Israel Moves Hunger-striking Palestinian Detainee to Second Hospital

Director of Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center: 'We will work according to the Patient Rights Act, and what our ethics allow.'

Protestors supporting Allaan outside Soroka Medical Center, August 9, 2010.
Protestors supporting Allaan outside Soroka Medical Center, August 9, 2010.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Administrative detainee Mohammed Allaan, who has been jailed without being charged for over nine months and has been on a hunger strike for 54 days, was transferred Monday from Be’er Sheva’s Soroka Medical Center to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center. Allan has refused to receive medical treatment, but because he is not thought to be in mortal danger, the doctors could not force him to accept it.

The objective of the move from Soroka is to compel Allaan to end his strike. Barzilai’s ethics board was expected to convene during the day to determine what sort of care the detainee should receive.

Hospital director Dr. Hezi Levy told Army Radio that, “We are going to work according to the Israeli Patient Rights Act, and what our ethics allow."

Added Levy, "Of course, we want to protect his life. That’s also part of the oath that doctors take.”

The director stressed that the medical staff won’t “attack” Allaan, explaining, “We intend to do everything possible to provide him with proper nutrition and not to endanger his life."

Levy said he was "not talking about any political context. I am talking about a 31-year-old man who has fasted 54 days with all the medical ramifications of that.”

In a letter to Levy on Monday, MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) demanded that the hospital director prevent Allaan from being force-fed. Ghattas wrote that it seemed that the only reason for transferring the detainee to Barzilai was the refusal of Soroka doctors to force-feed him. In so doing, he added, they had obeyed their conscience and abided by the universal ethical code of their profession.

“It seems the Shin Bet [security service] thinks that the situation at Barzilai will be different and that doctors there will agree to force-feed the prisoner and in practice join in the torture,” he wrote Levy. “I implore you to object to turning Barzilai into an Israeli Guantanamo, in which one may torture prisoners after other hospitals have refused [to do so].”

IMA chair: 'Force-feeding is torture'

Prof. Avinoam Reches, former chairman of the Israel Medical Association’s ethics bureau, told Army Radio Monday morning that the doctors would not participate in the force-feeding process.

“Force-feeding is a brutal, forceful and invasive step that can kill the prisoner,” Reches said. “You can rip the esophagus or mistakenly introduce food into his lung and cause him to die. This contradicts our professional ethics. Force-feeding is a form of torture, and it is forbidden.”

Allaan, a lawyer from the village of Einabus, south of Nablus, was arrested and put under administrative detention for six months on November 14, after which his detention was extended. A Jerusalem-based organization that supports Palestinian prisoners reported that since launching his hunger strike Allaan had been kept in isolation at Eshel Prison to break him, and occasionally transferred to Soroka.

Allaan has refused to ingest vitamins and minerals, including salt, which are vital to bodily functioning. According to medical literature, serious and life-threatening complications can be expected after the 42nd day of a hunger strike.

On Sunday, dozens of people demonstrated in front of Soroka in solidarity with Allaan. The demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and signs opposing force-feeding, and demanded the detainee's immediate release.

The Red Cross announced over the weekend that there was a clear and present danger that Allaan would die.

Soroka’s ethics board ruled that if Allaan were in imminent danger of death, medical procedures and examinations could be carried out even against his will. At the same time, it expressed doubt as to whether the hospital would be permitted to force-feed him.

For its part, the Israel Prisons Service has yet to act on the recently enacted law allowing force-feeding.

The Al-Mizan human rights group and an organization called Yosof Al-Sedeek for Helping Prisoners have submitted a petition to Israel's High Court of Justice, demanding an injunction against invoking the new law in the case of security prisoners.

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