THE United Nations has voiced concern over a recently adopted Israeli law allowing the force-feeding of detainees and prisoners on hunger strikes in Israeli prisons.
In a statement published Saturday, it said such a law is a ‘cause for concern to those who work to protect the right to health of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory’. ‘The law potentially affects all detainees but particularly Palestinian detainees who have resorted to hunger strikes to protest their conditions, including their prolonged detention on administrative orders without charge,’ the statement added.
The UN maintained that hunger strikes are a non-violent form of protest used by individuals who have exhausted other forms of protest to highlight the seriousness of their situation. This came a day after a medical committee in the Israeli Soroka hospital in Beersheba, where Palestinian hunger striking detainee Mohammad Allan from Nablus is being treated due to severe deterioration on his health, permitted physicians at the hospital to force-feed him in case his life was in danger.
Allan has been on a hunger strike for 55 consecutive days in protest against his administrative detention without trial or charge. On July 30, the Israeli parliament, Knesset, approved the second and third reading of a legislation allowing the force-feeding of hunger striking Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails. The move, which saw 46 members of Knesset vote in favour and 40 against, was opposed by Israel’s Medical Association also opposed the law, which considered force-feeding as a form of torture that is medically risky. It urged Israeli doctors not to abide by the law.
Ahead of the bill’s approval, Issa Qaraqe, Chairman of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Commission, said the law legalises murder of Palestinian hunger striking detainees. ‘It’s against the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law, it legalises torture of prisoners who are demanding their rights in a non-violent way,’ asking for a meeting of state parties to the Geneva Conventions to take a stand against the law and demand Israel not to apply it.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, has called ‘feeding induced by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints of individuals, who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike to protest against their detention… tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, even if intended for their benefit’.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pûras, has observed that ‘under no circumstance will force-feeding of prisoners and detainees on hunger strike comply with human rights standards. Informed consent is an integral part in the realisation of the right to health’.
l A Palestinian child on Sunday was seriously injured after an explosive device, left behind by the Israeli army exploded in the city of Hebron, according to a police statement. The statement said that the injury was caused by the explosion of a suspicious device a child found and was playing with near one of the Israeli military camps in Hebron. The object exploded in the child’s face, causing him injuries and burned his hands and body.
The child, whose identity remains unidentified, was transferred to hospital for treatment, where his condition was described as serious. Police officials asked all Palestinian families to warn their children about playing with suspicious objects and to immediately inform the authorities. On August 6, four Palestinians were killed and around 30 others injured when an unexploded device left behind the Israeli army detonated in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah.
The Israeli army usually conducts drills in the occupied West Bank, especially in the Jordan Valley, after forcefully displacing dozens of local Palestinian families due to the proximity of their homes to the training sites. Palestinians living in these areas have to also worry about unexploded ordnance left behind by the Israeli army after the drills, which have led to the death of many Palestinians, including children, over the past years.
In 2014, three Palestinians were killed because of unexploded ordnance left by Israeli forces in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, while Gaza remains plagued with unexploded ordnance following the most recent Israeli aggression. Meanwhile a Jewish organisation handed the Sarhan family from Jerusalem a judicial order to evict their three homes and a land they own, under the pretext that Jewish individuals own the property.
According to Wadi Hilweh Information Centre (WHIC), the Ateret Cohanim Jewish organisation asked Sarhan family to leave the three homes and abandon a land of their own to the Jewish group, saying the property belongs to three Yemenite Jews who lived there before 1948. The organisation claimed it won an Israeli judicial order granting it the ownership of the three homes and land.
The homes are shelter to ten Palestinians from the Sarhan family, who has been there for more than 80 years, according to WHIC. It said the homes are located within the Ateret Cohanim master plan for settlement activity in Silwan; the Jewish group targets to take over a five-dunum and 200-meter land in the area which houses some 35 buildings with about 80 families. There are uncountable methods in which Jewish groups take over Palestinian real estate in East Jerusalem.
The incident came only a few days after Israeli police asked two East Jerusalem Palestinian families from the Abu-Nab family to leave their homes, under the pretext of absentee ownership. A few days ago, Israeli police asked Sabri Abu-Nab and Abdullah Abu-Nab, two Jerusalemite Palestinians, and their families to leave their homes before August 11, citing that the two properties are owned by ‘absentees’.
Jewish settler organisations claimed the two homes are located on the site of an abandoned Jewish synagogue. Also on February 9, the Ateret Cohanim organisation attempted to evict a house rented by a Palestinian family in Jerusalem’s Old City, citing that the house belongs to a Jewish family and that settlers have the right to inhabit it instead.
For years, Israel instituted a series of mandatory laws, regulations and policies to legalise the confiscation of Palestinians’ lands and property and prevent them from returning to their homes. Palestinians’ land was deemed ‘absentee property’ based on the 1950 Absentee Property Law and the control of the land was transferred to the government and semi-governmental agencies, such as the Jewish National Fund and Israel’s Land Administration for the benefit of Jewish Israelis.
Under this law, Palestinian refugees and the internally displaced are regarded as ‘present absentees’, designations that authorised the confiscation of their land. The implication of this was a major loss of Palestinians’ land. Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign says that, ‘By classifying every citizen or persons present in an “enemy” territory or country as an “absentee” vis-à-vis property in Israel, the law has served to confiscate the land and real estate left behind by the Palestinians who were forcibly displaced 1948.’
In 1967, most Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPT) de facto became ‘absentees’ with regard to their property in East Jerusalem, which was unilaterally and illegally annexed by Israel.