Israel passes ‘minimum sentence’ for stone-throwers

New legislation establishes three-year minimum sentence and will also punish parents of children convicted of offence.

Palestinian protester hurls stones at Israeli troops during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Bet El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah
Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians have been growing and spreading throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

Israel has passed an amendment to the country’s civil law establishing a minimum prison sentence of three years for people who throw rocks at Israeli troops, civilians or vehicles. 

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Passed late on Monday night by a vote of 51-17, the legislation includes a number of provisions, among them one that permits the government to strip those convicted of stone throwing of their state benefits. 

In effect, the move will further entrench Israeli civil law in occupied East Jerusalem, according to rights groups.

Palestinians in the rest of the occupied West Bank, however, are subject to Israeli military law. 

The law also enables Israel to cancel national health insurance and other social programmes for the parents of an imprisoned minor. 

Rima Awad, a member of the Campaign for Jerusalem, a Palestinian rights group, said that Israel is “collectively punishing” Palestinian Jerusalemites.

“The families of the accused are also being punished,” Awad told Al Jazeera. 

‘Extraordinary step’

“Setting minimum sentences is an extraordinary step,” the law’s preface reads. “But the uniqueness of the phenomenon [of rock-throwing] and its scale, which have expanded of late, justify as an extraordinary measure the establishment of minimum punishments in this case as a temporary provision.”

The move comes on the heels of widespread unrest, as an increase in Palestinian protests against Israel’s ongoing occupation have given way to frequent clashes across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip. 

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As the unrest spreads, Israeli forces have responded with force, using live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and stun grenades. 

Since October 1, Israeli forces or settlers have killed at least 73 Palestinians, including unarmed protesters, bystanders and accused attackers.


Meanwhile, nine Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in stabbing or shooting incidents in the same period. 

The new law is one of a series of measures aiming to quell the protests.

More than 1,600 Palestinians – an estimated 60 percent of them minors – have been arrested since the beginning of last month, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

A large number of those arrests are for allegedly throwing rocks.  

Arguing in favour of the law, Israeli legislator Nissan Slomiansky – a member of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party – said it is designed “to create deterrence”, local media reported.  

Children vulnerable

Ayed Abu Qtaish, advocacy director for Defence for Children International (DCI) – Palestine, said the legislation will have “an even more harmful effect” on Palestinian children, who are often “detained arbitrarily” or arrested without reliable evidence of accusations. 

According to DCI-Palestine’s statistics, at least 53 percent of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem arrested by Israeli forces are subjected to violence, while 86 percent are coerced into signing confessions in Hebrew, a language they do not know. 

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“These laws affect children more than others because they are a vulnerable segment of the population,” Abu Qtaish told Al Jazeera.

“Additionally, Palestinians in an occupied territory should not be included under Israel’s civil law.” 

Abu Qtaish said there is a “double standard at play”, arguing that Israelis, including settlers and children, “throw rocks at Palestinians and other people” without being arrested at similar rates. 

The law will also effect the estimated 1.7 million Palestinians who carry Israeli citizenship and live in areas across the country. 

Jamal Zahalka, a Knesset member from the Arab-majority Joint List electoral coalition, decried the law as “fuel on the fire”. 

“There is no logic to punishing a father whose son threw a stone and didn’t hit anything, while the father of a child who stabs his friend in school goes unpunished.” 

Follow Patrick Strickland on Twitter: @P_Strickland_

Source: Al Jazeera