Israeli government approves bill to 'force-feed' prisoners on hunger strike

The country's medical association urges doctors not to support the 'controversial' move

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The Israeli government has approved a bill which will allow the force-feeding of prisoners who are on hunger strike if their lives are in danger.

The controversial move has not been supported by the Israel Medical Association (IMA) and – according to the Times of Israel – the group’s head, Dr Leonid Eidelman, said he has given doctors ‘instructions to act solely according to the demands of ethics and not to force-feed prisoners on a hunger strike.’

Dr Eidelman added: “The doctor’s association views the intention to legislate force-feeding very severely. Our objection was expressed to [representatives of] government ministries and the government’s attorney general at every opportunity.”

The cabinet’s endorsement of the bill was led by Internal Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, who said that prisoners observing a hunger strike – mainly Palestinians – posed a “threat” to Israel.

Mr Erdan said: “Alongside attempts to boycott and delegitimise Israel, hunger strikes of terrorists in prisons have become a means to threaten Israel, becoming a weapon with which they are trying to threaten the State of Israel.

“The cabinet’s decision sends a clear message: we will not blink in the face of any threat.”

Initially approved in June 2014 – at the height of a mass hunger strike when 80 Palestinian prisoners were hospitalised – the bill was shortly put on hold, despite frantic attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have it placed on the law books.

Now that it has been passed, Dr Eidelman said the bill was unrealistic and ineffective, adding: “It creates an illusion that through [the law] it will be possible to prevent damage to the health of hunger strikers – and this is not true.”

Physicians for Human Rights, an NGO, described the bill as a ‘disgraceful’ move, saying it will ‘legalise torture and gross violations of medical ethics and international conventions’.

It added: “Instead of force-feeding prisoners who are humiliated and whose lives are in danger, Israel should deal with the demands of the hunger strikers – through the ending of administrative detentions.”

Last week, the Palestinian government warned Israel it was responsible for the health of Khadar Adnan, a detainee who had been on hunger strike for over 40 days.

Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules the Gaza Strip, has called for the immediate release of Mr Adnan and also of Islam Hamad – another Palestinian prisoner who has reportedly been on hunger strike for more than 63 days.