Tag Archives: hunger strikes

Making Sense of Hunger Strikes and Symbolic Politics

12 Nov

[Prefatory Note: What follows is my contribution to a forthcoming publication bearing the title Shared Struggle: Stories of Palestinian and Irish Hunger Strikers. This important collection of writing prepared by Norma Hashim and Yousef M. Aljami. It appeared by way of exclusive arrangement on October 27, 2020 in the online magazine Politics Today. My essay speaks to the hunger strikes as political resistance of a sublime character, and at the same time to the selective silence of the Western media when it comes to heroic moments in the Palestinian struggle. Just days ago Maher Al-Akhras ended his 103 day hunger strike when Israel finally agreed to his release from prison after repeated confinement without charges under colonialist ‘administrative detention’ rulings. ]

Making Sense of Hunger Strikes and Symbolic Politics

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A Palestinian man wearing a protective mask walks past a mural depicting prisoner Maher Al-Akhras, 49, a Palestinian jailed by Israel, who has been on hunger strike for 84 days, protesting his detention without trial, in Gaza City October 18, 2020. Photo by Majdi Fathi / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Desperate circumstances give rise to desperate behavior. If by states, extreme violent behavior tends to be rationalized as ‘self-defense,’ ‘military necessity,’ or ‘counterterrorism,’ and claims of legal authorization are treated as appropriate. If even nonviolent acts of resistance by individuals associated with dissident movements, then the established order and its supportive media will routinely describe such acts as ‘terrorism,’ ‘criminality,’ and ‘fanaticism,’ and the behavior is criminalized, or at best exposed to scorn by the established order of sovereign states. Statist forms of combat almost always rely on violence to crush an enemy, while the desperation of resistance sometimes takes the form of inflicting hurt upon the self so as to shame an oppressor to relent or eventually even surrender, not due to empathy or a change of heart, but because fearful of alienating public opinion, intensifying resistance, losing international legitimacy, facing sanctions. It is against such an overall background that we should understand the role of the hunger strike in the wider context of resistance against all forms of oppressive, exploitative, and cruel governance. The long struggles in Northern Ireland and Palestine are among the most poignant instances of such political encounters that gripped the moral imagination of many persons of conscience in the years since the middle of the prior century.

Those jailed activists who have recourse to a hunger strike, either singly or in collaboration, are keenly aware that they are choosing an option of last resort, which exhibits a willingness to sacrifice their body and even life itself for goals deemed more important. These goals usually involve either safeguarding dignity or honor of subjugated people or mobilizing support for a collective struggle on behalf of freedom, rights, and equality. A hunger strike is an ultimate form of non-violence, comparable only to politically motivated acts of self-immolation, physically harmful only to the self, yet possessing in certain circumstances unlimited symbolic potential to change behavior and give rise to massive displays of discontent by a population believed to be successfully suppressed. Such desperate tactics have been integral to the struggles for basic rights and resistance to oppressive conditions in both Palestine and Northern Ireland.

An unacknowledged, yet vital, truth of recent history is that symbolic politics have often eventually controlled the outcomes of prolonged struggles against oppressive state actors that wield dominant control over combat zones and uncontested superiority in relation to weapons and military capabilities. And yet despite these hard power advantages thought decisive in such conflict, they go on in the end to endure political defeat. It may be helpful to remember that it was the self-immolation of Buddhist monks in Saigon during the 1960s was considered a scream of the culture in reaction to the American led military intervention. It led Vietnamese scholars to interpret these extreme acts of solitary individuals, endowed with the highest civilizational authority, as actually shifting the balance of forces in Vietnam in ways that then and there doomed the seemingly irresistible American military resolve to control the political future of Vietnam. These acts didn’t end the war, but to those with insight into Vietnamese culture it did signal an outcome contrary to what the war planners in Washington expected. Tragically before acknowledging defeat, the Vietnam war persisted for a decade, ravaging the land and bringing great suffering to the people of Vietnam. Self-immolation, setting oneself on fire as an irreversible instance of self-sacrifice, carries the logic of a hunger strike to its conclusion. Depending on the actor and context, self-immolation can be interpreted either as an expression of hopeless despair or as a desperate appeal for a just peace.

It was the self-immolation of a simple fruit and vegetable vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid on December 17, 2010 that called attention to the plight of the Tunisian people, igniting a nationwide uprising that drove a corrupt dictator, Ben Ali, from power. Bouazizi, without political motivation or spiritual authority of the Buddhist monks, sparked populist mobilizations that swept across the Arab world in 2011. Somehow Bouazizi’s entire personal self-immolation set the region ablaze. Such a reaction could not have been predicted and was not planned, yet afterwards it was interpreted as somehow generating revolutionary responses to intolerable underlying conditions.

Without doubt, the supreme example of triumphant symbolic politics in modern times was the extraordinary resistance and liberation movement led by Gandhi that merged his individual hunger strikes unto death with spectacular nonviolent forms of collective action (for instance, ‘the salt march’ of 1930), accomplishing what seemed impossible at the time, bringing the British Empire to its knees, and by so doing, restoring independent statehood and sovereignty to India.

Both the oppressed and the oppressors learn from past successes and failures of symbolic politics. The oppressed view it as an ultimate and ennobling approach to resistance and liberation. Oppressors learn that wars are often not decided by who wins on the battlefield but by the side that gains a decisive advantage symbolically in what I have previously called ‘legitimacy wars.’ With this knowledge of their vulnerability, oppressors fight back, defame and use violence to destroy by any means the will of the oppressed to resist, especially if the stakes involve giving up the high moral and legal ground. The Israeli leadership learned, especially, from the collapse of South African apartheid not to take symbolic politics lightly. Israel has been particularly unscrupulous in its responses to symbolic challenges to its abusive apartheid regime of control. Israel, with U.S. support, has mounted a worldwide defamatory pushback against criticism at the UN or from human rights defenders around the world, shamelessly playing ‘the anti-Semitic card’ in its effort to destroy nonviolent solidarity efforts such as the pro-Palestinian BDS Campaign modeled on an initiative that had mobilized worldwide opposition to South African apartheid. Notably, in the South African case, the BDS tactic was questioned for effectiveness and appropriateness, but its organizers and most militant supporters were never defamed, much less criminalized. This recognition of the potency of symbolic politics by Israel has obstructed the Palestinian liberation struggles despite what would seem to be the advantageous realities of the post-colonial setting.


I
srael’s version of an apartheid regime evolved as a necessary side effect of establishing an exclusivist Jewish state in a non-Jewish state. This Zionist project required that the Palestinian people become victims of colonialist displacement in their own homeland. Israel learned from the South African experience techniques of racist hierarchy and repression, but they were also aware of the vulnerabilities of oppressors to sustained forms of non-violence that validated the persevering resistance of those oppressed. Israel is determined not to repeat the collapse of South African apartheid, and to do so requires not only repression of resistors but the demoralization of supporters.

A similar reality existed in Northern Ireland where the memories of colonies lost to weaker adversaries slowly taught the UK lessons of accommodation and compromise, which led the leaders in London to shift their focus from counterterrorism to diplomacy, with the dramatic climax of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Israel is not the UK, and the Irish are not the Palestinians. Israel shows no willingness to grant the Palestinian people their most basic rights, yet even Israel does not want to be humiliated in ways that can arouse international public opinion to move beyond the rhetoric of censure in the direction of sanctions. The Israeli Prison Service doesn’t want Palestinian hunger strikers to die while in captivity, not because of empathy, but to avoid bad publicity. To prevent such outcomes, Israeli prison authorities will make concessions, including even release, when a hunger striker is feared at the brink of death, and earlier attempts at force feeding have failed. Palestinian prospects are more dependent than ever on waging and winning victories in the domain of symbolic politics, and Israel, with the help of the United States, will go to any length to hide defeat in this longest of legitimacy wars.

It is against such a background that Palestinian and Irish contributions came to surface to underscore the essential similarity of these two epic anti-colonial struggles. What gives the stories of Palestinian and Irish hunger strikers the authority and persuasive power is the authenticity derived from words of those brave men and women who chose to undertake hunger strikes in situations of desperation and experienced not only their own spirit-enhancing ordeal but the pain of loss of martyred fallen comrades, grieving families, and their common effort to engage the wider struggles for rights and freedom being carried on outside the prison walls. Despite the vast differences in their respective struggles against oppression, the similarities of response created the deepest of bonds, especially of the Irish toward the Palestinians whose oppressive reality was more severe, and has proved more enduring, although the dreams of the Irish hunger strikers remain largely unrealized. At the same time, the inspirational example of the Irish hunger strikers who did not abandon their quest for elemental justice at the doorstep of death was not lost on the Palestinians.

THE POLITICS OF HUNGER STRIKES

28 Oct

[Prefatory Note: First part of my Foreword to A Shared Struggle: Stories of Paalestinian and Irish Hunger Strikes, a collection gathered by Norma Hashim & Yousef M. Aljami. It was published as an opinion piece of October 27, 2020 by Politics Today. During my six years as UN Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine, I found disturbing the silence of the Western media about Palestinian hunger strikes, especially when these extreme expressions of nonviolent resistance were in reaction to prison confinement by Administrative Detention decrees, that is, without charges or any show of incriminating evidence.]

Making Sense of Hunger Strikes and Symbolic Politics

A Palestinian man wearing a protective mask walks past a mural depicting prisoner Maher Al-Akhras, 49, a Palestinian jailed by Israel, who has been on hunger strike for 84 days, protesting his detention without trial, in Gaza City October 18, 2020. Photo by Majdi Fathi / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Desperate circumstances give rise to desperate behavior. If by states, extreme violent behavior tends to be rationalized as ‘self-defense,’ ‘military necessity,’ or ‘counterterrorism,’ and claims of legal authorization are treated as appropriate. If even nonviolent acts of resistance by individuals associated with dissident movements, then the established order and its supportive media will routinely describe such acts as ‘terrorism,’ ‘criminality,’ and ‘fanaticism,’ and the behavior is criminalized, or at best exposed to scorn by the established order of sovereign states. Statist forms of combat almost always rely on violence to crush an enemy, while the desperation of resistance sometimes takes the form of inflicting hurt upon the self so as to shame an oppressor to relent or eventually even surrender, not due to empathy or a change of heart, but because fearful of alienating public opinion, intensifying resistance, losing international legitimacy, facing sanctions. It is against such an overall background that we should understand the role of the hunger strike in the wider context of resistance against all forms of oppressive, exploitative, and cruel governance. The long struggles in Northern Ireland and Palestine are among the most poignant instances of such political encounters that gripped the moral imagination of many persons of conscience in the years since the middle of the prior century.

Those jailed activists who have recourse to a hunger strike, either singly or in collaboration, are keenly aware that they are choosing an option of last resort, which exhibits a willingness to sacrifice their body and even life itself for goals deemed more important. These goals usually involve either safeguarding dignity or honor of subjugated people or mobilizing support for a collective struggle on behalf of freedom, rights, and equality. A hunger strike is an ultimate form of non-violence, comparable only to politically motivated acts of self-immolation, physically harmful only to the self, yet possessing in certain circumstances unlimited symbolic potential to change behavior and give rise to massive displays of discontent by a population believed to be successfully suppressed. Such desperate tactics have been integral to the struggles for basic rights and resistance to oppressive conditions in both Palestine and Northern Ireland.

Read: Israeli Occupation and the Palestinian Identity

An unacknowledged, yet vital, truth of recent history is that symbolic politics have often eventually controlled the outcomes of prolonged struggles against oppressive state actors that wield dominant control over combat zones and uncontested superiority in relation to weapons and military capabilities. And yet despite these hard power advantages thought decisive in such conflict, they go on in the end to endure political defeat. It may be helpful to remember that it was the self-immolation of Buddhist monks in Saigon during the 1960s was considered a scream of the culture in reaction to the American led military intervention. It led Vietnamese scholars to interpret these extreme acts of solitary individuals, endowed with the highest civilizational authority, as actually shifting the balance of forces in Vietnam in ways that then and there doomed the seemingly irresistible American military resolve to control the political future of Vietnam. These acts didn’t end the war, but to those with insight into Vietnamese culture it did signal an outcome contrary to what the war planners in Washington expected. Tragically before acknowledging defeat, the Vietnam war persisted for a decade, ravaging the land and bringing great suffering to the people of Vietnam. Self-immolation, setting oneself on fire as an irreversible instance of self-sacrifice, carries the logic of a hunger strike to its conclusion. Depending on the actor and context, self-immolation can be interpreted either as an expression of hopeless despair or as a desperate appeal for a just peace.

It was the self-immolation of a simple fruit and vegetable vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid on December 17, 2010 that called attention to the plight of the Tunisian people, igniting a nationwide uprising that drove a corrupt dictator, Ben Ali, from power. Bouazizi, without political motivation or spiritual authority of the Buddhist monks, sparked populist mobilizations that swept across the Arab world in 2011. Somehow Bouazizi’s entire personal self-immolation set the region ablaze. Such a reaction could not have been predicted and was not planned, yet afterwards it was interpreted as somehow generating revolutionary responses to intolerable underlying conditions.

Without doubt, the supreme example of triumphant symbolic politics in modern times was the extraordinary resistance and liberation movement led by Gandhi that merged his individual hunger strikes unto death with spectacular nonviolent forms of collective action (for instance, ‘the salt march’ of 1930), accomplishing what seemed impossible at the time, bringing the British Empire to its knees, and by so doing, restoring independent statehood and sovereignty to India.

Read: Expanding Definitions of Anti-Semitism Shield Israel from Its Crimes

Both the oppressed and the oppressors learn from past successes and failures of symbolic politics. The oppressed view it as an ultimate and ennobling approach to resistance and liberation. Oppressors learn that wars are often not decided by who wins on the battlefield but by the side that gains a decisive advantage symbolically in what I have previously called ‘legitimacy wars.’ With this knowledge of their vulnerability, oppressors fight back, defame and use violence to destroy by any means the will of the oppressed to resist, especially if the stakes involve giving up the high moral and legal ground. The Israeli leadership learned, especially, from the collapse of South African apartheid not to take symbolic politics lightly. Israel has been particularly unscrupulous in its responses to symbolic challenges to its abusive apartheid regime of control. Israel, with U.S. support, has mounted a worldwide defamatory pushback against criticism at the UN or from human rights defenders around the world, shamelessly playing ‘the anti-Semitic card’ in its effort to destroy nonviolent solidarity efforts such as the pro-Palestinian BDS Campaign modeled on an initiative that had mobilized worldwide opposition to South African apartheid. Notably, in the South African case, the BDS tactic was questioned for effectiveness and appropriateness, but its organizers and most militant supporters were never defamed, much less criminalized. This recognition of the potency of symbolic politics by Israel has obstructed the Palestinian liberation struggles despite what would seem to be the advantageous realities of the post-colonial setting.

Israel’s version of an apartheid regime evolved as a necessary side effect of establishing an exclusivist Jewish state in a non-Jewish state. This Zionist project required that the Palestinian people become victims of colonialist displacement in their own homeland. Israel learned from the South African experience techniques of racist hierarchy and repression, but they were also aware of the vulnerabilities of oppressors to sustained forms of non-violence that validated the persevering resistance of those oppressed. Israel is determined not to repeat the collapse of South African apartheid, and to do so requires not only repression of resistors but the demoralization of supporters.

A similar reality existed in Northern Ireland where the memories of colonies lost to weaker adversaries slowly taught the UK lessons of accommodation and compromise, which led the leaders in London to shift their focus from counterterrorism to diplomacy, with the dramatic climax of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Israel is not the UK, and the Irish are not the Palestinians. Israel shows no willingness to grant the Palestinian people their most basic rights, yet even Israel does not want to be humiliated in ways that can arouse international public opinion to move beyond the rhetoric of censure in the direction of sanctions. The Israeli Prison Service doesn’t want Palestinian hunger strikers to die while in captivity, not because of empathy, but to avoid bad publicity. To prevent such outcomes, Israeli prison authorities will make concessions, including even release, when a hunger striker is feared at the brink of death, and earlier attempts at force feeding have failed. Palestinian prospects are more dependent than ever on waging and winning victories in the domain of symbolic politics, and Israel, with the help of the United States, will go to any length to hide defeat in this longest of legitimacy wars.

It is against such a background that Palestinian and Irish contributions came to surface to underscore the essential similarity of these two epic anti-colonial struggles. What gives the stories of Palestinian and Irish hunger strikers the authority and persuasive power is the authenticity derived from words of those brave men and women who chose to undertake hunger strikes in situations of desperation and experienced not only their own spirit-enhancing ordeal but the pain of loss of martyred fallen comrades, grieving families, and their common effort to engage the wider struggles for rights and freedom being carried on outside the prison walls. Despite the vast differences in their respective struggles against oppression, the similarities of response created the deepest of bonds, especially of the Irish toward the Palestinians whose oppressive reality was more severe, and has proved more enduring, although the dreams of the Irish hunger strikers remain largely unrealized. At the same time, the inspirational example of the Irish hunger strikers who did not abandon their quest for elemental justice at the doorstep of death was not lost on the Palestinians.

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Force-Feeding Palestinian Hunger Strikers

11 Jun

Palestine Hunger Strike and Israeli Force-Feeding Pending Legislation

 

            The highly respected human rights NGO, Adalah (meaning justice) dedicated to securing human rights for Palestinians living in Israel, has issued an urgent appeal on behalf of a reported 125 Palestinian prisoners who are engaged in a hunger strike protesting their being held in Israeli jails on the basis of ‘administrative detention’ procedures. It is the longest collective hunger strike in Palestinian history. Administrative detention is

an objectionable practice by which individuals are held in prison, sometime for months or even years, without being informed of charges or facing trial. According to international law reliance on administrative detention is regarded as prohibited unless there are overwhelming reasons in the form of imminent and severe security threats to justify the failure to produce criminal charges and hold a trial. Israel has made no such appeal, and appears to use administrative detention procedures routinely and against individuals who cannot be considered security threats.

 

            The current hunger strike commenced on April 24, over 50 days ago. Some of the prisoners are being held in prison hospitals in view of their deteriorating and precarious health, with concerns that serious physical damage and possibly death could occur if the strike continues for several more days. Under these circumstances, the Israeli government has sought to break the will of the strikers by seeking a legislative mandate to engage in coercive forms of force-feeding. It should be noted that the Israeli government at its highest levels has made it clear in its public statements that its main purpose is not to save the lives of the prisoners, but to break the strike as a prison protest. At the moment, a bill authorizing force-feeding of hunger strikers has passed a first reading in the Knesset, and is being fast-tracked to allow for the required second and third reading in the coming week. To have any prospect of stopping such a step from being taken immediate and intense international pressure is needed from as many angles as possible.

 

            In keeping with international standards, the Israeli Medical Association, has indicated that it is improper for physicians to cooperate in any way with governmental force-feeding. Unfortunately, prison doctors are not member of the Israeli Medical Association, although one might hope that their moral stand would exert some inhibiting influence. The most authoritative text on the international status of force-feeding is contained in the Declaration of Malta (1991, rev. 2006) adopted by the World Medical Association. In guideline 6 the Declaration states that “hunger strikers should be protected from coercion,” and more directly in guideline 13 asserts that forcible feeding is never acceptable because it constitutes “a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.’ Such a wording is similar to that used to indicate the scope of prohibition contained in the widely ratified International Convention on Torture (1984), thereby validating the contention that forced-feeding is a type of torture. The Declaration adopts a subtle approach that recognizes the complexity of the issue, including the possibility in some circumstances that coercion may arise from other hunger strikers eager to avoid any defection from their ranks. Overall, the core commitment is respect for the freedom of a hunger striker either to maintain or abort his protest, which is itself as aspect of freedom of conscience.

 

            There are journalistic accounts published in Israel that suggest both that the Shin Beth places a high priority on ending the hunger strike, which threatens to spread among the 5,271 Palestinians currently in Israeli jails in acts of solidarity with those 192 current held in administrative detention. There is also Israeli worries that the strike might spread unrest beyond the prison walls to Palestinian society as a whole with unpredictable results . Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with typical bravado has indicated that even if some doctors refuse to participate in force-feeding he will find enough that will.

 

            The depth of this deepening humanitarian crisis has even moved the normally passive Palestinian Authority to take some action. President Mahmoud Abbas has sent a letter actually under the signature of Saeb Erekat, the chief international negotiator on the Palestinian side, asking the UN Security Council to intervene to prevent force-feeding. It is hard to know whether anything will come of this initiative.

 

            As has been the Palestinian experience all along, the world media averts its gaze when humanitarian emergencies arise in occupied Palestine. In this instance, treating Palestinian hunger strikes as unworthy of the sort of coverage that is given to similar such political protests in other parts of the world, including India, China, and Tibet. It is well to recall that the 1981 hunger strikes by Irish Catholic militants held in the notorious Maze Prison in Northern Ireland resulted in several deaths, most notably that of Bobby Sands after 66 days without food, and had the political effect of shifting the British approach to the Irish struggle from blood-soaked counterinsurgency to conflict-resolving diplomacy.

 

            In the text of the Adalah urgent appeal pasted below there are a list of initiatives that individuals around the world are urged to take. I firmly believe that it is important of people of good will around the world to shout and scream in solidarity with these prisoners.

 

            We need to keep in mind several salient features of this developing situation:

            –this hunger strike is protesting against Israel’s extensive and abusive reliance on ‘administrative detention’ to hold Palestinians in a cruel manner that is incompatible with international law, especially given the international obligations of Israel in relation to the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967; this is in essence a protest against injustice;

            –it should be appreciated that a hunger strike is the supreme form of nonviolent self-sacrifice seeking to highlight and transform severe encroachments on fundamental norms of human rights, including the universally prohibition on torture that becomes relevant to the extent that the Israeli government seeks to end the strike by force-feeding;

            –Palestinian detainees, reacting to deep grievances, have engaged in several long and dramatic hunger strikes in recent years starting on December 18, 2011 when Khader Adnan went 66 days without food, followed by a 43 day hunger strike by Hana Shalabi that ended with a early release, involving a punitive deportation from the West Bank for three years to Gaza; in these cases of individual hunger strikes, Israel finally offered concessions to induce the prisoner to give up the hunger strike when prison medical authorities feared death or permanent disability;

            –the issue of force-feeding is an aggravation of the underlying injustice and illegality of administrative detention, and is often preceded by violent nighttime arrests that constitute instances of state terror that produce resistance by those detained in prison;

            –Prime Minister Netanyahu has reportedly justified force-feeding by referring to the American practice at Guantanamo Bay where terrorist suspects have been detained for many years without charges or trials, and subjected to an array of inhuman and degrading practices; such an attempt at validating Israeli practices by invoking America’s unlawful behavior has no moral or legal weight, and should be interpreted as virtually a confession;

            –hunger strikes should be treated as nonviolent resistance tactics used by Palestinians to protest against unlawful Israeli unlawful practices and policies associated with the prolonged occupation of Palestine; in view of this, those of us who support the Palestinian struggle for rights and justice seize this opportunity to be sure our voice is heard loudly enough to offset the shameful silences of governments and the mainstream media. Also beyond the fate of Palestinian prisoners, it would also seem imperative to insist upon a public debate in Israel on the treatment presently accorded to imprisoned Palestinians.

**************************************************************************************************

 

Adalah’s Urgent Appeal on Behalf of Palestinians Hunger Strikers, and their Right not to be Force-fed:

 

Urgent Appeal / Day 49 of the Palestinian mass hunger-strike: Israeli fast-track legislation to permit force-feeding may be completed next week

 

Since 17 April 2014, over 100 Palestinian detainees and prisoners have been on hunger strike in protest at Israel’s policy of Administrative Detention (see box).

 

On 9 June, an Israeli government-initiated law proposal to permit force-feeding of hunger strikers passed first reading in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. The second and third readings are scheduled to take place in a fast-track procedure next week. This can only be prevented by public responses locally and abroad.

 

Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet or Shabak (known also as GSS, ISA), has encouraged the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to push through this legislation as fast as possible, with the explicit purpose of breaking the hunger strike, rather than out of concern for the welfare of the strikers.

 

Force feeding is defined as torture by the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Malta and has been condemned by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other UN organs.

 

The Israel Medical Association (IMA) has objected publicly to the proposed legislation and announced that its members will not comply with it. However, doctors working for the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) are not members of the IMA. The body in charge of supervising and disciplining doctors in Israel is the Ministry of Health, which, unfortunately, is a main supporter and promoter of the legislation.

 

In line with the approach taken by the Shin Bet and PM Netanyahu, the Ministry of Health is now also introducing new, more stringent restrictions on the access of external independent doctors to the hunger-strikers, despite the fact that the right of prisoners to see an independent doctor is anchored both in Israeli law and in international norms.

 

What is Administrative Detention?

A form of internment without trial, administrative detention can be ordered by an Israeli military commander in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) based on ‘security reasons’, which are broad enough to include peaceful political activity and virtually any act of opposition to the Israeli occupation. As of 1 May 2014, 192 Palestinians were held in administrative detention in Israel. Detainees are held without trial and neither they nor their lawyers are allowed to see the ‘secret evidence’ used against them. While detainees may appeal the detention in a military court, such a right is rendered meaningless without access to the information on which the detention order is based. Administrative Detention orders are valid for up to six months at a time and can be renewed indefinitely. According to testimonies collected by human rights organizations, detainees have been held in administrative detention for periods ranging from one month to as much as six years. The frequency of the use of administrative detention has fluctuated throughout Israel’s occupation. It has specifically been used as a means of collective punishment against Palestinians opposing the occupation. UN CERD has recently expressed its opinion that Israel’s current practice of Administrative Detention is ‘discriminatory and constitutes arbitrary detention under international human rights law.’ The European Union has also condemned Israel’s use of this measure.

 

What you can do:

 

  • Contact Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Minister of Health Yael German and your local Israeli Embassy to voice your objection to this proposed amendment to the prisons law: bnetanyahu@knesset.gov.il ; ygerman@knesset.gov.il
  • Contact your national medical association and the World Medical Association and ask them to publicly urge the Israeli government to withdraw the law: doh@wma.net; wma@wma.net

 

  • Contact the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Prof. Juan Mendez and ask him to condemn the law and publicly urge the Israeli government to withdraw it: urgent-action@ohchr.org

 

  • Contact the EU High Representative Baroness Catherine Ashton and ask her to condemn the law and publicly urge the Israeli government to withdraw it: Catherine.ashton@ec.europa.eu

 

  • Contact your local MP and ask her to condemn the law and publicly urge the Israeli government to withdraw it.

 

The IMA’s position: http://www.ima.org.il/ENG/ViewCategory.aspx?CategoryId=4497

Recent press articles:

Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/09/israel-force-feeding-law-palestinian-hunger-strikers

Haaretz

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.597672

http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/.premium-1.598098

Related websites:

http://www.phr.org.il/default.asp?PageID=4

www.Addameer.org

www.Adalah.org

www.stoptorture.org.il

http://www.mezan.org/en/

 

Israel’s attempt to break the hunger-strikes: Background

In 2012, Palestinian detainees and prisoners embarked on multiple hunger strikes, aiming to end the policy of Administrative Detention as well as seeking to improve prison conditions and renew family visits from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which had been interrupted. Despite punitive measures against the strikers, the hunger strikes were largely successful, leading to the release of several administrative detainees as well as to an Egyptian-brokered agreement between the prisoners’ leadership and the Israel Prisons Service, which included an undertaking to respect most of the strikers’ demands. This year, as the number of administrative detainees crept up again and conditions in the prisons did not improve, a new mass hunger strike was declared on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day (17 April). As the hunger strike gathers speed and support, the response of the Israel Prisons Service has increased in hostility. Prison staff has exerted pressure on hunger-strikers to break their protest in various ways including isolation from the outside world by denial of access to lawyers, independent doctors and family; separation from other prisoners through solitary confinement and frequent transfers from one prison to another; and punitive measures such as raids on striking prisoners’ quarters, confiscation of personal belongings and fines.  IPS medical staff has been implicated in this process by preferring the interests of the prison to their obligations to their patients, in breach of medical professional-ethical standards. Hunger-strikers have been shuttled between medical facilities in the public health system.

Access to trustworthy legal advice and independent doctors is crucial to the hunger-strikers’ ability to make conscious and informed decisions regarding their actions, but PHR-Israel doctors and the detainees’ lawyers have only gained access to some of the hunger-striking prisoners after repeatedly appealing to the courts.

 

For information and updates on this issue please contact Physicians for Human Rights-Israel: Amany Dayif at amanydayif@phr.org.il, or Hadas Ziv at hadas@phr.org.il

 

This appeal is by:

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Haifa)

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association (Ramallah)

Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights (Gaza)

Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (West Jerusalem)

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (Jaffa – Tel Aviv)

 

 

ENDS

——–

 

Miri Weingarten

EU Advocacy Coordinator for Israel/OPT

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel * Adalah * Public Committee Against Torture in Israel

M +44 753 1719159

Skype miri.weingarten

email miri.weingarten@gmail.com

 

 

This mailing list includes representatives of the following organisations:

 

ACAT, ACSUR, Action Against Hunger, Action Aid, Actions in the Mediterranean, Adalah, Addameer, AIDA, Al-Haq, Amnesty, APRODEV, Avaaz, Breaking the Silence, Broederlijk Delen, B’Tselem, CAFOD, CARE, Caritas, CCFD, Christian Aid, Church of England, Church of Sweden, CICC, CIDSE, Cordaid, Crisis Action, DCA, Defence for Children International, Diakonia, EAPPI, EMHRN, FCA, FIDH, Gisha, HRW, ICCO, ICTJ, InterAction, Israeli Human Rights Coalition, MAP, Medact, Medecins du Monde, medico international, Mercy Corps, Merlin, NPA, NRC, OSI, Oxfam, PAH, Plateforme Palestine, QPSW, RCT, Rights Forum, Save the Children, Terre des Hommes Italia, The Elders, Methodist Church, Trocaire, UCP, War Child, World Vision, Yesh Din.

 

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