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Medicine Vs. the State: Professional and National Solidarities in the Struggle Against Force-Feeding in Israel
In 2015 the Israeli parliament legislated the Force-Feeding Act which allows the force-feeding of hunger striking prisoners. This legislation started in 2014 during the hunger strike of 80 Palestinian political prisoners, and in reaction to a massive 1600 Palestinian prisoners strike in 2012. The two consecutive Israeli ministers of Public Security who lead the legislation declared that the recurring strikes pose a security threat to the state. Both explicitly stated that the purpose of this law is to stifle Palestinian prisoners’ resistance. But state attempts to legalize and practice force-feeding were met with resistance from doctors. This paper looks into different solidarity networks of physicians in the power struggle between medical professionals and the Israeli state. In particular, it looks into doctors’ call for conscientious objection, and the moral and political justifications they employed. I analyze the acts of three main networks of doctors: (1) the Israeli Medical Association which invoked ideas of universal medical ethics and global networks of professional solidarity in the resistance to the legislation; (2) Civil society organizations, lead by Physicians for Human rights, who advocated for prisoners’ political rights; and (3) Palestinian physicians who hold Israeli citizenship that resisted in national solidarity. This is a rare case of physicians’ participation in the highly politicized Israeli ‘security discourse’ and these three solidarity networks gained different levels of legitimacy in the public sphere. I show how medical ethics, the ethos of medical neutrality and ideas of humanistic medicine played a role in forming and mobilizing professional solidarities.