21:08 GMT14 August 2020
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    Israeli authorities are considering hiring foreign doctors to feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners against their will if the country’s own top medical association continues to resist the practice.

    In 2015, the Knesset passed a law allowing physicians to force-feed inmates, saying the government is responsible for the lives of those incarcerated in its prison system. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the law, backed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was in keeping with the constitution.

    Nevertheless, the Israel Medical Association (IMA) has prohibited its members from participating in force-feeding hunger strikers, saying the practice amounts torture and that physicians should continue acting in accordance with medical ethics.

    "The message we wish to convey to physicians is that forced feeding is tantamount to torture and that no doctor should take part in it," said IMA Director Leonid Eidelman.

    On Thursday, Israel's Channel 2 reported that the Health Ministry is considering flying doctors from abroad to force-feed the prisoners participating in a mass hunger strike, a move that is expected to trigger fierce opposition from human rights advocates.

    An Israeli Prison Service spokesman said earlier this week that 20 days after the start of the strike, more than 850 prisoners were still refusing nutrition. The strikers demand better prison conditions, including the resumption of academic studies and bi-monthly visitations, and seek to expose what they call Israel's illegal system for arresting and detaining Palestinians.

    On Wednesday, Israel's Health Ministry issued new orders requiring doctors who refuse to force-feed strikers whose lives are at risk to transfer their patients to another doctor willing to provide treatment.

    The IMA opposed that order as well, saying it is not customary for doctors to find a substitute if they demur on ethical grounds. The association does instruct its doctors to act on strikers' behalf if they are unable to express their wishes.


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    Palestine, force-feeding, strike, prison, Israel
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