The hunger strike began in response to Israel’s policy of administrative detention, which permits Israel to hold any Palestinian indefinitely as a prisoner without charges or trial. The policy allows detainment from a period of one to six months, which can then be extended to 5 more years through Israeli military court. Israel currently imprisons 5,000 Palestinians of which 191 are imprisoned through the administrative detention policy.
A hundred Palestinian prisoners went on hunger strike in April 2014 and since then hundreds more have joined. Over the past two to three years, thousands of Palestinians have refused meals and there has not been one day without a prisoner on hunger strike since 2011.
Solidarity protests are occurring in support of the prisoners throughout several of Israeli occupied Palestinian territories including Gaza. Prisoner rights group, Addameer, calls the strike the longest in Palestinian history. Israel’s response is a bill that would allow the legal force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners, which gained initial approval this week.
This has resulted in the opposition of Israeli doctors and the medical community. This community includes Israel’s National Council of Bioethics, the World Medical Association and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. Israeli doctors have equated force-feeding to torture. They note that they have no place in torture.
The opposing argument is centered on the concept of not letting people die. However, Mustafa Barghouthi, secretary-general of the Palestine National Initiative, notes that force-feeding may also lead to death. The process can commonly result in aspiration, lung infections, and other serious problems.
The other concern is that this legislation is being used as a tool to stop international attention caused by the hunger strikes. Instead of having to address policy issues this will enable Israel to end the hunger strike using force.
In 2012, Samer Issawi, along with 2,000 other prisoners on hunger strike, gained international attention after refusing food for eight months. It is suspected that he was fed intravenously during this time. This dangerous but effective form of protest resulted in his eventual release from prison. Had this force-feeding legislation been in place during this time it is likely Issawi would have never been released.
Many are used to speaking and thinking of poverty in terms of resources. However, poverty comes in many forms all of which are connected. This network of suffering is not solvable without addressing all its aspects. Human rights is one of these aspects.
Poverty is often a result of oppression and in many cases that oppression enables further poverty. Force-feeding, in this case, is an act of oppression. By enacting this legislation Israel can suppress these prisoners and ultimately halt their escape from what is their poverty.
– Christopher Kolezynski