Beyond the Cusp

May 1, 2017

Barghouti Palestinian Hunger Strike and International Law


Most people have absolutely no idea what the International Law is concerning the treatment of prisoners who choose to stage a hunger strike. Most probably believe that it is the nation where the prisoners have declared a hunger strike responsibility to do everything possible to remedy the situation favorably. This would include caving to the demands of the prisoners if that is what was required. Obviously, these people have not figured this thing out and given it the depth of thought required. If caving to the demands was a required response, and if that is what was necessary to end a prisoner hunger strike, then there would be no prisoners anywhere as all any prisoner would need to do to be released is go on a hunger strike demanding their release and then wait for a couple of weeks and have some really intense hunger pangs. Then as their health became affected, they would be released in order to preserve their health, or at least their lives. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is if the prisoner has been determined to be of sound mind when making the decision, then any consequence of their hunger strike, including death, is on the prisoner and not the holding authority. The International Law does not even permit forced-feeding to keep prisoners alive; it actually forbids such considering forced-feeding as a form of torture which can be the basis of bringing charges against the offending government and nation. So, what exactly is the wording of the law? That can be found in the declaration of Tokyo: Declaration #6; which can be read below.

Declaration of Tokyo

International Law Concerning Prisoner Hunger Strikes

Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially. The decision as to the capacity of the prisoner to form such a judgment should be confirmed by at least one other independent physician. The consequences of the refusal of nourishment shall be explained by the physician to the prisoner.


This Tokyo Declaration means that if the initial physician had determined that the prisoner or prisoners who decide on a hunger strike did so while of sound mind and while not under any coercion, then a second and independent physician is required to also explain the consequences of their actions at each stage of the strike and as long as the prisoner continues demanding they continue their hunger strike, then they must be permitted to continue. Even should their action result in their deaths, they must be allowed to continue their hunger strike. There is an exception which would permit their being force-fed and that is that should they become unconscious, then they can be determined to no longer be of sound mind and thus unable to rationally insist on continuing their hunger strike and can be fed by whatever means are necessitated. Waiting for prisoners to fall unconscious before feeding them is extremely risky, as once they have lost consciousness they would be so close to death that bringing them back from the edge would be a delicate situation. The percentages for saving their lives would have fallen well below optimum and may have fallen to a point where the chances would be negligible.


The difficulty Israel faces is the same ideal which the Arabs throw in our faces at every opportunity with their chant of, “We love death as much as you love life and that is why we will defeat you.” To be honest, this argument has never quite made sense to us and in my case, I remember a quote attributed to General George Patton in the movie “Patton” and attributed to the General in some references where he was reputed to have said, “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making some other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” Apparently, the Arabs have decided to make that easier for Israel if their threat is to be taken literally. The truth is the Arab leadership loves life just as much as any Israeli, what they do not have much regard for are the lives of those they command. Arab commanders send others to die while Israeli officers are at the tip of the spear where their command to move forward is always, “Follow me,” as they lead out. The other side of the Israeli love of life is that we also value Arab lives even to include the hunger-striking prisoners. Israel was threatened of being brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity for torturing prisoners. Most people in the Western World have heard the claims that Israel tortures Arab prisoners but they have no idea what criminal definition of torture Israel is guilty of committing. Under the Declaration of Tokyo, forced-feeding of a prisoner, even to save their lives, is defined as torture. The life of the prisoner is presumably of no concern for the holding governance; it is on the prisoner if they lose their life due to a hunger strike. Under International Law, the death of a hunger-striking prisoner is considered a suicide and not the concern of the holding government. Israel cannot accept such a trivial treatment of a human life, even the life of a hunger-striking prisoner.


Marwan Barghouti, arch terrorist serving five life terms for only five of the dozens of Israelis murdered by his bombs and terror plans as well as likely hundreds injured, many horrifically suffering from crippling effects of these attacks

Marwan Barghouti, arch terrorist serving five life terms
for only five of the dozens of Israelis murdered by his
bombs and terror plans as well as likely hundreds injured,
many horrifically suffering from crippling effects of these attacks


The whole situation is considered a win-win by the Arab terror organizations which is why there are three or four hunger strikes called virtually every year. They realize there are only two results which can come from their hunger strike. They realize that there is little if any chance that they will be allowed to die as a result of their choices and actions. This means either they will have their demands met which usually amounts to several of the strikers being freed and other concessions. This result often comes when nations of the world demand that Israel not force-feed the prisoners and ties their demands to threats to take Israel before the ICC or the ICJ with charges of torture by force-feeding prisoners against their will. Simply put in everyday words, usually at the behest of the Arab League and numerous Arab governments, through behind the scenes communications, call for numerous European nations or the European Union to threaten Israel with charges of preserving human lives of their sworn enemies and often terrorist lives through the torture of forced-feeding them against their will. Prisoner rights groups and the family of nations pressed for and got the decision that the forced-feeding of prisoners was torture such that International Law made it punishable before the community of nations thus leaving only one means for a civilized people to save the lives of hunger striking prisoners, surrender to their demands. Before the decision that forced-feeding was torture there were two choices for governments, they could give in to the demands or they could force-feed the prisoners while it was still safe and would guarantee their survival. With the removal of feeding as a solution, there still remain two choices which save the life of the prisoner, giving in to their demands or waiting for them to pass into unconsciousness and then feeding them. The waiting for unconsciousness is a very risky means as some prisoners will die at the point of losing consciousness, others will be able to be saved and for far too many, the probabilities for survival would be very slim. None of these options are acceptable to Israel, not to her government and not to the vast majority of the people, even including the ones who might act tough and say, let them die, who if they had to make the call they would not allow them to die and would choose life.


The prisoners know that when they start to refuse food then either their demands will be met or Israel will face the screams across the globe from leftists and the anti-Semites that Israel is guilty of torture and is once again torturing their prisoners. The accusations continue and are louder every time there is a prisoner who is force-fed. Torture, torture they cry with the prisoner rights groups up in protest supported by numerous others from left wing groups plus there are the Soros groups who live to accuse Israel of crimes, BLM, BDS, pro-Palestinian groups, anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and all the rest of the anti-Semitic groups, European nations and their funded NGO’s, B’Tselem, the numerous peace groups and the list is nearly endless. Torture, torture ringing across the globe and the sun never sets on the various protests against Israel for saving lives. Imagine the outcry were Israel to permit just one hunger striking prisoner to die. The world screamed and demanded investigations for close to a year, some still ringing that bell, when one prisoner died from a stroke. The claims were that Israel somehow brought on his stroke, exactly how was never stated, it was just accepted that Israel not only could cause a prisoner to suffer a stroke but that Israel actually had caused the Arab prisoner to suffer a stroke. Israel faces three choices which range from bad to unthinkable and all but one will raise instant worldwide and vehemently loud demonstrations. Should Israel feed the prisoner the screams of torture rise up. Should Israel obey International Law and allow the prisoner the right to dignity and die for their cause, the screams of murderers rise up. Only if Israel surrenders to their demands will Israel not be derided before the world, the only result of giving in to their demands will be an immediate new strike demanding even deeper concessions and another after that and another and another on and on. Where would that end? The end result would be Israel having to return to choosing feeding the prisoners and facing torture charges or not feed them and allow International Law to work to its final end result and the prisoners start to die and facing murder charges. Israel is in a no win situation and the Arab terrorists understand this so they hold hunger strikes and wait to scream that Israel is a monster and tortures prisoners or murders prisoners. Israel will choose accusations of torture by forced-feeding the hunger strikers. Sometimes doing the right thing and deciding on the side of life is difficult because we live in a strange and often cruel world but Israel will always choose life. This does not mean Israel will capitulate to demands but it does mean that Israel will risk the accusations of torture if that is what the world defines preserving human lives when that choice presents itself. Fortunately, most Israeli physicians also side with life and will claim that any prisoner pressing a hunger strike to the point where it will likely cause permanent damage is a decision which is proof of a lack of sanity and thus permits forced-feeding. The world does not agree, they want Israel to permit the hunger-striking prisoners to die as demanded by International Law such that they can then instead of having to settle for claiming that the Israeli forced-feeding is torture to Israel is murdering prisoners. Where is sanity, we ask you, where is sanity?


Beyond the Cusp


June 17, 2014

Jerusalem Protests Over Force-Feeding Hunger Strike Prisoners

I was blessed to spend yesterday with a group touring Jerusalem (יְרוּשָׁלַיִם) and part of my visit took me in the vicinity of the Knesset Building. As we was about a block away making our way to take pictures and hear a presentation on the large Menorah, which is the official National Symbol of Israel, we passed one of the protest groups which one usually can expect to run into in the government center of any democratic and free nation. The current protest is against the forced-feeding of prisoners being held in Israeli detention facilities. The hunger-striking prisoners includes a mix of detainees and prisoners with most of them falling into one of three categories; convicted terrorists where their crimes span from attempting to perform a terrorist strike all the way to multiple murders, political prisoners who are mostly terrorist organizers who have committed any of a number of actions in support of terror, and security prisoners who have committed acts against Israel attempting to alter her political institutions and undermine the elected government. The reasons behind the hunger strikers vary depends on which group of such prisoners each hunger-striking prisoner chooses to commit themselves to. One of the main reasons currently given is to get one particular Hamas prisoner released from solitary confinement.


Be that as it may, the question before the Knesset is about whether to force-feed these prisoners once their health has deteriorated sufficiently that they have been transferred to a hospital. It currently appears that the legislation has sufficient support to pass providing there are no drastic changes of opinions. The main groups opposing the forced-feeding are many of the physicians including the Israeli Chairman of the Medical Association Dr. Leonid Idelman. Dr. Idelman has written a letter for all physicians who have hunger-striking prisoners under their care and has instructed them to choose not to force-feed these inmates. He wrote, “In recent weeks, many dozens of hunger striking prisoners have been transferred from the Israel Prisons Service to the hospital wards nationwide, and their number is growing daily. As you know, treating hunger strikers is a special challenge that the doctors are as yet unfamiliar with. The situation is unusual and requires unconventional measures.” Dr. Idelman adds referencing a recent conference which addressed this “complex situation” with Senior Officials from the Health Ministry, Hospital Directors and Assistant Deputies, along with ward directors, heads of scientific unions in the IMA and others participating where it was concluded, “A procedure of force feeding hunger strikers despite their objection involves a real danger to their health and is opposed to the overriding rules of non-maleficence and maintaining the patient’s autonomy over his body, upon which the doctors’ ethical code is based. Force feeding is forbidden in the ethical rules of the Medical Association, and those accepted worldwide, including Tokyo Declaration 1495 and Malta Declaration 1441 of the International Medical Association.”


Well, let me be clear, I have no reason to doubt Dr. Idelman when he quotes such esteemed issuances such as the Tokyo Declaration 1495 and Malta Declaration 1441, but I am certain there has to be something less dated and results from modern precedents. As it turns out, there are such issuances with the most recent being convened to discuss the forced-feeding of hunger-strikers in Guantanamo Prison, an American facility just off the southern tip of Florida on the Cuban Islands. The consensus was that such actions are forbidden unless two physicians determine that the prisoner, patient according to rulings, is determined to no longer be able to choose whether they should receive nourishment or not. Included in the determining factors to be weighed is the threat to the patient’s life or the determination of imminent death. The boards also realized that there could be cases where the patient never lost consciousness and refused food to the end and as a result dies due to their hunger-strike. According to the rulings where this has been discussed, every board I could find lays the blame for the prisoner’s death resulting from their choice to commit to a hunger strike lies with the prisoner and not the physicians or the nation holding the hunger-striking prisoner.


Now this is where the real fun begins. Let us simply take the few dozen demonstrators I saw about one block from the Knesset building carrying signs with most in Hebrew or Arabic but some of the largest signs were in bold red English letters. One can only wonder for whom the English letters were intended. Could it be their friends in America and the English speaking world which includes much of Europe or were they aimed at the local population many of which speak Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, French, Farsi, and virtually every other language in the world other than English. We know that those signs were for the international market, particularly CNN, FOX News, ABC, NBC, CBS, BBC and the rest of the international press. The real question is how long after a single hunger-striking prisoner managed to remain in control and starved themselves to death before those protest signs demanding that the prisoners’ rights be observed and their hunger-strike remain under their wishes and equating forced-feeding with torture were swapped out declaring the Israeli physicians and prison officials along with the usual Knesset and government officials including especially Prime Minister Netanyahu as murderers and insisting they be brought to trial before the Hague International Criminal Court on charges of prisoner abuse and human rights violations. The Israeli government is facing simply another lose-lose situation where no matter which path they choose, they are going to be condemned. If any single prisoner dies from lack of nourishment, then they were obligated to preserve this prisoner’s life and to have force-fed them but as long as they are alive they must obey the wishes of the prisoner and not force-feed them come whatever. So, basically the Israeli officials, government, physicians and everyone else involved in this situation must decide, do I go against international law and feed these prisoners to at the very least a sustenance level in order to cause them not physical harm and face charges of torturing them or do I allow them to waste away and die because that is their expressed desire and once they die face charges of inhumane treatment and murder warrants be sworn against me by much of Europe? Which would you choose?


On a more somber note, the three abducted Israeli teenage children, Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, are still missing and the manhunt continues with the radius under suspicion continues to widen. While in Jerusalem the group visited the Kotel and the Western Wall, also called the Wailing Wall which is somewhat more appropriate at this time, where we all offered up prayers in private. There is a tradition of placing special prayer which we desire Heavenly assistance onto small strips of paper and wedging them into the Wall. My prayers on my piece of paper were for the health, safety and speedy return of these youths unharmed none the worse for wear. I also included a few other thoughts and opened my prayers with a short Hebrew phrase of praise to G0d. It is odd the feeling one gets when attempting to write even simple words while in the vicinity of such a holy place as the Western Wall which is literally a few tens of meters from where the Holy of Holies, the inner Sanctuary of the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem where the Ark of the Covenant was placed and where no mortal man would tread unless they were the Cohen Gadol, and even he feared for his life when treading within the one day each year he was required to enter this inner sanctum, was located during the times of the First and Second Temples. You find you are nearly paralyzed and frozen out from choosing mere words and you have to concentrate and focus one’s thoughts and slowly your note takes shape. Meanwhile, all your thoughts are known on High and this is the real and actual note which is received. Now if only my thoughts are able to convey the hurt which has fallen across all Israel with so many sharing the grief as if these young boys, Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, belonged to our own families. And once they are returned we will all celebrate because then we all will feel as if our own family has again been made whole.


Beyond the Cusp


May 6, 2012

Israeli Compassion Leads to Mass Prisoner Hunger Strikes

Israel had arrested Khader Adnan on December 17, 2010, for suspicion of terror activity and began to hold him in administrative detention. His remand was approved under the basis of intelligence data indicating he is a threat to Israel’s national security. He subsequently went on a hunger strike threatening to starve himself to death if Israel refused to grant his release. His attorney appealed his administrative detention order to Israel’s Supreme Court. Khader Adnan had carried his hunger strike for sixty-six days and agreed to end his protest after Israel capitulated and agreed not to extend his detention and release him when his initial term expires. Needless to say, this act of kindness was immediately seized upon as a weakness of the Israeli government and its people by the Palestinian prisoners who immediately began a mass hunger strike demanding they all be released. Adding to the theatrics, a number of Palestinian civilians living in the Palestinian Authority controlled area have now joined the prisoner hunger strike in order to make a sympathetic plea in the media claiming Israeli intransigence has forced them to this extreme. The cry is if only Israel would be compassionate and release every Palestinian prisoner then everyone will be able to eat again but if Israel refuses to release the prisoners, then they are causing the death of countless prisoner and innocent Palestinians.

One might posit the proposal that the Israeli government could order the feeding of the prisoners through feeding tubes against their will. Believe it or not, that is forbidden by international laws. In Article 6 of the 1975 World Medical Association Tokyo Declaration it states that doctors can undertake forced-feeding under certain restricted rules but must first attain an agreement with the diagnosis from a second, independent physician. It states: “Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially. The decision as to the capacity of the prisoner to form such a judgment should be confirmed by at least one other independent physician. The consequences of the refusal of nourishment shall be explained by the physician to the prisoner.” The most recent ruling by the World Medical Association Can be found in a release titled Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers.

The obvious problem for any country or jurisdiction which is holding a prisoner for cause and the prisoner takes upon themselves a hunger strike with the expressed insistence that no effort be made to supply sustenance even to the point of their death is that the international rules explicitly state that those who hold jurisdiction over the prisoner are forbidden from taking any actions to force-feed or otherwise give aid to prevent the prisoner’s demise. It is made abundantly clear that force feeding is a kind of degrading, inhumane treatment on an equivalent scale to torture. The only solace the imprisoning state may take from these rulings is they are relieved from any legal responsibility if the prisoner should expire from their voluntary hunger-strike. I would guess this is only fair since the state is forbidden to take actions to prevent the prisoner from the fatal consequences of their hunger-strike but in the long run the media will not be as forgiving and neither will the general reaction of the world’s public. What is a state to do when a dangerous prisoner such as an avowed terrorist instigates a hunger strike with the stated intention of starvation unto death if not released? Those holding the prisoner are forbidden from taking any steps to force-feed the inmate or take other steps to prevent their physical deterioration even to death but will be condemned as evil, treacherous, inhuman, malicious monsters on a scale equal to some of the worst villains of all of history, think Rome’s Emperor Caligula.

Israel avoided this end result by not renewing the remand to hold Khader Adnan in further administrative detention. What are they to do now that virtually every Palestinian terrorist they currently are holding serving sentences for murder, performing acts of terror and various other criminal acts? Adding Palestinian civilians who the Palestinian Authority will make certain are covered daily with constant media scrutiny showing the evil results of the Israelis and their inhuman response to this tragic theater being staged. Israel could take steps to have the necessary two doctors perform medical checkups on the prisoners and produce a diagnosis that due to their weakened state they are no longer rational and no longer possess good judgment thus they can be force-fed. This would not do anything for the civilians on display in Ramallah or wherever the Palestinians are holding their hunger theater, but it would assure that no prisoners would die under Israeli care. What would Hamas, Fatah, and the PFLP (Palestinians for the Liberation of Palestine) going to do, go in front of the press and their cameras and complain that Israel will not allow the Palestinian terrorists and criminals held in Israeli prisons to starve themselves to death as is called for under international law. Would the world actually swallow the line that Israel had broken international law by giving sustenance to prisoners forcing an end to their hunger-strike and making them remain among the living against their will? You know what? I am willing to bet that if the Palestinian Authority and Hamas et al complained to the press that Israel had mistreated prisoners in their care by keeping them alive against their wishes, many around this world are simply so far gone in their hatred of Israel and/or Jews that there would be a great gnashing of teeth and proclamations of displeasure calling on the United Nations to sanction this despicable act perpetrated by Israel, saving prisoners from their own suicidal wishes. And the United Nations would take a vote in the General Assembly and denounce Israel right along with the United Nations Human Rights Council. The world really has gone beyond the cusp.

Beyond the Cusp

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