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Netanyahu pushes for law to allow force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners

| Monday, June 9, 2014, 6:00 p.m.

JERUSALEM — With almost 300 Palestinian prisoners on extended hunger strikes and dozens hospitalized, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pressing for speedy passage of legislation that would authorize force-feeding if an inmate's health is in grave danger.

The bill is opposed by the Israeli Medical Association, which calls it a violation of medical ethics, and by a government-appointed panel that said in a statement that the legislation's provisions “contradict the principles of bioethics and should be rejected outright.”

In a consultation last week with ministers and prison officials, Netanyahu cited force-feeding at the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay detention camp to bolster his case. He asserted that despite opposition from the Israeli medical establishment, doctors willing to carry out the policy would be found, Israeli news outlets reported.

The bill passed its first hurdle on Monday in the Israeli Parliament, which voted to send it to a committee. It must be approved twice more before becoming law.

Military officials at the Guantanamo detention center have used force-feedings for years to stymie hunger strikes among the prisoners there, but the practice received renewed attention last year when as many as 106 of the then-166 prisoners refused to eat to protest their continued incarceration without charges.

By July, the prison camp reported that 46 of those strikers were being force-fed, a process that requires running tubes through the prisoners' noses into their stomachs. Liquid nourishment is then pumped through the tubes.

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