Diplomacy & defense

Palestinian activists hold placards during a protest outside the Israeli run Ayalon prison in Ramle, near Tel Aviv, calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners, on May 23, 2014, as they express solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who are on hunger
Statement comes after Israeli Medical Association compares force-feeding to 'torture'; NGOs petition EU

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he would find doctors willing to implement a new bill that will enable medical professionals to force-feed hunger-striking prisoners. The bill was already approved by Israel's Ministerial Committee for Legislation last week and has gone through preliminary Knesset approval as well.


Israel's Channel 2 News reported that he would find professionals willing to follow the new legislation and noted that "in Guantanamo the Americans are using the method of force-feeding too."

Netanyahu's comments come in the wake of the head of Israeli Medical Association's announcement on Sunday that force-feeding prisoners who embark on a hunger strike amounts to torture and medical professionals will refuse to obey the bill which enables it even if it passes in the parliament.

President of the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) Dr. Leonid Eidelman was cited by Channel 2 News as harshly criticizing the bill which was passed last month by Israel's Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

According to the proposal, "A decision on this sensitive question, which requires a careful balancing of weighty and diverse factors, should not be taken by administrative or medical officials responsible for the well-being of a prisoner on hunger strike, but should rather be made by a court of law at the appropriate level."

Palestinian, Israeli NGOs demand 'urgent intervention'

Meanwhile, Palestinian and Israeli rights groups on Sunday wrote to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton demanding her "urgent intervention" on behalf of 125 prisoners on long-term hunger strike.

The letter was sent as the overall number of Palestinian prisoners refusing food climbed to 290, including 70 being treated in hospitals, an Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman told AFP.


Of that number, 125 have been on hunger strike for more than five weeks, beginning their mass protest on or shortly after April 24, Palestinian rights groups say.

Most of the prisoners are administrative detainees who are refusing to eat in protest over their being held without trial in a procedure which can be extended indefinitely.

“We ... wish to bring to your attention the ongoing mass hunger strike involving approximately 125 Palestinian detainees and prisoners, and request your urgent intervention on their behalf,” said the letter, signed by 17 rights groups and the Palestinian prisoners’ affairs ministry.

“As of June 1, the majority of the hunger strikers have gone without food for 38 days.

“We have reached a critical stage and unless there is immediate intervention there will be dire consequences for the health of all those on strike,” it said.
Many had stopped taking vitamins and were only drinking water, it said, accusing Israel of withholding salt from them for the first fortnight of their strike.

Among those refusing food are six parliamentarians from the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), all of whom are administrative detainees, the letter said. Palestinian officials said they had only recently joined the strike.

Many had stopped taking vitamins and were only drinking water, it said, accusing Israel of withholding salt from them for the first fortnight of their strike.

The IPS denied the allegation, with spokeswoman Sivan Weizman telling AFP the detainees had been given “everything as required by law.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior figure with the Palestine Liberation Organization accused Israel of "systematically" using administrative detention as a tool for the collective punishment of Palestinians.

"We call on all states... to pressure Israel to drop its cruel and illegal use of the colonial practice of administrative detention and other administrative punitive measures," she said in a statement.

Two years ago, more than 1,500 prisoners staged a four-week hunger strike which ended with a deal in which Israel agreed not to extend the prison terms of those in administrative detention unless fresh evidence against them emerged.

Israel also agreed to return those in solitary detention back to the general prison population as well as allowing a resumption of family visits for detainees who come from Gaza.

About 5,000 Palestinians are being held in Israeli prisons, nearly 200 of them under administrative detention orders, which allow suspects to be jailed without trial for up to six months.

Such orders can be renewed indefinitely by a military court.

(with AFP)

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