Israeli government approves bill to force feed prisoners on hunger strike

The cabinet on Sunday approved a controversial bill allowing the authorities to force feed prisoners who are on hunger strike if their life is deemed in danger.

The cabinet’s decision will allow the Knesset to pick up the so-called “Law to Prevent Harm Caused by Hunger Strikes” from the point it reached before the recent elections.  The proposed law can now be sent to the full Knesset plenum for its second and third readings.

The version of the bill approved by the cabinet did not include a number of changes intended to soften the law in light of the harsh criticism leveled against it. It is not clear whether these changes will be included in the final version presented to the Knesset.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who is promoting the law, said after its approval that he seeks to get the legislation passed as soon as possible.

“Security prisoners are interested in turning a hunger strike into a new type of suicide terrorist attack through which they will threaten the State of Israel. We will not allow anyone to threaten us and we will not allow prisoners to die in our prisons,” said Erdan.

The bill was put on hold about a year ago, despite attempts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have it passed at the time in an expedited process. The Knesset was set to vote on the bill last summer, on the night when the bodies of the three Israeli teens who were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists were found. After the bodies were discovered, the Knesset halted its activity. The vote was never taken and eventually new elections were called.  

The law was intended to prevent security prisoners from trying to blackmail the government, along with fomenting unrest among Palestinians in the case any of the prisoners died as result of hunger strikes, according to sources involved with the legislative process.

The Shin Bet security service expects a number of Palestinian security prisoners will start a hunger strike in mid-July, after the end of the Ramadan month of fasting.

The Israeli Medical Association expressed staunch opposition to the legislation.

In a letter sent to ministers Erdan and Ayelet Shaked, IMA Chairman Leonid Eidelman wrote that the legislation goes against medical standards.

“Parenteral (intravenous) nutrition administered to a patient capable of judgement against his will isn’t ethical and requires humiliating means bordering on torture,” he wrote.   

Jack Khoury and Yaniv Kubovich contributed to this report.


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