The Knesset on Thursday approved on its second and third reading a law that would allow prison officials to force-feed hunger-striking prisoners. Prison wardens will be able to make requests of the courts for a permit to force-feed a prisoner, based on the recommendation of a doctor, to prevent the prisoner from doing harm to themselves.
The criteria for granting such requests will be preventing the prisoner from doing irreversible damage to their body, or endangering their life. If the court authorizes force-feeding, officials will be able to administer only the minimum amount of nutrition necessary to keep the prisoner alive. In addition, officials will be required to use “all means at their disposal” to persuade prisoners to willingly end their hunger strike.
If, despite that, force-feeding is to take place, the law requires that it be done in “as dignified a manner as possible,” and in private. If the prisoner actively refuses being fed, prison officials will be allowed to use “reasonable force” to make them eat.
Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons have long used hunger strikes as a tactic to be let out of prison – a tactic that worked most recently just several weeks ago, when Israel released Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan following a 56-day hunger strike that allegedly brought him near death. Adnan was re-arrested the day after being released for violating terms of his release.
In a note accompanying the bill, Knesset supporters wrote that the use of hunger strikes by terrorists “is a known phenomenon that has been going on for years. Sometimes these hunger strikes involve a great many prisoners, who continue with their hunger strike for an extended period of time, to the point that they endanger their lives. These challenges require us to form an appropriate response, and this bill constitutes that response.”