Israel seeks to circumvent doctors who won’t force-feed hunger strikers


(JTA) — Israeli authorities are considering bringing in foreign doctors to force-feed Palestinian hunger strikers if Israeli doctors continue to resist taking part in the practice.

The Israel Medical Association has advised its physician members not to participate in any force-feeding, deeming the practice to be inhumane. Israel’s Channel 2 reported Thursday that the government would seek doctors from a specific, unidentified country to feed prisoners at risk of losing their lives.

Some 850 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are still taking part in the strike, now in its 20th day. Led by Marwan Barghouti, a popular leader of the Fatah movement serving life terms for his involvement in terrorist attacks that killed five people, the strikers are demanding better prison conditions and seeking to expose what they call Israel’s illegal system for arresting and trying Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office supported legislation allowing physicians to feed prisoners against their will, saying the government is obligated to save the lives of prisoners in its system. Despite the Israel Medical Association’s objections, the country’s Supreme Court ruled last year that the law requiring force-feeding is constitutional.

Earlier this week, the Health Ministry ordered physicians who refuse to force-feed strikers whose lives are in danger to find another physician willing to treat the patients, Haaretz reported.

The IMA rejected this order as well, saying it is not customary for doctors to find a replacement if they demur on ethical grounds. The association does instruct its doctors to act on strikers’ behalf if they are unable to express their wishes.