The Israeli cabinet over the weekend passed a controversial bill that approves the force-feeding of hunger striking prisoners—an act that is widely considered torture, including by the Israeli Medical Association.
The move means that the bill can now be sent to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, for its second and third readings.
However, Dr. Leonid Eidelman who leads the Israeli Medical Association reportedly told Haaretz, “If the law passes, we’ll call on doctors to ignore it.”
Force-feeding, which has been compared to water-boarding, involves the painful insertion of tubes and pumping of food and can cause stomach damage and asphyxiation. The U.S. military’s routine force-feeding of peaceful protesters at Guantánamo Bay was condemned by the United Nations human rights office as torture and a violation of international law.
Yet, Israeli officials have openly referenced the U.S. practice to justify the bill. When advocating for the legislation last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly cited the U.S. policies at Guantánamo Bay.
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Physicians for Human Rights declared that the Israeli bill, if passed, would “legalize torture and gross violations of medical ethics and international conventions.”
“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,” the advocacy organization added. Administrative detention refers to the widespread Israeli practice of incarcerating Palestinians without charge or trial on secret evidence.
Hunger strikes are a common tactic of Palestinian resistance against widespread detentions, which stem from Israeli policies of occupation and apartheid.
According to Palestinian human rights organization Addameer, in April 2015 there were 5,800 political prisoners in Israeli jails, including 414 people in administrative detention.
Many of those incarcerated are children. Defense for Children Palestine reports, “Since 2000, at least 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in an Israeli military detention system notorious for the systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children.”
Coordinated hunger strikes among those incarcerated continue to the present. Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports that the latest wave of strikes began in April with hundreds joining in since then.