The bill will likely target Palestinian prisoners observing hunger strike against their administrative detention.
Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan’s family is worried for his life as he continues his already weeks-long hunger strike in protest against his imprisonment by Israel.
Adnan, who launched on an indefinite hunger strike on April 6, was placed under medical supervision at a clinic in Israel’s Ramla prison earlier this month.
“We are very concerned about his health right now,” his wife Randa told Al Jazeera. “It’s getting much worse. We know that he could die if something isn’t done quickly.”
As his health deteriorates, Adnan is refusing to undergo medical tests or take vitamins, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society.
“We’ve been told he cannot stand on his own or walk and that he’s shackled to the hospital bed,” Randa explained. “There are guards watching him at all times.”
Adnan was arrested last July when soldiers took him from his home in Arrabeh, a Palestinian town in the northern West Bank. For the 10th time in his life, he was placed under administrative detention, a practise in which Israel holds Palestinians on “secret evidence” for renewable six-month intervals without trial or charges.
An estimated 426 Palestinians in Israeli lock-up are currently being held as administrative detainees, according to the Ramallah-based Addameer Prisoner Support Network.
Since that time, Randa and her four children have applied several times for Israeli permits to visit him in prison, but they have been denied on “security” grounds.
Randa dismisses Israel’s claim that her husband is a threat to that country’s security, arguing that “anyone that speaks out against the occupation is a target, especially influential people like Khader who are supported and loved by many”.
“My husband is supported by people from every political party, including Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad. Even people who aren’t politically active have protested in solidarity with him,” Randa continued. “But the Palestinian Authority has only released statements. We don’t want statements – we want action.”
Anyone that speaks out against the occupation is a target, especially influential people like Khader who are supported and loved by many.
Back in 2011, however, he became an icon of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement when he launched a 66-day hunger strike against his administrative detention that concluded with his release.
His 2012 strike, during which Randa says he nearly died, sparked a series of hunger strikes culminating in a mass hunger strike that drew the participation of more than 2,000 prisoners in Israeli jails.
In exchange for an end to the collective strike in April 2012, Israeli authorities were forced to agree to a number of the prisoners’ demands, including access to education, improved living conditions, more family visits for Gaza prisoners, and the use of administrative detention being limited to rare cases.
Yet Israeli authorities have since continued to use administrative detention on a regular basis and have sought various ways to crack down on hunger strikers.
Although administrative detention is permitted under international law if there are “imperative reasons of security”, Human Rights Watch researcher Sarah Saadoun says Israel “seems to exploit the exception as a routine way to avoid taking criminal suspects to trial”.
“According to human rights law, you have the right to know the reasons for your arrest and an opportunity to challenge the accusations made against you, as well as the right to a speedy trial,” Saadoun told Al Jazeera.
On Sunday, the Israeli cabinet approved a draft of a bill that, if passed by the Knesset, will enable the Israel Prison Service to force-feed hunger strikers.
Various versions of the bill have been floated in the past, but the current text stipulates that force-feeding orders will require the approval of a judge who is circuit president or deputy president.
“Security prisoners would like to see hunger strikes become a new sort of suicide bombing to threaten the state of Israel,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who proposed the bill, said Sunday.
“We won’t allow anyone to threaten us and we won’t allow prisoners to die in our prisons,” he added.
Israel’s attempts to legalise force-feeding have met with sharp criticism. In 2014, as the Knesset considered a similar bill, the World Medical Association said the practise is “tantamount to torture” in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Amany Dayif, director of prisoners’ affairs for Physicians for Human Rights Israel, says the group’s doctors have only been allowed to visit Adnan once since he began hunger strike.
“He already has worrying symptoms caused by the hunger strike,” she told Al Jazeera. “He has been refusing examinations by the Israel Prison Service or public hospital doctors … and has refused vitamins and minerals that hunger strikers usually take.”
Regarding the proposed force-feeding bill, Dayif says that Israel has reintroduced it at a “strategic time”, adding that Ahmad Saadat, secretary-general of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has also threatened to launch his own hunger strike if Israeli authorities continue to deny him access to family visits.
“We think the bill is likely to pass, particularly if Saadat and others join in a mass hunger strike,” Dayif commented. “We hope that if the bill passes, it will remain only ink on paper and not implemented by doctors.”
Israel Prison Service did not respond to a request to comment on the impending bill or Adnan’s declining health.