Despite objections of medical professionals and in violations of medical ethics, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has instructed to expedite a legislation that will enable force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners currently undergoing hunger strike as protest against their administrative detention. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) called on the government to release all administrative detainees, and urges the Israeli medical community to denounce and fight the force-feeding bill.
Pressure on Israel is increasing as the hunger strike continues. Every day more and more Palestinian detainees are joining the prisoners’ strike in solidarity with the administrative detainees, and the number of participants now stands at about 300. Around 70 have been transferred to inpatient care in public hospitals, in light of prior preparation of hospitals and the Ministry of Health state (more details below.)
For the past year the Israeli government has been promoting a bill that aims to permit the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike. The bill came into existence following the mass hunger strike in 2012, which ended in an agreement with the strikers and the release of some of the administrative detainees. According to media reports, on Monday June 2nd, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the acceleration of the bill’s passage through the legislature. The bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on 18.5.14 and will next go to a vote in the Knesset. The concern is that the Prime Minister will order a fast-tracked approval of the law so that it can be utilized in the government’s dealings with the current hunger strikers. The force-feeding and forced care outlined in the bill would constitute serious violations of human rights and medical ethics, including the following: legalization of torture through regulating and allowing the forced feeding and forced care of the hunger strikers; improper use of medicine and/or doctors for political advantage; contravention of domestic law, of patient rights declarations, and of numerous international conventions.
The Israel Medical Association has expressed a firm stance against this bill and called on physicians not to act in a manner which contravenes medical ethics. The National Council on Bioethics, the professional body which advises the Israeli government on these issues, has recommended the bill be rejected outright. In attempts to stop the bill from being approved, Physicians for Human Rights called for the intervention of the World Medical Association and the World Health Organization.
According to PHR “the details of the bill and the statements of its proponents reveal clear motives behind these legislative efforts. The position outlined by the Prime Minister at a cabinet meeting likewise leaves no room for doubt regarding these motives. The only way the State of Israel is choosing to deal with non-violent protests by Palestinian prisoners is to suppress them. Instead of examining the policies of detention of Palestinians, the State of Israel is using force to break the protest of the hunger strike and the strikers.”
In response to the resistance of professional bodies, and the call of the IMA for doctors to act only in accordance with medical ethics, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting that there would certainly be doctors willing to carry out the force-feeding and forcible care of prisoners.