay in office for three more years, he will surpass David Ben-Gurion.)

The threat of war

Internationally, Netanyahu has demanded the world take action for years upon years, warning of a second Holocaust. When that didn’t work, he added his own threats into the mix: that Israel would unilaterally attack Iran. If you don’t stop Iran from getting the bomb, Netanyahu told the world, I will.

And so it was for the good part of the past decade. As I wrote a few weeks ago:

And the war mongering worked. Part of Barak Obama’s appeal in the 2008 elections was his promise to go down the warpath, instead pledging to give diplomacy a try...

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Israel plans to force-feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner

Israeli authorities tell Mohammad Allan, who has been hunger striking to protest being held without charge, that they intend to ask a district court to authorize force-feeding him.

Israeli authorities plan to use a brand new “force-feeding” law against a Palestinian man currently being held without charge who is on the 52nd day of a hunger strike.

Authorities on Friday told Mohammad Allan’s attorney that they intend to ask a district court to authorize force-feeding him, according to Physicians for Human Rights — Israel.

PHR sent out a press release on Saturday:

This would be the first recourse to the shameful legislation that the Knesset has approved on July 30, authorizing the force-feeding of Palestinian detainees on hunger-strike against their will despite vehement opposition of the medical community and human rights organizations in Israel and worldwide. PHR-Israel is about to appeal against it in Israel’s Supreme Court, while the Israeli Medical Association has submitted its petition last week.

Force-feeding violates medical ethics as it administers forceful treatment to a patient against his will, and is considered a form of torture. Article 7 of the 1975 World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo states that doctors are not allowed to force-feed hunger strikers. Israel’s medical community should stand firm and united in this testing time. PHR-Israel encourages the doctors and nurses in Soroka hospital to refuse to carry out any act that violates the letter and spirit of medical ethics.

PHR-Israel urgently calls to refrain from any type of forced treatment on Mohammad Allan and urges the Israeli authorities to release him immediately.

Two weeks ago Israeli authorities agreed to release another Palestinian hunger striker, also being held without charge in administrative detention.

The World Medical Association has unequivocally stated that physicians should respect a patient’s refusal to accept food and/or water. “Forced feeding contrary to an informed and voluntary refusal is unjustifiable,” the WMA Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikersreads.

The WMA declaration goes on to explain, hunger strikes “are often a form of protest by people who lack other ways of making their demands known. In refusing nutrition for a significant period, they usually hope to obtain certain goals by inflicting negative publicity on the authorities.”

The head of the Israeli Medical Association, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, has long opposed attempts to force-feed prisoners. As similar legislative measures came and went over the years, he has consistently argued...

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