FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Forced-Feeding is Torture: Israel’s Latest Scheme to Dehumanize Palestinian Prisoners

by

Miri Regev, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sports, supports torture. She is not alone. Joining her is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while practically all ministers and members of Knesset in his coalition have followed suit. The Israeli government, in other words, supports torture, and thus is similar to the governments of Egypt, Syria and many of its neighbors in the Middle East. Israel, apparently, is not a villa in the jungle, as so many of its pundits would have us think.

By torture, I am referring specifically to the recently passed law legalizing forced feeding, which according to the World Health Organization, the Red Cross and the United Nations is considered a cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and a flagrant violation of international law.

Of course, the Knesset’s legislation on this matter is not unique even in the midst of western liberal democracies. Among the countries that deploy forced-feeding against hunger strikers is also Israel’s ‘enlightened ally’, the United States. While the U.S. has been force-feeding inmates in Guantanamo for many years now, this practice actually has deep roots in the American imagination. Already at the beginning of the last century the suffragette Alice Paul, who was incarcerated for demanding women’s right to vote, embarked on a hunger strike in prison and was subsequently, force-fed by government officials. As can be seen in the feature film Iron Jawed Angels that documents the women’s movement’s struggle, force feeding is a horrific form of torture.

Israel’s new law is not, at least for the time being, directed against its own citizens, but rather against over 5,700 Palestinian political prisoners from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
gordondominateAbout 400 of these have been held in administrative detention without trial, some of them for up to eight, ten and eleven years. The presumption of innocence, which is supposed to underlie all progressive and democratic judicial systems, should have been applied to them.  It was not.  And there goes the villa metaphor.

Over the past years, many Palestinian political prisoners have embarked on hunger strikes  as a form of non-violent protest against the authorities, while currently it is estimated that over 100 prisoners are on strike. Examining Prime Minister Netanyahu’s justification for pushing forward a bill to legitimize forced feeding reveals, however, a contradiction in his twisted logic.

The administrative detainees are being held in prison contrary to international law and contrary to the principle of due process. These men have not been granted the fundamental right to a fair trial, because prisoners like Muhammad Allaan, who has been on hunger strike for 60 days, are not considered by the Israeli authorities to be fully human, namely, individuals who bear rights. At the same time, though, the Prime Minister’s justification for advancing a force-feeding law stems from the moral imperative requiring us to save human lives. On the one hand, then, the Palestinian political prisoners are treated as sub-human, but, on the other hand, to justify the law they have to be portrayed as fully human. There is one aspect of this legislative move that is, however, consistent: the desire to harm outspoken Palestinian subjects and to violate their basic right to bodily integrity.

But the contradiction between the sub-human and human is not the sole logical distortion espoused by the Israeli legislators who supported the bill. It is crucial to highlight that in their struggle against Israel’s violation of their basic right to due process the prisoners launched a hunger strike, a recognized form of nonviolent protest. However, and perhaps ironically, the way the Israeli government has chosen to deal with this non-violent protest to its own anti-democratic practice of administrative detention is by instituting yet another serious violation of international law: torture – one of the most severe forms of dehumanization.

Not all, however, is dark. As the great philosopher Hannah Arendt teaches, even in the most difficult times one encounters human action that sheds light on the darkness. Dr. Leonid Eidelman, chairman of the Israeli Medical Association, called upon all Israeli doctors to refuse to perform force-feeding even if the law requires them to do so. Force-feeding of hunger strikers, Eidelman argued, breaches the principles of preventing damage and maintaining the patient’s autonomy over his or her body, thus violating the physicians’ code of ethics. The code of ethics, he intimated, is above the law.

Eidelman is right. The question now is whether all Israeli doctors will heed his call for civil disobedience and refuse to obey the law. The chances, unfortunately, are extremely slim.

This article was first published in Al Jazeera.

Neve Gordon is the co-author (with Nicola Perugini) of the newly released The Human Right to Dominate.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail