The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee launched on Monday two days of marathon debates over the controversial bill allowing the force-feeding of Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners, as the bill advances toward its second and third readings. The bill, which is officially an amendment to the Prisons Ordinance, passed its first reading last week, with 29 Knesset members voting in favor and 19 against. The bill authorizes the Israel Prison Service commissioner to ask a District Court judge for permission to forcibly feed a prisoner conducting a hunger strike if medical examinations indicate that his life is in danger.
Numerous organizations have submitted position papers opposing the bill to MKs, among them Amnesty International, the Israel Democracy Institute, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights and the Israel Medical Association, which last week declared that force-feeding violates internationally agreed medical ethics.
“In its current form, the bill enables the forced feeding of Palestinian administrative detainees who are hunger-striking, which constitutes a serious infringement of the prisoners’ basic human rights,” wrote the coordinator of Amnesty International’s human rights under occupation campaign to committee member Dov Khenin (Hadash). “Under international norms, state authorities are obligated to assure that the prisoners have ongoing access to medical treatment of their choosing and that such treatment should be administered by consent.” The Israel Democracy Institute stated that it believes “the primary purpose of this bill is an attempt to block hunger-striking prisoners, some of them administrative detainees who were never tried, from any political propaganda achievements.”
The bill generated scathing criticism last week from MKs on the Left. “This bill is cruel, racist and dangerous, facilitating torture against Palestinian administrative detainees who haven’t even been brought to trial,” Hadash chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh said, “Force-feeding will be used as a punishment and a deterrent, not out of concern for their health. Instead of examining whether the administrative detainees are right and justified, we choose a humiliating and inhuman political act.”