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Occupation magazine - Commentary

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A wave of hunger strikers.
Eldad Kisch, MD
June 2014


Amongst the Palestinians there are those who find themselves for months or even years in `Administrative Detention`. That means they are locked up without visitors, often without recourse to judiciary counsel, and no information on what basis they are held, because that is a state secret. This is all according to Israeli law that is in force on the occupied West- Bank, and I use the word `law` with a certain hesitation. I am willing to assume that some of those incarcerated are there for a reason, but not a few others are released after months, without an indictment, without an excuse, without any compensation. They are told to go home, keep quit, or else.
It seems that the Palestinians have decided, collectively, that enough is enough, and this has resulted in a wave of hunger strikes amongst these administrative detainees. The authorities try to hush up this groundswell, and no official numbers are available, but matters are getting out of hand and it seems clear that more than a hundred Palestinian detainees are on hunger strike, and of these between forty and sixty have been on strike for over 40 days and now are entering the danger zone where there is acute fear for their lives and a fair number of them have been hospitalized. In most of the hospitals in Israel a few of these cases have been admitted. These hunger strikers are attached with hand- and foot cuffs to their hospital beds. This is forbidden according to all medical norms and allowed only in the most extreme circumstances. But for them it is routine procedure. All this is performed under heavy guard, such that this can hardly be kept secret. Parts of the corridors in our public hospitals are cordoned off, and the place teems with prison-guards and other uniformed personnel. Not the ideal location to hush this up. Visitors are not allowed, but courageous members of `We do not Obey` and Machsomwatch try to get through anyway to deliver a message to the strikers that the world is not forgetting them.
Some of my colleagues from Physicians for Human Rights are involved in the medical counseling of these prisoners, whose lives are in acute danger. The pressure on the hospitals is great because these are difficult cases that need intensive care. The matter has become serious enough such that even the Israel Medical Association (no friends of the Palestinians to put it mildly) has become concerned since the Israeli Government has been floating plans to force feed these hunger strikers. This is inacceptable from a medical-ethical standpoint; a person has an autonomous right to decide what happens to his body. We expect the IMA to oppose any such move and come out against forced feeding. This is no simple decision since these Palestinians are highly motivated and willing to pay the price for either their freedom or that justice be done. If as a result of these strikes victims begin to fall, the consequences cannot be predicted.

Eldad Kisch , MD; June 2014.

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