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Israel to start force-feeding Palestinian hunger strikers

One month after administrative detainee Khader Adnan’s successful hunger strike, the Knesset passes a law to allow for the force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners.

Illustrative photo of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli military prison (By ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli military prison (By ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

The Knesset passed a law early Thursday morning that sanctions the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners in Israeli jails. The law passed by a small margin, with 46 lawmakers in favor and 40 opposed.

The so-called “hunger-strike law,” considered more “gentle” than the original bill proposed last June, allows a judge to sanction the force-feeding or administration of medical treatment if there is a threat to the inmate’s life. This applies even if the prisoner refuses.

The bill comes in the wake of a successful 50-plus-day hunger strike by Palestinian administrative detainee Khader Adnan last month. This was Adnan’s second extended hunger strike against his administrative detention; in 2012, Adnan won his release in a similar deal that ended a hunger strike. Most of the most high-profile hunger-strikes have been by Palestinian administrative detainees, which are held without sentence or trial.

The Israeli Medical Organization (IMA) has long announced that its doctors will refuse to carry out the procedure. In the past, Israel Medical Association Chairman Dr. Leonid Edelman said that the IMA will not protect doctors who will be tried at the International Criminal Court. The IMA’s position is praiseworthy, even if it stems from potential sanctions by the World Medical Association.

Force-feeding is considered a form of torture according to the World Health Organization. Not a single prisoner has died of hunger strike in the history of Israel, due to the wise conduct of both the prisoners themselves and the state, the latter of which often came to diplomatic solutions. On the other hand, five prisoners have died as a result of force-feeding before the practice was stopped by the Israel Prison Service (IPS). The Knesset is now bringing us back to the days of serious injuries, torture and death threats against prisoners.

Khader Adnan plays with his daughters in the West Bank village of Araba, near Jenin on his first day of freedom from incarceration in an Israeli prison, April 18, 2012. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Khader Adnan plays with his daughters in the West Bank village of Araba, near Jenin on his first day after being freed from incarceration in an Israeli prison, April 18, 2012. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The IMA must begin circulation a mass petition among Israeli doctors who refuse to carry out the procedure. It must enact special training, especially for doctors who work at hospitals that treat hunger strikers, as well as IPS doctors, in order to explain to them why they must not take part in force-feeding, which dangers they will be exposed to should they breach medical ethics, and what kind of support they will receive if and when they refuse to take part.

Furthermore, it must be made clear that hunger-striking prisoners do not threaten the state of Israel. Rather, the danger is the slippery slope that starts with a 50-year-old military regime in the occupied territories, through the suppression of all forms of resistance — both violent and nonviolent — and through the attempt to put down the last and only form of protest available to prisoners.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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