Israel's cabinet approved a controversial bill to allow force feeding of Palestinian prisoners Sunday, after a minister equated peaceful hunger strikes to terrorism.
“Prisoners are interested in turning a hunger strike into a new type of suicide terrorist attack through which they will threaten the state of Israel,” Interior Security Minister Gilad Erdan said shortly after the decision was made.
“The cabinet's decision today sends a clear message: we will not blink in the face of any threat,” he stated on social media.
Erdan was among ministers that backed the draft legislation, which will now head back to Israel's parliament, the Knesset.
The same bill was partially approved by the Knesset in 2014, but was put on hold when the parliament was dissolved ahead of snap elections earlier this year. It was first proposed during a mass hunger strike of imprisoned Palestinians in June 2014. Around 80 prisoners were hospitalized, prompting concerns that prisoner deaths could spark protests in the occupied West Bank.
While Israel's internal security agency, the Shin Bet, has warned another wave of prisoner protests could take place in mid-July, Israel's top medical association has dismissed force feeding as unethical.
Dr. Leonid Eidelman, head of the Israeli Medical Association, described the practice as “humiliating,” and “bordering on torture.”
“If the law passes, we'll call on doctors to ignore it,” Eidelman told Israeli news outlet Haaretz.
The cabinet's decision comes amid growing abuses of Palestinians in Israeli prisons, according to Hassan Abd Rabbo, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Detainees.
“We urge the international institutions to intervene because every prisoner has the right to launch a hunger strike to express his outrage of the Israeli mistreatment,” he told Al Jazeera.
Internationally, force feeding of prisoners has been widely condemned by human rights groups. The World Medical Association has issued an outright ban on force feeding, while United Nations Human Rights Commission has decried the practice as a form of torture.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate torture report included details of prisoners being subjected to force feeding for no clear medical reason, sparking allegations the practice was used to torture detainees.