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Palestinian Hunger Striker Loses Consciousness, Testing Israel's 'Unethical' Force-Feeding Law

Israeli doctors are refusing to implement a new law permitting the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike. Rights campaigners say Mohammed Allan is now in a "near-death critical condition."
Photo by Tsafrir Abayov/AP

A Palestinian prisoner on his 60th day of hunger strike has lost consciousness after Israeli doctors refused to force-feed him on ethical grounds.

Earlier this month Israel's government passed a law that allows prisoners refusing food to be forcibly administered nutrients and medical care if their life is deemed to be in danger.

Thirty-three-year-old Mohammed Allan's case now looks set to be a litmus test for Israeli doctors after the country's top medical institution called on healthcare providers to refuse to carry out the forcible administration of food branding it "unethical" and "bordering on torture."


Under the new law prisons must seek the permission of a district court and doctor before a force-feeding can be carried out, but physicians are not compelled to participate.

Hunger strikes have frequently been used by Palestinian prisoners to protest against their treatment in Israel's jails and legal system, a method that proponents of the law have called a "new form of terror against the state."

Related: Israel Passes Force-Feeding Law to Widespread Condemnation

The World Medical Association has listed force-feeding as an unethical practice for several decades saying it is "never justified" and the United Nations has called the practice "inhumane and degrading."

The only Western country known to have carried out force-feeding in recent years is the United States in Guantanamo Bay.

In 1980 at least two Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails died after forcible feeds were administered incorrectly causing a near-hiatus in the measure.

'I am not willing to see the streets of Israel filled with hundred of wretched terrorists that went on hunger strike and were released.'

According to his lawyer Allan, jailed last December, has now been held for more than nine months under an administrative detention order without knowing the specific charges against him. The draconian measure, which permits for indefinite incarceration without trial, is frequently used against Palestinian terror suspects which Israel says there is insufficient evidence against to try in a regular court.


Allan is a member of Islamic jihad, a Palestinian militant group, and Israeli security services have said he has been detained for activities relating to the organization but no further details are known.

On Monday Allan was transported to Barzilau Medical Centre in Ashkelon, after doctors at the nearby Soroka Medical Center refused to administer food to him forcibly. Currently the prisoner is said to be stable and on a respirator but doctors at the new medical facility have so far also refused to force-feed him.

Related: 'If You Don't Talk We'll Beat You': Israeli Security Forces Accused of Abusing Child Prisoners

According to rights groups before losing consciousness Allan became very weak and was vomiting bile and blood, losing his vision and slurring his words. Earlier this month the International Red Cross said they believed that Allan's life was at "immediate risk" and called on Israel to allow his family to visit him.

In a statement sent to VICE News, ADDAMEER, a Ramallah-based prisoner support and human rights NGO, said that Allan was in a "near-death critical condition."

Israel has said it fears that the Allan's death could trigger more unrest between Israelis and Palestinians in a period already marred by violence.

On several previous occasions Palestinian prisoners have secured their release from Israeli jails by going on hunger strike.

Writing on Facebook Gilad Erdan, Israel's Public Security Minister and one of the architects of the force-feeding law, said that doctors were obligated by their "medical oath" to take whatever measure necessary to save patients lives, including forcibly administering food.

"I am not willing to see the streets of Israel filled with hundred of wretched terrorists that went on hunger strike and were released. It's time that the Israel Medical Association understands this," he wrote.

Follow Harriet Salem on Twitter: @HarrietSalem