Lawmakers spar over force-feeding fasting prisoners

Lawmakers spar over force-feeding fasting prisoners

Knesset Interior Committee chair Miri Regev calls Arab Israeli MK Hanin Zoabi 'traitor' over opposition to bill

Culture Minister Miri Regev (Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Culture Minister Miri Regev (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

A Knesset committee meeting went wildly off topic Monday, as the review of a bill that would allow Israel to force-feed prisoners on strike degenerated into insults and shouting.

During the heated session of the Interior Committee, MK Miri Regev (Likud) screamed at MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad), calling her a “traitor” and saying: “You deserve to be punished and should not be here.”

It wasn’t the first time the two MKs have been at odds with one another. In June 2010 Regev called out the Arab Israeli Zoabi on the Knesset plenum floor for her participation in the Gaza flotilla.

Legislators present at the meeting called for Regev to retract her statements.

Hanin Zoabi (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Hanin Zoabi (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Zoabi and others had raised questions as to the legal legitimacy of the bill, whose role Regev emphasized was to prevent prisoners from using hunger strikes as a means of causing upheaval and unrest.

“Prison walls do not distinguish between terrorism by way of violence and terrorism by way of hunger strikes,” she said.

Regev also expressed hope that the current version of the legislation would be passed by next week.

The bill, which cleared its first reading on June 10, comes in the midst of a widespread Palestinian prisoner strike that started April 24. Seven weeks in, at least 65 of 290 participating detainees have been hospitalized. The bill would allow a district court president or vice president to permit the forced medical treatment of a prisoner, if it is clear that without treatment the prisoner would be at medical risk. Methods of treatment could include intravenous infusion or insertion of a gastric feeding tube.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle have expressed outrage that the state is considering using a practice that is widely frowned upon in the medical and human rights communities both domestically and internationally, and comments at the followup meeting of the Interior Committee reflected that criticism.

MK Ahmad Tibi, a doctor by profession, asked if force-feeding could cause damage to the patient.

Dov Khenin (Hadash) also expressed concern, adding that “it is crazy that a country which bans force-feeding geese permits force-feeding human beings. You are giving into an irresponsible populist agenda.”

Similarly, Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Edelman added that Israeli doctors would never agree to such court-mandated orders.

read more: