Second hospital refuses to force-feed Palestinian prisoner

As Israeli leaders shuttle hunger-striker between doctors, they encounter refusal to disregard his will at every turn

Maazouze, the mother of Palestinian hunger striker Mohammed Allaan, holds a portrait of her son during a rally calling for his release in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on August 9, 2015. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Maazouze, the mother of Palestinian hunger striker Mohammed Allaan, holds a portrait of her son during a rally calling for his release in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on August 9, 2015. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The director of an Ashkelon hospital said Monday he would not force-feed a hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner as long as his life was not in immediate danger.

Mohammed Allaan, who is being held without trial for alleged involvement in Islamic Jihad, was moved Monday to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon after doctors at a Beersheeba hospital refused to force-feed him.

Israeli leaders had apparently hoped the Ashkelon hospital would agree to enact the controversial practice, following the Knesset’s adoption on July 30 of a new law legalizing it. Ynet news reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had personally pressured for the transfer to take place.

But while Barzilai director Dr. Hezi Levy had initially indicated an apparent willingness to force Allan to eat, he later clarified that he would not consider doing so unless there was a substantial deterioration in his condition.

“Force-feeding is a drastic measure that is incompatible with medical ethics,” he said in a statement. “Any treatment carried out without the consent of the patient is reserved for a decline in (his) medical condition and an urgent life-saving need.”

Allaan has been on hunger strike for over 50 days, in protest of his detention without trial. Barzilai officials said his life was not in immediate danger.

Earlier in the day Levy had said Allaan was moved from Soroka Medical Center to Barzilai to “create a different treatment climate,” which may pave the way for the patient to change his mind and agree to different treatment options.

Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayovr/Flash90)
Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayovr/Flash90)

He said if Allan’s condition “further deteriorates and endangers his life— we will take every step necessary, including intravenous infusion, and also if necessary feeding.”

Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi, who opposes force-feeding Allaan, said Levy had told him that the hospital would not force-feed the prisoner or treat him without his permission.

Joint List MK Basel Ghattas warned Barzilai that it would turn into “Israeli Guantanamo, where it is allowed to torture” if it allowed force-feeding, Channel 2 reported.

Ghattas added that the hospital would be subject to sanctions and boycotts by international health and human rights organizations if it decided to force-feed Allaan.

Former Palestinian minister for prisoners’ affairs Issa Karaka told Army Radio Monday that force-feeding Allaan would be “terrorist torture” and warned that his body was to weak to endure forceful intervention.

Doctors at Beersheeba’s Soroka Medical Center had refused to treat Allaan without his consent.

“Even though the hospital’s ethics committee approved a decision to take the prisoner’s blood sample against his will, doctors ultimately decided to respect his position and will refuse to perform the necessary tests as long as he is not ready to accept treatment,” a hospital statement read.

Allaan has been held without charge since November, and was placed in intensive care when he became unable to absorb drinking water. He, along with some 120 additional prisoners, have been protesting the terms of their incarceration as well as their treatment from prison authorities.

But over 100 of the prisoners temporarily terminated their protest for a fortnight after Israeli prison authorities partially agreed to a list of their demands, a Palestinian Authority official said Sunday. The Israel Prison Service agreed to return 107 prisoners to the Nafha prison in southern Israel, after they were transferred to a different jail as a punitive measure, Qadura Fares, current prisoners minister, told Haaretz.

On Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Allaan was “at immediate risk” of death. Allaan’s attorney Jamil al-Khatib said that his client would proceed with the strike even if he is force-fed.

If carried out, the force-feeding would be the first instance of the practice in Israel of the new law — a move decried by UN officials in the West Bank

UN officials slammed Israel’s new policy of force-feeding hunger strikers in danger of death, calling the law “a cause for concern to those who work to protect the right to health of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

Peaceful protests such as hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners are “a fundamental human right,” the officials said.

Citing the prisoners’ “prolonged detention on administrative orders without charge,” the officials described the hunger strikes as “a nonviolent form of protest used by individuals who have exhausted other forms of protest to highlight the seriousness of their situations.”

Israel holds hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners without trial for indefinitely renewable six-month terms. Last week, Israel extended the policy to include Israeli security prisoners as well.

Israel has claimed the detainees, who have resort to an appeal to the High Court of Justice but do not receive criminal trials before being detained indefinitely, are engaged in terror planning activities. It says the prisoners would be able to continue these activities if security forces were forced to produce the level of evidence required by criminal court proceedings in order to attain convictions.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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