Don’t Force-feed Palestinian Hunger Strikers

Efforts to end Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike should be focus on non-violent means.


The hunger strike of the administrative detainees has been going on for over a month and a half, and from time to time there are strikes by security prisoners in various prisons in solidarity with the strikers. About 70 of the 125 striking detainees are hospitalized under heavy security, some of them bound to their beds. The strikers are demanding the elimination of the policy of administrative detention, which allows imprisonment without a legal proceeding.

Past experience — which includes the 120-day hunger strike of administrative detainee Samer Issawi, and the 66-day hunger strike of Khader Adnan — proves that the administrative detainees are determined to continue with the hunger strikes even at the cost of a genuine risk to their lives.

At present there are 189 administrative detainees in the State of Israel, some of whom have been held for periods of over 10 years. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared a few days ago, in reference to the strike, that the State of Israel must either bring them to trial or release them.

How is the State of Israel reacting to this delicate situation, at the end of which one of the detainees is liable to die, thereby igniting a local and international crisis that will stain Israel’s image? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that there should be no compromise on this issue. At the recommendation of Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen, Netanyahu ruled that there should be a tough policy of force-feeding, while the “force-feeding law,” which was approved three months ago in the ministerial committee for legislative issues, is being advanced.

The force feeding of an adult who is on a hunger strike as a political protest undermines freedom of expression and a person’s constitutional rights regarding his body, his privacy and his dignity. In addition, according to the Patient’s Rights Law, a patient will not receive medical treatment unless he has agreed to it. In this case it is also clear that the objective of the authorities is not to preserve the detainees’ health out of humanitarian concern, but to suppress a political protest by force.

Despite Monday's passage of the "force-feeding law," a statute with anti-democratic features, efforts should be focused on ending the prisoners' hunger strike by non-violent, non-coercive means.

At the same time, the attorney general should demand of Netanyahu, who is responsible for the Shin Bet, to examine how the use of administrative detention has become such a widespread instrument of punishment in the territories.