Israel doctors won't force-feed Palestinians

2014-06-04 16:32
A picture shows empty decorated prison cells in the Nanterre jail.  (Thomas Samson, AFP)

A picture shows empty decorated prison cells in the Nanterre jail. (Thomas Samson, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Jerusalem - Proposed legislation to permit the force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike is pitting Israel's government against the country's main doctors' association, which says the practice amounts to torture.

The ethical and legal debate has taken on an urgent tone, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly asking to fast-track the bill as a hunger strike by dozens of Palestinian detainees entered its sixth week.

At least 65 of 290 participating detainees have been hospitalized since the first group began a hunger strike on 24 April. Many are administrative detainees, held for months or years without charges.

There have been near-daily Palestinian demonstrations backing the prisoners, including one in the West Bank on Wednesday in which dozens of university students threw stones at Israeli soldiers who responded with tear gas.

Families of hunger strikers say they support the fast despite the risks.

"My husband is in Israeli jails without knowing why and when this nightmare is going to end," Lamees Faraj said of her husband Abdel Razeq, who is a member of a small, hard-line Palestine Liberation Organization faction and has been in administrative detention for almost eight of the last 20 years.

Faced with the second large-scale Palestinian hunger strike in two years, Israel's government is promoting a bill that would allow a judge to sanction force-feeding if an inmate's life is perceived to be in danger.

A judge must not only consider the prisoner's wishes, but also possible damage to the state, said Yoel Hadar, a legal adviser in the Public Security Ministry, which initiated the bill.

A death in custody could trigger riots in prison, in the Palestinian territories or elsewhere, he said. "We want the judge to take into consideration what will happen to the country if something happens," Hadar said.

However, there has been mounting opposition from Israel's medical establishment, with the Israel Medical Association urging physicians not to co-operate.

Last resort

"It goes against the DNA of the doctors to force treatment on a patient," spokesperson Ziva Miral said on Tuesday. "Force-feeding is torture, and we can't have doctors participating in torture."

She noted that the World Medical Association, an umbrella for national medical associations, opposes the practice. The WMA said as recently as 2006 that "forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable".

Israel's National Council of Bioethics has also weighed in, saying it opposes the proposed bill.

Another group, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, contacted the World Medical Association last month, asking that it help stop the legislation.

In a letter to the WMA, the Israeli group reiterated the ethical concerns raised by others and added that "the true motivation ... is to break the spirit and protests of the hunger strikers."

Despite such criticism, Netanyahu reportedly told his Cabinet this week he'll make sure to find physicians who will participate in force-feeding. Netanyahu noted that force-feeding is carried out at the US-run Guantanamo Bay detention camp for suspected militants, the Haaretz daily said.

Netanyahu's spokesperson, Mark Regev, declined to comment on the report, but confirmed the government supports the bill.

Hadar said force-feeding would be a last resort. Hunger strikers would be represented in legal hearings and physicians would not be compelled to participate, he said.

He said force-feeding is meant to save lives, while acknowledging other considerations at play.

"People go on a hunger strike for political reasons... and the consequence could be political damage to the state," he said. "The state also has the right to stop the strike."

Isolated cases

Qadoura Fares, an advocate for Palestinian prisoners, said Palestinians would seek international condemnation of Israel if the legislation is passed.

Existing law prohibits the treatment of patients, including prisoners, against their will, with extreme cases referred to an ethics committee, said Amany Dayif of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.

Sivan Weizman, a spokesperson for the Israel Prison Authority, said she recalls one or two isolated cases of force-feeding prisoners in the 1980s. Fares said three prisoners died from complications of force-feeding at the time.

Since capturing the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has imprisoned tens of thousands of Palestinians for a range of politically motivated offences, from stone throwing and membership in outlawed groups to deadly attacks on Israelis.

The Palestinians want a state in the three territories and have staged two uprisings since 1987 in hopes of hastening an Israeli withdrawal.

Currently, some 5 000 Palestinians are imprisoned by Israel, including 191 in administrative detention.

Administrative detainees can be held for up to six months at a time without charges, with the detention and any extensions approved by a judge. The Shin Bet security agency can present evidence that is kept from defence lawyers.

Israel says administrative detentions are an important tool in preventing attacks by militants. Rights groups say international humanitarian law permits administrative detention in exceptional cases, but that Israel is out of bounds with its large-scale use of the method.

Two years ago, around 2 000 administrative detainees and other prisoners launched a mass hunger strike to end the practice and improve prison conditions.

In negotiating an end to the strike at the time, Israel promised to scale back administrative detentions, said Dayif of Physicians for Human Rights. She said the number of detainees dropped by a few dozen, but has crept up again.

Receive vitamins

The second large-scale strike began in April.

So far, 65 hunger strikers have been hospitalised, but none are in life-threatening conditions, said Weizman, the prison authority spokesperson. She did not know how many voluntarily receive vitamins or glucose.

Dayif put the number of hospitalised hunger strikers at more than 70, including 15 believed to be in critical condition.

The families wait and worry, including Amani Ramahi, whose jailed husband Mahmoud is a West Bank legislator for the Islamic militant group Hamas. Israel considers Hamas a terror group because it has killed several hundred Israelis in attacks since the late 1980s.

Ramahi said her husband relayed a message from prison that the hunger strikers are determined to continue, "even if they die, because they want to put an end once and for all to their suffering."

- AP
Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
9 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Sexiest Instagrams of 2014

Check out some of the sexiest celebrity Instagrams of 2014!

 
 

I love summer.24

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!
Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!
Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off the bestselling books

Save big on the most captivating reads of 2014. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The energy today is serious, materialistic and hardworking. You may find you get a new outlook on things and you may want to spend...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.