If passed, a law would forbid prisoners from receiving care beyond the bare minimum.
In the most recent round of punitive actions against detainees, Israel’s parliament on Thursday approved the first stage of a bill to stop funding non-essential medical care for Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
The authors of the bill, which received support from 42 members of the Knesset, dubbed Israel’s current prison policy “unreasonably lenient” toward security prisoners.
What non-essential medical care the bill’s authors define as such is unknown.
“The government should not provide more than the most fundamental medical care to inmates. “The move aims to deny prisoners accused of subversive acts against the State of Israel of the right to receive funding for medical treatments intended to improve quality of life and [medicine] not included in the basket of health services,” they were quoted as saying by Israeli broadcaster Kan. “There is no reason or logic to finance cosmetic treatments at the expense of taxpayers.”
The opposition National Unity Party and the far-right Jewish Power party of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir introduced the bill.
Zaher Birawi, chairman of the civil society organization Europal Forum, said that the legislation aims to “slowly kill” Palestinian prisoners.
According to Birawi, these policies have been used against Palestinian prisoners for decades, but “they are taking on legitimacy through the Knesset” now.
In addition, the bill stipulates that the national security minister may, after consulting with the defense ministry, authorize the funding of treatments for unique reasons in exceptional circumstances.
Birawi is of the opinion that, if the bill were to become law, it would be equivalent to “legalizing medical negligence and as a means of punishment or even execution.”
Ben-Gvir has focused on Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in recent months.
The security minister has pledged to improve the treatment of Palestinian prisoners, whom he claims are being treated too well, since joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government late last year.
Ben-Gvir issued orders earlier this month to shut down Palestinian prisoner-run bakeries in Israeli prisons and limit shower time to four minutes for detainees.
Qadura Fares, who is in charge of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, said that the latest move was a violation of international laws that say the occupying power has “the right to treatment and health care for prisoners.”
Fares went on to say in the statement that Israel continues to “ignore everything that has been approved by the international system, without any concern, and in light of international silence, the occupation authorities will continue to invent racist legislations and laws.” Fares added this to the statement.
According to Yonatan Touval, an analyst at the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies (Mitvim), such policies are aimed at responding “to a wide public perception that Palestinian prisoners enjoy relatively good treatment in Israeli jails” by toughening the conditions of Palestinian prisoners.
In response, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have started a series of large-scale acts of civil disobedience to oppose punitive measures.
Prisoners announced last month that the actions would culminate in a hunger strike at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which falls late in March.
“Claim that he is delivering on his election promise to lead a tougher stance on law and order, especially as he lacks any practical and meaningful policy that would boost security on the ground,” Touval told reporters of Ben-Gvir’s action against Palestinian prisoners.
Ben-Gvir announced plans to implement a number of punitive measures against incarcerated Palestinians within the first week of the new government’s formation in December.