Sixty-three Palestinian prisoners have suspended the hunger strike which they have observed in Israeli jails since late April, one of their lawyers said Tuesday. Shawqi al-Ayasa, the minister of prisoner affairs for the newly-formed Palestinian unity government, confirmed the suspension of the hunger strike, saying a major portion of prisoners’ demands had been met.
Prisoners will be returned to the jails from which they were moved when they started striking, and more details of the deal will be revealed “Wednesday or Thursday,” said Qaddura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society. In addition, talks will continue between prisoners and the Israeli Prison Service, which had been refusing to negotiate with prisoners from the beginning of the strike, Fares added. He congratulated the hunger strikers, “who fought the occupier from within prisons.”
Most of the strikers involved are administrative detainees who are being held without charge for indefinitely renewable six-month periods in a procedure dating back to the imperialist British Mandate on Palestine (1920-1948). The hunger strike was launched to denounce such administrative detentions. Some 5,700 Palestinians are being held in Israeli jails, with nearly 200 in administrative detention.
Palestinian and Israeli rights groups have denounced the practice, while the Palestinian authority has pressed the international community to put pressure on Israel to scrap the measure. In an attempt to prevent further hunger strikes, the extreme-right Israeli government wants to bring in a law which would allow the authorities to force-feed prisoners. The draft law, also denounced by human rights groups, is due to be debated in the Israeli parliament on Monday. In Israel 1,300 medical, nursing, mental health and welfare personnel have signed a petition strongly opposing the bill.
In the petition medical practitioners protest the intention of passing the bill which will permit force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners. According to the petition, the bill, which will be put to the Knesset for its second and third reading tomorrow, incorporates within it severe violations of human rights and of medical ethics. The bill makes unethical use of medicine and of medical professionals in order to attain a political-security advantage or an improved image, and it is in absolute contravention of the law protecting patient rights and of international declarations and conventions dealing with the right to health and medical ethics.
The bill, backed by the Security Authorities, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Health, is being promoted with absolute disregard on the part of the Government and those supporting the bill, of the opposition of the medical community in Israel, and of the position of the Israeli Medical Association, the National Committee for Bioethics and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).
The petition, initiated by the Physicians for Human Rights organization, has been signed during the last week by about 1,300 medical, mental health and welfare professionals. “We are at a critical time, when the protest of medical and welfare professionals as individuals and as a group needs to be heard more powerfully than the trumpets of war sounded by the government against the hunger-strikers”, the letter states. “We the undersigned, medical and welfare professionals, are absolutely opposed to the bill for forced-feeding of hunger-strikers and are against our exploitation and that of medicine as a political tool by the Security Authorities, harming our professional integrity, while damaging human dignity and human physical and mental integrity”.