Prisoner Force-feeding Bill Ready for Final Vote After Getting Fast Track

Controversial bill being irresponsibly jammed through Knesset, critics claim; Israel Medical Association opposes measure.

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Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi's case reached the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in 2012.
Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi's case reached the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in 2012. Credit: Reuters

In an accelerated procedure, the Knesset Interior Committee completed preparations for the second and third reading of the law enabling force-feeding of security prisoners. Voting in the plenary will take place next Monday.

MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid) commented that the committee’s head, “MK Miri Regev (Likud) behaved in an unacceptable manner when she convened a meeting with no MKs in attendance. Thus, it was quick without any obstructions. This is a patchwork job that doesn’t address the root problem. Do we really want an assembly line of force-feeding?”

Coalition members are obliged to vote in favor of the bill, ensuring its passage. One committee member said, “The legislative process was superficial, with most members absent. Netanyahu wanted it rushed through without serious debate about its ramifications. This will become a long-term tragedy.”

MK Zandberg (Meretz) said, “The bill is contrary to international law and to Israel’s Basic Law regarding human dignity. It was rushed through for political purposes.”

The Israel Medical Association is vehemently opposed to the law, saying it contravenes medical ethics and international law. The head of the association, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, expressed grave concerns over one of its clauses, which would force any doctor who refuses to carry out such a procedure to find a replacement physician who agrees to perform it.

Eidelman strongly protested the clause in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri. “This is a further worsening of the bill, since this would obligate de facto both the doctor on the ward and the hospital director, who is a doctor himself, to act contrary to the codes of ethics and their personal consciences, and to forcibly feed or bring about the forced feeding of hunger strikers,” he wrote, saying he had “been informed of” the new clause without giving a source.

The Israel Medical Association has consistently expressed its opposition to the bill, which would allow doctors to seek a court order to force-feed a hunger striker if his life is in danger. The association argues that force-feeding contravenes medical ethics and several international conventions.

In yesterday’s letter, Eidelman added that Israel’s medical establishment was dealing successfully with the current hunger strike by Palestinian administrative detainees, and expressed fear that passing the bill would destroy any trust the hunger strikers have in the doctors. This could lead to results that are just the opposite of the what the legislature intends, he said.

While the prisoners’ hunger strike that began on April 24 continues, far fewer are participating. Of the 90 administrative detainees that began the strike to protest administrative detention, being held in custody without trial, 82 are persisting, and they are on medical watch in 12 different hospitals. The Israel Prison Service has assigned 300 prison guards to guard them there.

At various stages, some 550 other Palestinians, most of them security prisoners and not detainees, joined the hunger strike in solidarity with the detainees, but most have dropped out over the past two weeks, including several prisoners who are leaders in their respective organizations.

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