July 31, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — The Israeli parliament has passed a bill allowing the force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners who resort to hunger strikes to protest their administrative detention without charge. It is a procedure the Israel Medical Association has said amounts to torture.
The controversial bill, called the “Law to prevent harm caused by hunger strikes,” passed with 46 legislators in favor and 40 against. The bill “authorizes the district court to instruct force-feeding or forced medical care without consent of the hunger-striker and despite his refusal and objection, based on state security considerations, public safety (concern for human life).” Originally approved in June 2014 during the mass hunger strike of hundreds of Palestinian detainees, the Israeli parliament dissolved before it could be put to a vote.
There are currently 6,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. Approximately 400 are being held without charges under the controversial practice of administrative detention. There are currently two using hunger strikes as a form of peaceful protest, with one refusing food for 12 days and the other for 43. Prisoners most likely to use hunger strikes are those held under administrative detention who use their right to protest to demand release or trial.
Israel’s Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday that “Alongside attempts to boycott and delegitimize Israel, hunger strikes of terrorists in prisons have become a means to threaten Israel.”
“Terrorists?” Most protesters have not been charged with anything.
The World Medical Association (WMA)’s Declaration of Malta on hunger strikers was written as an ethical guideline for medical professionals. The declaration prohibits the participation of doctors in force-feeding and defines participation as ”medical participation in an inhumane and degrading treatment.” Medical teams are instructed to respect the free will and right to autonomy of the hunger striker.
It’s clear the purpose of the bill is not to save hunger strikers’ lives but to forcefully end protest and avoid addressing the underlying grievances of the prisoners. Force-feeding Palestinian political prisoners allows Israel to stop them from using the only thing at their disposal to pressure the state to end its human rights violations. Instead of charging or releasing the prisoners, Israel has once more found a way to subjugate and oppress Palestinian human rights.
The majority of the medical community in Israel stands against the legislation. The Israeli Medical Association has waged a public struggle against it, stating clearly, “force- feeding is considered to be torture, and doctors are prohibited from participating in torture.”
Dr Yoel Donchin from Physicians For Human Rights definitely considers force-feeding torture. “This is why I joined Physicians For Human Rights. The government can not issue a law on how I treat patients. I don’t have prisoners I have patients. I am not going to insert a tube against his wishes. This is beyond and above the Hippocratic Oath. It is propaganda and has nothing to do with medicine.”
Dr Shimon Glick disagrees: “I personally feel that human life has precedence over the autonomy and dignity of the patient. I reject the concept that using a nasal tube is more torturous than allowing a prisoner to starve himself to death. That is absurd.”
Not only is force-feeding painful and degrading for the subject, it is considered another form of punishment. Lawyers for Guantánamo detainees claim the U.S. military’s forcible feedings of hunger-striking detainees is not the medically viable procedure the government has long claimed it to be.
Sahar Francis from Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association claims the new Israeli law legalises more oppression against Palestinians. ” This is certainly how political prisoners will see it, if it was to protect Palestinians, they wouldn’t be shooting them. ”
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Michaela Whitton joined Anti-Media as its first journalist abroad in May of 2015. Her topics of interest include human rights, conflict, the Middle East, Palestine, and Israel. Born and residing in the United Kingdom, she is also a photographer. Learn more about Whitton here!