The government on Sunday authorized for legislation a bill that would allow prison officials to force-feed security prisoners who go on a hunger strike. The approval of the bill by the government means that it can now be submitted to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for approval, and prepared for its first Knesset reading.
The bill's sponsor, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, said that he intended to ensure that the law was enacted “with the greatest speed. Security prisoners who are trying to use a hunger strike in order to carry out a new kind of suicide terror attack will no longer be allowed to threaten Israel.”
The “threat” in this case is the likelihood that hunger-striking Arab terrorists demanding to be let out of prison – where they are serving time for multiple murders of Jews – will be turned into martyrs by anti-Israel forces at home and around the world, possibly triggering riots. Currently, several dozen such terrorists are on a hunger strike, and the Prisons Service has been seeking ways to force-feed them, or at least inject them with nutritious fluids that will ensure they do not die.
A bill to force-feed security prisoners was approved by the Knesset on its first reading last year, but did not reach the plenum in its second and third reading before the fall of the previous government.
Leftist MKs railed against the bill's approval Sunday. Meretz head MK Zahava Gal-On said that the law was an “immoral” one, and is “designed to solve a political and image problem for the government. Its purpose is not to ensure the welfare of prisoners. The bill harms the rights of prisoners and their right to conduct hunger-strikes, which is a legitimate protest tool.”
Also opposed to the bill is the Israeli Medical Association, which has called on its members not to participate in forced feeding of terrorists. According to the law, force-feedings will be administered by doctors. In a letter to members, IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Idelman wrote that force-feeding, either orally or by injection, “is unethical and requires torture-like actions to undertake. In recent years Israeli doctors have garnered a great deal of experience in dealing with hunger-striking prisoners, so there is no need to violate ethical standards,” he added.
However, according to MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas), the bill upholds both Jewish and Muslim ethical and religious beliefs. ''According to Jewish law, if a person wants to commit suicide we should prevent it," Ze'ev said. "I'm sure Muslim religious law does not allow a person to commit suicide [either]." Ze'ev also noted that the strikes are usually a mere political tactic."If anyone thinks the hunger strikers are in prison because of the distress it is a complete lie, the country's prisons are sanatoriums in relation to prisons in Arab countries," he remarked.