Government mulls force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners

Government mulls force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners

Having been pressured into releasing long-fasting detainees, state is looking for a solution that will take away strikers’ leverage

Hunger-striker Ayman Sharawneh shortly after his release from Israeli prison in March 2013 (screen capture: Youtube/RuptlyTV)
Hunger-striker Ayman Sharawneh shortly after his release from Israeli prison in March 2013 (screen capture: Youtube/RuptlyTV)

The Attorney General’s Office is currently examining the legality of a government-proposed bill that would enable prison authorities to force-feed hunger-striking prisoners. In the past year Israel has faced mounting challenges from hunger-striking Palestinian security detainees, in some cases leading to the early release of convicted terrorists.

The bill, set forth by the Justice Ministry as well as the Ministry of Internal Defense, the Shin Bet, the Prisons Authority, the IDF, and members of the National Security Council, is at its early stages of review, the final outcome of which is expected in the upcoming weeks, Channel 2 News reported Wednesday.

In May two Islamic Jihad operatives had their administrative detentions reduced by two weeks after they went on a hunger strike that lasted more than 90 days.

In April, Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi agreed to a deal with Israeli military prosecutors that ended his eight-month-long hunger strike in exchange for an early release from prison.

Ayman Sharawneh, 36, was released from Israeli prison in March, bringing to an end a seven-month hunger strike that made him a symbol of resistance for the Palestinians.

In perhaps the most famous case, Israel imprisoned a member of the Palestinian national soccer team for nearly three years before he was released last year after a lengthy hunger strike. Israel had accused Mahmoud Sarsak of being active in the terrorist group Islamic Jihad, a claim he denied.

In all the cases, the releases were approved despite the objections of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security organization. The hunger strikes attracted significant attention in the international media and prompted demonstrations throughout the West Bank, as well as solidarity hunger strikes among other Palestinian inmates.

Defense officials have expressed fear that, were prisoners to die of malnourishment or complications stemming from the strikes, a serious conflagration could erupt in the West Bank.

“Faced with the growing phenomenon of hunger strikes, we are examining a legislative solution that will protect the prisoner’s health and at the same time prevent the damage caused by the strikes,” the Justice Ministry said

Force-feeding of hunger striking prisoners is legal in several countries.

On Monday, a US judge denied a Guantánamo prisoner’s request to halt the force-feeding of hunger strikers at the detention facility. Later, White House Spokesman Jay Carney defended the practice, stressing, “We don’t want these individuals to die.”

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