The Israeli government has approved a bill that will allow the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike if their lives are in danger.
The cabinet’s endorsement of the controversial bill was led by Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who said on Sunday that prisoners observing a hunger strike, namely Palestinians, pose a “threat” to Israel.
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Instead of force-feeding prisoners who are humiliated and whose lives are in danger, Israel should deal with the demands of the hunger strikers - through the ending of administrative detentions.
“Alongside attempts to boycott and delegitimise Israel, hunger strikes of terrorists in prisons have become a means to threaten Israel,” Erdan said on his Facebook page.
The bill will go to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, for first and second readings before it becomes law.
The same bill was approved by the Israeli government last year but the Knesset was dissolved before it could start deliberating.
The bill was initially approved in June 2014 at the height of a mass hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners during which 80 were hospitalised.
Chairman of the Israeli Medical Association, Leonid Eidelman, criticised the bill, saying force-feeding prisoners against their will is “unethical”.
Physicians for Human Rights, an NGO, described the bill as a “disgraceful” move, saying it will “legalise torture and gross violations of medical ethics and international conventions”.
“Instead of force-feeding prisoners who are humiliated and whose lives are in danger, Israel should deal with the demands of the hunger strikers – through the ending of administrative detentions,” the NGO added.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel stressed that force-feeding was forbidden.
“Hunger strikes for prisoners are a legitimate means of objection,” ACRI said.
The majority of prisoners who go on hunger strike in Israeli jails are Palestinians in administrative detention, under which they are held for renewable six-month periods without charge, ACRI said.
Hassan Abd Rabbo, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Detainees, told Al Jazeera that “this decision of the Israeli government comes in light of the continued violations against the prisoners and detainees…”
“We urge the international institutions to intervene because every prisoner has the right to launch a hunger strike to express his outrage of the Israeli mistreatment.”
The Palestinian government last week warned Israel it was responsible for the health of Khadar Adnan, a detainee on hunger strike for over 40 days.
A spokeswoman for the Israel Prisons Service told the AFP news agency that besides Adnan, one other Palestinian prisoner was on hunger strike, for approximately one week.
Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip, has called for the immediate release of Adnan and Islam Hamad, a prisoner of the Palestinian Authority who has reportedly been on hunger strike for 63 days.