Israeli Lawmakers Pass Law Sanctioning Force-feeding Prisoners

Law allows a judge to sanction the force-feeding or administration of medical treatment if there is a threat to the inmate's life, even if the prisoner refuses.

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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

The Israeli parliament has passed a law that would permit the force-feeding of inmates on hunger strike.

The law, passed Thursday in the Knesset, allows a judge to sanction the force-feeding or administration of medical treatment if there is a threat to the inmate's life, even if the prisoner refuses.

Palestinians held in Israeli jails have held rounds of hunger strikes over recent years, protesting their detention. Many have been hospitalized and their failing health has caused tensions to flare among Palestinians. Israel fears that a hunger striking prisoner's death could trigger unrest.

In June, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who promoted the law, said after its initial approval that "security prisoners are interested in turning a hunger strike into a new type of suicide terrorist attack through which they will threaten the State of Israel. We will not allow anyone to threaten us and we will not allow prisoners to die in our prisons."

Critics, including medical associations, say force-feeding is unethical. They say the law is political, meant to prevent violence sparked by a hunger striker's death rather than protect the prisoner's dignity and well-being.

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