The Knesset on Monday passed its first reading of a bill that would allow for the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger-strike.
In its current state the bill would allow the head of the Prisons Service to contact a district court and request permission to force-feed a prisoner on hunger strike.
The move would only be allowed if a doctor says that the prisoner’s health is in serious danger.
At that point, according to the bill, the court would weigh the doctor’s assessment with that of the treating hospital’s ethics committee before issuing a ruling.
In addition to health issues, the judge would have to take into account state security and public safety considerations, according to the bill.
If the judge rules that force-feeding is permitted in the particular case, Prisons Service personnel would able to feed hunger-strikers against their will and use force to do so.
The bill passed its first reading on Monday by a 29 to 18 vote.
MKs on the Left bashed the bill as inhumane and politically motivated.
Masud Gnaim (United Arab List) called the legislation anti-democratic and said that prisoners “have the right to go on hunger strike to express their suffering.”
MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) said: “According to Jewish law, if a person is trying to commit suicide, you must prevent it. I’m pretty sure Islam also forbids people to commit suicide.”
The vote was held as a hunger strike among security prisoners reached its 47th day.
There are 280 prisoners on strike, including 70 who are on administrative detention – who began the strike to protest their indefinite captivity without charge.
Those 70 were recently placed in Israeli hospitals.
Hunger strikes are a common method of protest by Palestinian security prisoners, and have often led to solidarity protests among Palestinians outside the prisons. The strikers refuse Prisons Service meals, but sometimes eat other food.