Israeli doctors have been instructed not to comply with legislation approved by the cabinet Sunday, June 14, that would enable prison authorities to force-feed hunger-striking Palestinian inmates. The legislation was proposed by the last right-wing government and was revived by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan last week. The draft passed its first reading in the previous Knesset, but did not reach the second and third readings required for it to be signed into law.
In a letter addressed to Minister Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Israeli Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said he had given doctors instructions to act solely according to the demands of ethics and not to force-feed prisoners conducting a hunger strike. “The Medical Association views the intention to legislate force-feeding very severely,” Eidelman said. “Our objection has been expressed to [representatives of] government ministries and the attorney general at every opportunity.” Physicians for Human Rights dubbed the legislation “shameful” and said it would legalize torture. “Instead of force-feeding them, while humiliating and risking their lives, Israel must address the demands of strikers – including putting an end to arbitrary administrative detentions,” the organization said in a statement.
The Israel Prison Service has said that four prisoners are currently refusing to eat, and has warned of an extensive hunger strike after the month-long Ramadan holiday, which begins in the next few days. The Palestinian Detainees Committee expressed its deep concerns over the outcomes of this bill, and said “the law brings to mind the cases of detainees Ali al-Ja’bary, Ishaq Maragha, and Rasem Halawa, who were killed in the early 1980’s, after the Israeli authorities force-fed them in an attempt to end their hunger strike.”
“The time has come to put an end to the Israeli insanity, cruelty and immorality,” the committee said in a press release, “We have seen a series of laws and drafts that are practically calling for the killing of the detainees, in addition to laws meant to continuously abuse their rights even after their release.” The committee called on local, regional and international human rights groups, and the international community, to end their deadly silence, and to act on prosecuting Israeli officials, such as Avigdor Lieberman, Gilad Erdan and many others “for their calls to murder the detainees.”
The Israeli Association for Civil Rights said force-feeding the detainees is forbidden, and that when the detainees conduct hunger strikes, they are practicing a legitimate right to object to injustice. It added that most detainees who conduct hunger strikes in Israeli prisons and detention centers are largely imprisoned under Administrative Detention orders, and thus are usually being held for renewable six-month periods, without facing any charges. The Palestinian Authority also called for ending the escalating Israeli violations against the Palestinian detainees, and said they have the right to express their rejection to the outrageous abuse, and injustice, they constantly face.
Force-feeding prisoners by tube against a person’s wishes has been prohibited since 1975 by the World Medical Association’s Tokyo Declaration, provided that the prisoner is “capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment.” The procedure can result in extreme pain and in severe bleeding and spreading of various diseases. Human rights activists in Israel warned Monday that one hunger striking Palestinian prisoner is in critical condition and other security detainees have threatened to join him, bringing renewed attention to the issue.