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Israel seeks force feeding powers as hunger striker enters danger zone

The head of the Israeli Medical Association says he will instruct physicians to ignore the new law if it is passed, saying it contradicts medical ethics. Israeli authorities are currently holding some 400 Palestinians without charge or trial.

Solidarity protest with prisoner Khader Adnan, Ofer prison in the West Bank, February 2012 (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills.org)

Solidarity protest with administrative detainee Khader Adnan, Ofer Prison in the West Bank, February 2012 (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills.org)

The Israeli parliament is expected to soon vote on a bill that would permit authorities to force feed Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike; the cabinet gave the measure its seal of approval on Sunday. Although no direct correlation has been shown, the move comes as Israel/Palestine’s most famous repeat hunger striker, Khader Adnan, has gone more than 40 days without food or nutrients.

Adnan is protesting being held under administrative detention, which means he has no access to due process, has not formally been accused of any crime, and has no way of defending himself. He is currently being held in a hospital in central Israel where he is reportedly shackled to his bed and is refusing to be treated by hospital medical staff. Adnan has said he will only agree to be treated by a doctor from Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR), who is expected to see him on Wednesday.

From the fifth week of a hunger strike and on, according to the World Health Organization’s guide to prison health, a patient can lose motor coordination, have difficulty swallowing, and death can occur abruptly.

Adnan won his release from administrative detention in 2012 after a 66-day hunger strike that sparked protests across Israel and the West Bank and caught the world’s attention. He was detained once again during Israel’s massive arrest raids in the West Bank last summer, and has been held in administrative detention for the past 11 months. The Israeli army accuses him of being a spokesperson for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but it has not charged him with any crime.

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 that they contradict medical ethics and declared he would advise doctors to ignore any order to administer force feeding.

Khader Adnan plays with his daughter on his first day out of Israeli jail in the West Bank village of Araba, near Jenin, April 18, 2012. Israeli authorities released Khader Adnan on April 17, 2012, from administrative detention after he was held in an Israeli jail for four months without trial. Adnan protested his imprisonment and was on hunger strike for 67 days.

Khader Adnan plays with his daughter on his first day out of Israeli jail in the West Bank village of Araba, near Jenin, April 18, 2012. Israeli authorities released Khader Adnan on April 17, 2012 from administrative detention after he was held in an Israeli jail for months without trial. (Activestills.org)

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 Strikers reads.

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.”

Force feeding hunger strikers is extremely inhumane and painful for the patient, described by the ACLU as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.” In the video below Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) volunteers to undergo the “treatment” – it’s not a sight for faint eyes.

By force feeding hunger striking Palestinian prisoners, Israel hopes to undercut the only non-violent path prisoners have to protest their treatment and denial of due process. Hunger strikers have gained significant support on the Palestinian street, and Israeli authorities have long warned that letting high-profile hunger strikers die could spark unrest. Israeli politicians also believe that Israel would face international pressure over its practice of administrative detention if hunger strikes go on for too long.

Opposition to the bill came from an unexpected corner this week when former foreign minister MK Avigdor Liberman said his party, which is in the opposition, would oppose the bill. “[Israel] should learn from what happened to the Irish underground during the time of Margaret Thatcher,” Haaretz quoted Liberman as saying. “What is good for the birthplace of democracy, England, is good for us as well.”

According to Palestinian prisoner support organization Addameer, Israeli authorities were holding 414 Palestinians in administrative detention as of April 1, 2015, including a number of elected members of the Palestinian parliament.

The Israeli government made a number of concessions to end a mass hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in 2012, including promises to reduce its use of administrative detention. By admitting that its use could be reduced, Israel’s public security minister seemingly admitted that it was being used unnecessarily, I wrote at the time.

Administrative detention is permitted under international law but only in extreme circumstances. Under Israeli law, the practice is a holdover from the British Mandate period and has been kept in effect by Israel’s emergency regulations. Those emergency regulations supersede most basic rights in Israel.

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    1. Ginger Eis

      All Western countries, including Israel, force-feed prisoners who go on hunger strike IF there is certainty that the prisoner will die if not force-fed or released. Countries that do not allow force-feeding (e.g. the UK) let the hunger-strikers die! That is even worse than force-feeding, and immoral!

      The declarations of the World Medical Association do NOT constitute (International) law. Medical science and legal science are two autonomous science and are independent of each other. Medical Associations don’t determine what the law is and what constitutes torture, inhumane treatment, etc.”, the Courts do! In the United States Of America, SCOTUS has consistently held that the right of privacy include “only personal rights . . . deemed ‘fundamental’ or ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty and that a person’s self-destructive acts could not be protected under this right”. Allow me to give you a little trip around the world to see what the practice is re Force Feeding. We shall begin with our good ol’ USA:

      The United States law allows for force feeding!

      1. In Von Holden vs. Chapman, Case: 450 N.Y.S.2d 623 (App. Div. 1982) the NY Appellate court permitted the force-feeding of a prisoner, stating that: “It is self-evident that the right to privacy does not include the right to commit suicide.”

      Case: Civil Action No. 05-1457 (GK)
      ABU WA’EL (JIHAD) DHIAB,(Petitioner)


      BARACK H. OBAMA, et. Al.,(Respondents)


      (…) The Court is now faced with an anguishing Hobson’s choice: reissue another Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) despite the very real probability that Mr. Dhiab will die, because he has indicated a continuing desire to refuse to eat and/or drink liquids, or refuse to issue the TRO and allow the medical personnel on the scene to take the medical actions to keep Mr. Dhiab alive, but at the possible cost of great pain and suffering.

      The Court is in no position to make the complex medical decisions necessary to keep Mr. Dhiab alive. Thanks to the intransigence of the Department of Defense, Mr. Dhiab may well suffer unnecessary pain from certain enteral feeding practices and forcible cell extractions. However, the Court simply cannot let Mr. Dhiab die.

      For all the reasons above, and based on the entire record
      herein, it is hereby

      ORDERED, that the Temporary Restraining Order in this case
      will not be reissued.
      May 22, 2014
      Gladys Kessler, United States District Judge.

      Copies to: attorneys on record via ECF

      Reply to Comment
      • Marnie

        What’s your point Eis? You love to play lawyer (liar).

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ginger Eis


      Swiss law provides for force feeding. In the case of Bernard Rappaz, the Supreme Court in Switzerland ruled as follows:

      „Nötigenfalls ist durch die Vollzugsbehörde eine Zwangsernährung anzuordnen, sofern eine bleibende Schädigung oder der Tod des Beschwerdeführers nicht anders abzuwenden ist. Die Zwangsernährung kann sich im vorliegenden Fall auf das kantonale Recht abstützen. Fehlt eine entsprechende Bestimmung, darf sie von der Vollzugsbehörde auch gestützt auf die polizeiliche Generalklausel angeordnet werden.”

      IOWS: force feeding hunger-strikers is allowed under the Swiss law to prevent (a) permanent damage to the health of the hunger-striker or (b) his death!

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ginger Eis


      The German penitentiary law allows for force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike under specific conditions. Here is the exact text of “§ 101 Strafvollzugsgesetz, (StVzG)”:

      “Medizinische Untersuchung und Behandlung sowie Ernährung sind zwangsweise nur bei Lebensgefahr, bei schwerwiegender Gefahr für die Gesundheit des Gefangenen oder bei Gefahr für die Gesundheit anderer Personen zulässig; die Maßnahmen müssen für die Beteiligten zumutbar und dürfen nicht mit erheblicher Gefahr für Leben oder Gesundheit des Gefangenen verbunden sein. Zur Durchführung der Maßnahmen ist die Vollzugsbehörde nicht verpflichtet, solange von einer freien Willensbestimmung des Gefangenen ausgegangen werden kann”.

      IOWS: force feeding hunger-strikers is allowed under the Swiss law to prevent (a) permanent damage to the health of the hunger-striker or (b) his death. And if the hunger striker enters into coma as a result of the hunger strike, State Officials have the obligation to force feed him/her!

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ginger Eis

      A. The Netherlands

      According to the Dutch Supreme Court in Administrative matters (Afdeling Bestuursrechtsrpraak Raad van State), force-feeding is allowed under specific conditions proscribed by law to:

      a. prevent permanent damage to the health of the hunger striker or
      b. prevent the death of the hunger striker, following
      c. clear procedures specified by law and
      d. the force feeding does not cause unnecessary pain.

      The standard set by the Dutch Supreme Court in Administrative Cases is based on the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (!). Here is the file:///C:/Users/PC/Downloads/brief-raad-van-state-dwangvoeding-bij-hongerstakers-en-of-vochtweigeraars.pdf

      B. The United Kingdom

      The UK allowed IRA hunger striking prisoners to die, but that does not go for other groups – such as asylum seekers (and you need not be a rocket scientist to figure out why!).

      C. European Court Of Human rights

      In the Case of Horoz v. Turkey (application no. 1639/03) the European Court Of Human Rights ruled that States may choose whether or not to intervene and save the life of a hunger striking prisoner who is facing certain death. It is fairly more than clear that in the Civilized World it is generally accepted that the State has the obligation-/may choose to force-feed hunger striking prisoners who – if not released or given residence permits in the case of asylum seekers – will surely die. The only States that allow their hunger striking prisoners to die include States like Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, etc. Neither Israel nor any other Western country will join them!

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ginger Eis

      The Case Against Khader Adnan

      1. Khader Adnan is the leader of an extremely violent and barbaric terrorist organization called Islamic Jihad;
      2. Islamic Jihad is responsible for the mass murders of Israeli civilians;
      3. Below is an example of clear and indisputable evidence of Khader Adnan calling for mass murder of innocent Israeli civilians and recruiting suicide bombers to carry out the mass murders:

      Watch. And Weep!


      Apparently Khader Adnan thinks that (a) only he – Khader Adnan – has human rights and not (b) the innocent children, women and men whose mass murders he is calling for and those others whom his organization has already massacred (?!). Regardless, Khader Adnan must not be left to die (though I think he is not man enough to go all the way and die if allowed to do so). He must be force-fed! That way he feels in his marrow that his innocent victims are indeed his lord and master!

      Reply to Comment