Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (Jaffa – Tel Aviv)
Children at a weekly rally in Gaza City on May 26, 2014 hold up posters bearing pictures of Palestinians jailed in Israel. Photo by Mahmud Hams / AFP
Current hunger strike ‘longest in Palestinian history’
By Ma’an news
June 10, 2014
BETHLEHEM — Jailed Palestinians who have been refusing meals since April 24 are taking part in the longest collective hunger strike in Palestinian history, a prisoner rights group said Monday.
“This is the longest mass hunger strike among prisoners in Palestinian history since a 45-day strike in 1976,” Addameer said in a report on its website as the current strike neared its 48th day.
“The hunger strikers remain steadfast in their demand to end the policy of administrative detention.”
Some 125 prisoners in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on April 24 against Israel’s policy of holding Palestinians in custody indefinitely without charge or trial.
Hundreds have joined the strike since then, and others have taken part in one-day solidarity strikes.
Palestinians participate in a Friday prayer near a protest tent in solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian administrative detainees, Nablus, West Bank, May 02, 2014. Photo by Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org.
The report said that nearly 80 prisoners are being held in civilian hospitals in Israel.
Additionally, it quoted lawyers as saying doctors have been threatening to force-feed prisoners if they lost consciousness.
Doctors in Kaplan Hospital threatened to “introduce food to the body through the nose into the stomach without taking consent, after shackling (them),” the report said.
The alleged threats of force-feeding come as Israeli lawmakers are debating a bill that would allow the prison service to treat prisoners medically without their consent, in addition to force-feeding them.
“This is a dangerous step towards institutionalizing torture of Palestinian hunger strikers, which force-feeding is considered under international law and by the World Medical Association.”
Palestinians participate in a Friday prayer near a protest tent in solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian administrative detainees, Nablus, West Bank, May 02, 2014. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)
Meanwhile, the prisoners’ conditions are worsening, the report said.
“The hunger striking detainees were warned of the danger to their lives, as their core muscles are now deteriorating and the body fat has disappeared from their bodies. Some of them were told by the doctors that they can suffer from a heart attack or stroke at any moment. Some are suffering from intestinal bleeding, vomiting blood and fainting in addition to significant loss of weight and decrease in heart rate and decrease in blood sugar.”
Addameer called on the international community to intervene for the strikers.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called on Israel to immediately release or charge the Palestinian administrative detainees on hunger strike.
Israeli soldiers detain a photographer during a protest in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails at Al Aroub Palestinian refugee camp, just north of the West Bank town of Hebron, on Saturday. AFP photo.
Shin Bet behind refusal to negotiate with Palestinian hunger strikers
Shin Bet head encouraging Netanyahu to take a tough stance over force-feeding at least 100 Palestinian administrative detainees on hunger strike.
By Chaim Levinson, Amos Harel and Jack Khoury, Haaretz
June 09, 2014
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to negotiate with hunger-striking Palestinian detainees is based on the Shin Bet security service’s recommendation, Haaretz has learned.
Netanyahu has thus far opposed any compromise with the strikers, who are seeking an end to the practice of administration detention. He has also worked to fast-track legislation that would allow the striking prisoners to be force-fed.
There are currently 189 Palestinians in administrative detention, meaning detention without trial. Between 100 and 125 have joined the hunger strike that began on April 24. Palestinian convicts at several prisons have also joined the strike for limited periods as a sign of solidarity with the detainees.
In several discussions on the matter recently, Shin Bet security service head Yoram Cohen has voiced support for the force-feeding bill, saying it would be a suitable solution to the hunger strike. His stance encouraged Netanyahu to support the bill, which has already been approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and is expected to come up for its first reading in the Knesset in the coming weeks.
Cohen, who has been the government’s point man in dealing with the hunger strike, argues that Israel must not negotiate with the strikers. The Israel Defense Forces has warned that if any of the strikers dies, it would likely spark rioting in the West Bank and perhaps rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. But while Cohen has not said so explicitly, people who have spoken with him recently say their impression is that he believes Israel could cope with these responses, whereas he fears a compromise would leave it vulnerable to nonstop extortion by means of recurrent hunger strikes.
Attorneys representing the detainees say the message they have gotten from both the Shin Bet and the Israel Prison Service is that the organizations have no intention of negotiating with the strikers, and could not meet their demands even if they did negotiate. Abolishing administrative detention would require legislation and therefore is not within their power to grant.
But the Shin Bet opposes abolishing administrative detention in any case, as it deems the practice vital to the war on terror. Administrative detentions account for about 10 percent of all Israeli arrests of Palestinians. They are used in cases where an indictment would require exposing intelligence sources or where the evidence is not sufficient for a criminal case.
People who have participated in meetings on the issue with Cohen say he now seems to believe the agreement he negotiated to end the last major hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners was a mistake.
The deal that ended that strike, which erupted in April 2012, included three elements. First, leading terrorists who were being held in isolation were returned to regular wards in exchange for a written promise not to engage in terrorist activity from prison. Second, relatives of prisoners from Gaza were allowed to resume regular visits, which had ended after Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007. Third, Israel released five administrative detainees and promised to review the cases of all the others.
But the Shin Bet says the Palestinians violated that agreement. Just last week, it announced that over the past few months, it has discovered 11 cases in which Palestinian prisoners tried to solicit other Palestinians to kidnap Israelis and use them as bargaining chips to secure the prisoners’ release.
The senior prisoners released from solitary under the 2012 agreement, which was brokered by Egyptian intelligence, include Ibrahim Hamed, a one-time head of Hamas’ military wing in the West Bank, who is serving 53 life sentences for killing Israelis; Hassan Salameh, a Hamas operative from Gaza who was given 46 life sentences for two 1996 bus bombings; Abbas Sayed of Hamas, who masterminded a 2002 bombing in Netanya that killed 29 people attending a Passover seder at the Park Hotel; Abdullah Barghouti, a Hamas bomb-maker serving 67 life sentences for his role in several deadly suicide bombings, and Ahmed Saadat, secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who was convicted of involvement in the 2001 assassination of cabinet minister Rehavam Ze’evi.
Meanwhile, the IDF has been preparing to cope with widespread Palestinian rioting in the event that one of the hunger strikers dies. It has not yet stationed any extra troops in the West Bank, but has reviewed and updated its operational plans. These plans set two priorities: preventing rioters from approaching the settlements and preventing them from blocking roads used by Israelis.
Jack Khoury adds:
Deep gloom prevails among the prisoners and their families due to what they describe as Israeli obtuseness regarding the hunger strike. Attorneys who have visited the prisoners were told that they have not received any proposal from the authorities to stop the strike.
“The growing impression is that the government is prepared to absorb the death of some inmates in prison to see what the result in the Palestinian street will be,” said Juad Bulus, the legal adviser to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.
“It’s sad that this is the approach of a government that refuses to deal with the prisoners and enter into negotiations with them. The prisoners are making a totally just demand – to either free them or try them – and I hope the authorities will wake up and begin talks that will bring an end to the strike.
Many of the families are extremely worried about the deterioration in the prisoners’ medical condition. Some have already lost a quarter of their body weight and are suffering various physical ailments, like coughing up blood and internal bleeding.
Don’t force-feed Palestinian hunger strikers
Efforts to end Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike should be focus on non-violent means.
June 10, 2014
The hunger strike of the administrative detainees has been going on for over a month and a half, and from time to time there are strikes by security prisoners in various prisons in solidarity with the strikers. About 70 of the 125 striking detainees are hospitalized under heavy security, some of them bound to their beds. The strikers are demanding the elimination of the policy of administrative detention, which allows imprisonment without a legal proceeding.
Past experience — which includes the 120-day hunger strike of administrative detainee Samer Issawi, and the 66-day hunger strike of Khader Adnan — proves that the administrative detainees are determined to continue with the hunger strikes even at the cost of a genuine risk to their lives.
At present there are 189 administrative detainees in the State of Israel, some of whom have been held for periods of over 10 years. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared a few days ago, in reference to the strike, that the State of Israel must either bring them to trial or release them.
How is the State of Israel reacting to this delicate situation, at the end of which one of the detainees is liable to die, thereby igniting a local and international crisis that will stain Israel’s image? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that there should be no compromise on this issue. At the recommendation of Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen, Netanyahu ruled that there should be a tough policy of force-feeding, while the “force-feeding law,” which was approved three months ago in the ministerial committee for legislative issues, is being advanced.
The force feeding of an adult who is on a hunger strike as a political protest undermines freedom of expression and a person’s constitutional rights regarding his body, his privacy and his dignity. In addition, according to the Patient’s Rights Law, a patient will not receive medical treatment unless he has agreed to it. In this case it is also clear that the objective of the authorities is not to preserve the detainees’ health out of humanitarian concern, but to suppress a political protest by force.
Despite Monday’s passage of the “force-feeding law,” a statute with anti-democratic features, efforts should be focused on ending the prisoners’ hunger strike by non-violent, non-coercive means.
At the same time, the attorney general should demand of Netanyahu, who is responsible for the Shin Bet, to examine how the use of administrative detention has become such a widespread instrument of punishment in the territories.
Israel Medical Association fights to stop legalisation of force feeding prisoners on hunger strike
By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, BMJ
10 June 2014
The Israel Medical Association has voiced its strong opposition to a proposed government amendment before the Knesset, which was endorsed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, to allow force feeding of prisoners who launch hunger strikes.
Some 190 Palestinian security prisoners, believed by Israeli security authorities to have been involved in terrorist acts against the state, have been in administrative detention instead of being tried in a civilian or military court. Since April, 125 of them have gone on hunger strike, and about 70 have been hospitalised. Their physical conditions have declined as a result of consuming food only from outside prison while refusing meals prepared by the Israel Prison Service. All of the hospitalised prisoners were said to be conscious, and none was in a critical condition.
Netanyahu has expressed concerns that if they are not force fed the security prisoners will die, increasing protests in the West Bank and around the world. The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, recently voiced his concern about the worsening health of the Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli detention and demanded that they be released immediately or formally charged in court.
Israeli government sources have explained that, owing to the daily threat of terrorism against the state, they have had to detain Palestinians accused of involvement in terrorist organisations instead of indicting them and holding a court trial. One of the arguments was that if the suspects were tried in a criminal court it would require exposing sources and intelligence secrets. In addition, prosecutors would have to present evidence to keep the detainees in custody with a remand extension. The prisoners are usually released after a few months of detention, but some remain jailed for longer.
Avinoam Reches, a senior neurologist at Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Medical Center and longtime chairman of the medical association’s ethics bureau, strongly opposed the bill to allow force feeding by prison service physicians. “If they refuse for ethical reasons, they could be dismissed and lose their income,” he said.
Reches said that few countries had put security prisoners under administrative detention, except the US government, ex-territorially, at the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba. He noted that “Israel has a law forbidding the forced feeding of geese to produce better and more pâté de foie gras. If so, why would it allow the force feeding of security prisoners? The late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher held IRA security prisoners in detention in the 1980s, and 11 of them died, resulting in her breaking down and revoking such a practice.”
The medical association’s chairman, Leonid Eidelman, said that the proposed amendment could pose a serious danger to the prisoners’ health and violated the ethical rule of non-maleficence, primum non nocere (“first, do no harm”).
But Arnon Afek, director general of the health ministry, insisted that the matter must be viewed in proportion. He said, “The amendment would be just one tool in dealing with many aspects of caring for prisoners. Most of it involves medical treatment and not force feeding. There are many checks and balances in the amendment.
“Force feeding is an extreme, rare act. A physician would not be required to do anything to a patient against his will; the implementation must be approved by a district court president or vice president, and an appeal can be made to the Supreme Court. I trust the integrity of the courts.”
Israel presses ahead with law allowing force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners
Hunger strikers demand end to ‘administrative detention’ without charge or trial of Palestinian prisoners deemed to be security risk
By Peter Beaumont, Guardian
June 09/10, 2014
The Israeli cabinet is being pushed to fast-track a new law that would compel doctors to force-feed up to 120 Palestinian prisoners being held without charge in “administrative detention”, some of whom have been on hunger strike for more than 40 days.
The law is designed to overcome objections from organisations representing Israel’s medical community – including the country’s National Bioethics Council, its highest medical ethics authority – which have said they will resist the new legislation.
The hunger strikers are demanding an end to a long-term practice in which Palestinians deemed by Israel to be a security risk being held for extended periods without charge or trial. Detention orders are issued by a military court and can be renewed every six months.
A number of other prisoners in Israeli prisons have also joined the hunger strike.
According to a lawyer for the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, the health of 13 of the 70 who have been admitted to Israeli hospitals is deteriorating with some suffering intestinal bleeding.
The situation has already prompted the intervention of the UN general secretary, Ban Ki-moon, who issued a statement on Friday.
“The secretary general is concerned about reports regarding the deteriorating health of Palestinian administrative detainees who have been on hunger strike for over a month,” said Ban’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric. “He reiterates his long-standing position that administrative detainees should be charged or released without delay.”
Sponsored by the public security ministry, the law has been designed to permit a judge to order force-feeding if a prisoner could die – a circumstance some in the Israeli security establishment fear could trigger serious unrest in the West Bank.
The law, which has passed the first of three readings in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, comes in response to the opposition of some doctors and the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) to the force-feeding of prisoners.
According to Israeli media reports, IMA representatives have told the office of the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, that its members would refuse to co-operate.
The prisoners on hunger strike amount to almost two-thirds of the 191 Palestinian prisoners being held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons at the end of April, several dozen of whom are in Israeli hospitals.
Ziva Mira, a spokesman for IMA, said last week: “Force-feeding is torture, and we can’t have doctors participating in torture.”
The Israeli government, for its part, argues that prisoners on hunger strike at the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay have been force-fed.
The row comes as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Yoram Cohen, the head of Israel’s domestic intelligence service, Shin Bet, had reportedly advised Netanyahu not to negotiate with the hunger strikers.
The issue of ending administrative detention is complicated by the fact that it would require legislation to bring the practice to an end.
The last major hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails ended in 2012 with a compromise deal that led to five being released and others held in solitary allowed to associate with other prisoners if they promised not to commission terrorist acts from prison, a deal Haaretz reports that Cohen believes was a mistake. He claimed prisoners reneged on the agreement.
Palestine Hunger Strike and Israeli Force-Feeding Pending Legislation
By Richard Falk, Global justice in the 21st century blog
June 11, 2014
The highly respected Israeli human rights NGO, Adalah, has issued an urgent appeal on behalf of a reported 125 Palestinian prisoners who are engaged in a hunger strike protesting their being held in Israeli jails on the basis of ‘administrative detention’ procedures. It is the longest collective hunger strike in Palestinian history. Administrative detention is an objectionable practice by which individuals are held in prison, sometime for months or even years, without being informed of charges or facing trial. According to international law reliance on administrative detention is regarded as prohibited unless there are overwhelming reasons in the form of imminent and severe security threats to justify the failure to produce criminal charges and hold a trial. Israel has made no such appeal, and appears to use administrative detention procedures routinely and against individuals who cannot be considered security threats.
The current hunger strike commenced on April 24, over 50 days ago. Some of the prisoners are being held in prison hospitals in view of their deteriorating and precarious health, with concerns that serious physical damage and possibly death could occur if the strike continues for several more days. Under these circumstances, the Israeli government has sought to break the will of the strikers by seeking a legislative mandate to engage in coercive forms of force-feeding. It should be noted that the Israeli government at its highest levels has made it clear in its public statements that its main purpose is not to save the lives of the prisoners, but to break the strike as a prison protest. At the moment, a bill authorizing force-feeding of hunger strikers has passed a first reading in the Knesset, and is being fast-tracked to allow for the required second and third reading in the coming week. To have any prospect of stopping such a step from being taken immediate and intense international pressure is needed from as many angles as possible.
In keeping with international standards, the Israeli Medical Association, has indicated that it is improper for physicians to cooperate in any way with governmental force-feeding. Unfortunately, prison doctors are not member of the Israeli Medical Association, although one might hope that their moral stand would exert some inhibiting influence. The most authoritative text on the international status of force-feeding is contained in the Declaration of Malta (1991, rev. 2006) adopted by the World Medical Association. In guideline 6 the Declaration states that “hunger strikers should be protected from coercion,” and more directly in guideline 13 asserts that forcible feeding is never acceptable because it constitutes “a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.’ Such a wording is similar to that used to indicate the scope of prohibition contained in the widely ratified International Convention on Torture (1984), thereby validating the contention that forced-feeding is a type of torture. The Declaration adopts a subtle approach that recognizes the complexity of the issue, including the possibility in some circumstances that coercion may arise from other hunger strikers eager to avoid any defection from their ranks. Overall, the core commitment is respect for the freedom of a hunger striker either to maintain or abort his protest, which is itself as aspect of freedom of conscience.
There are journalistic accounts published in Israel that suggest both that the Shin Beth places a high priority on ending the hunger strike, which threatens to spread among the 5,271 Palestinians currently in Israeli jails in acts of solidarity with those 192 current held in administrative detention. There is also Israeli worries that the strike might spread unrest beyond the prison walls to Palestinian society as a whole with unpredictable results . Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with typical bravado has indicated that even if some doctors refuse to participate in force-feeding he will find enough that will.
The depth of this deepening humanitarian crisis has even moved the normally passive Palestinian Authority to take some action. President Mahmoud Abbas has sent a letter actually under the signature of Saeb Erekat, the chief international negotiator on the Palestinian side, asking the UN Security Council to intervene to prevent force-feeding. It is hard to know whether anything will come of this initiative.
As has been the Palestinian experience all along, the world media averts its gaze when humanitarian emergencies arise in occupied Palestine. In this instance, treating Palestinian hunger strikes as unworthy of the sort of coverage that is given to similar such political protests in other parts of the world, including India, China, and Tibet. It is well to recall that the 1981 hunger strikes by Irish Catholic militants held in the notorious Maze Prison in Northern Ireland resulted in several deaths, most notably that of Bobby Sands after 66 days without food, and had the political effect of shifting the British approach to the Irish struggle from blood-soaked counterinsurgency to conflict-resolving diplomacy.
In the text of the Adalah urgent appeal pasted below there are a list of initiatives that individuals around the world are urged to take. I firmly believe that it is important of people of good will around the world to shout and scream in solidarity with these prisoners.
We need to keep in mind several salient features of this developing situation:
–this hunger strike is protesting against Israel’s extensive and abusive reliance on ‘administrative detention’ to hold Palestinians in a cruel manner that is incompatible with international law, especially given the international obligations of Israel in relation to the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967; this is in essence a protest against injustice;
–it should be appreciated that a hunger strike is the supreme form of nonviolent self-sacrifice seeking to highlight and transform severe encroachments on fundamental norms of human rights, including the universally prohibition on torture that becomes relevant to the extent that the Israeli government seeks to end the strike by force-feeding;
–Palestinian detainees, reacting to deep grievances, have engaged in several long and dramatic hunger strikes in recent years starting on December 18, 2011 when Khader Adnan went 66 days without food, followed by a 43 day hunger strike by Hana Shalabi that ended with a early release, involving a punitive deportation from the West Bank for three years to Gaza; in these cases of individual hunger strikes, Israel finally offered concessions to induce the prisoner to give up the hunger strike when prison medical authorities feared death or permanent disability;
–the issue of force-feeding is an aggravation of the underlying injustice and illegality of administrative detention, and is often preceded by violent nighttime arrests that constitute instances of state terror that produce resistance by those detained in prison;
–Prime Minister Netanyahu has reportedly justified force-feeding by referring to the American practice at Guantanamo Bay where terrorist suspects have been detained for many years without charges or trials, and subjected to an array of inhuman and degrading practices; such an attempt at validating Israeli practices by invoking America’s unlawful behavior has no moral or legal weight, and should be interpreted as virtually a confession;
–hunger strikes should be treated as nonviolent resistance tactics used by Palestinians to protest against unlawful Israeli unlawful practices and policies associated with the prolonged occupation of Palestine; in view of this, those of us who support the Palestinian struggle for rights and justice seize this opportunity to be sure our voice is heard loudly enough to offset the shameful silences of governments and the mainstream media. Also beyond the fate of Palestinian prisoners, it would also seem imperative to insist upon a public debate in Israel on the treatment presently accorded to imprisoned Palestinians.
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