Tzohar rabbis back legislation to allow force-feeding of prisoners

Controversial bill expected to pass final vote Monday, is meant to quell the ongoing Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike.

June 22, 2014 17:44
2 minute read.
National-religious rabbinical association Tzohar

The national-religious rabbinical association Tzohar 370. (photo credit: Yossi Zliger)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

The forced-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike is permissible according to Jewish law, Tzohar rabbis announced ahead of the final vote on a bill to that effect, expected to take place Monday.

The measure, proposed by the Public Security Ministry, is meant to quell the ongoing Palestinian security prisoners’ hunger strike. It would allow the Prisons Service to request permission from a court to bring hunger-striking prisoners to a hospital to be force-fed by a doctor, either via an IV or gastrostomy tube. If a prisoner refuses to cooperate, in some cases he may be anesthetized to enable the procedure.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) pushed the bill through an accelerated legislative process, calling five meetings in the two weeks between the bill’s passage in its first reading and when it is scheduled to have its second and third (final) reading on Monday.

MKs on the Left and in the Yesh Atid Party spoke out against the legislation, calling it torture and saying it violates prisoners’ freedom to protest. In addition, the Israel Medical Association said it will instruct its doctors not to obey the law, should it pass.

On Sunday, the legislative division of religious Zionist rabbinical organization Tzohar released a position paper stating there is no halachic problem with force-feeding prisoners.

“Tzohar rabbis support the bill and think that a judge can instruct [the Prisons Service] to force-feed a prisoner if there is a true danger to the life of the person on hunger strike or to national security,” Rabbi Uriel Ganzel, the head of Tzohar’s legislative division, explained.

From a halachic standpoint, a person can put him or herself in danger to improve his or her situation, he said.

“Hunger strikes are usually used as a last resort by prisoners to improve their conditions.

Therefore, even if they are endangering themselves, it is a legitimate act,” Ganzel explained.

However, a person cannot harm him or herself even for important values. As such, if a hunger strike reaches a point where it is endangering a prisoner’s life, according to Jewish law a judge must order that he or she be force-fed.

In addition, forced-feeding is necessary if the hunger strike is a significant danger to national security or law enforcement, Ganzel wrote.

“Even in the days of our sages, criminals were punished by limiting their rights. Therefore, it is legitimate for a judge to block a prisoner’s basic right to go on hunger strike, specifically if it is part of a rebellion, even if there is no physical violence involved,” he added.

Related Content

August 31, 2014
Rioting resumes throughout east Jerusalem Saturday night