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Israeli state ordered by Supreme Court to prove stone-throwing law not discriminatory

Jan. 28, 2017 5:26 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 29, 2017 11:26 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli Supreme Court has demanded that the Israeli state prove it was not directly discriminating against Palestinians in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem by passing a 2015 law that strips social benefits for Palestinian families whose children are convicted of stone throwing.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli Supreme Court gave the state 45 days to produce legitimate reasoning as to how the decision to revoke social benefits of Palestinian families during the time their children are imprisoned for throwing stones did not “constitute a violation of the principle of equality before the law.” The justices also imposed a temporary injunction on the order until the state provides acceptable reasoning for the law.

Haaretz noted that the order, which was passed in November 2015, states that “when a minor is convicted and jailed for any "politically motivated" offense, any payments their families may be receiving -- such as child benefits, food and income allowances -- will be suspended while the minor is incarcerated.”

Israel detains hundreds of Palestinians for alleged stone throwing every year, with Israeli rights group B'Tselem reporting that from 2005 to 2010, "93 percent of the minors convicted of stone throwing were given a prison sentence, its length ranging from a few days to 20 months."

The amendment is one of several measures past in recent years as Israeli authorities have dramatically escalated crackdown on Palestinian youth who are caught throwing stones, with Israel passing a law in 2015 setting sentences up to 20 years in prison for stone throwing if intent to harm could be proven, and a minimum prison sentence of three years for throwing a stone at an Israeli.

The law has applied primarily to Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem, which was illegally annexed by Israel in 1967 and where Israeli domestic law is applied. While Palestinians holding the residency are able to access Israel’s social welfare system, they are given non-permanent residency in Israel, which can be revoked for various reasons.

According to B’Tselem, at least 14,000 Palestinians have had their Jerusalem residency revoked from 1967 to 2014.

Haaretz pointed out that several rights organizations have petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court against the law, and accused the Israeli state of targeting Palestinian minors who typically employ stone throwing during protests or clashes with Israeli forces, while Jewish minors can be charged with a more serious offense but do not have their families’ social benefits revoked.

Adalah lawyer Sawsan Zaher was quoted by Haaretz as saying that the revocation of state benefits was a way for the state to “take revenge on parents of these children,” adding that the law was “a sweeping and impermissible act, contrary to essential principles of criminal law -- which requires an examination of each individual on a case-by-case basis.”

“Discriminating against Palestinian minors while refraining from taking similar measures against other minors committing worse offenses, such as murder, rape and drug trafficking, actually creates one criminal law for Arab children and another one for Jews.”

The legislation is one of more than a dozen active laws in Israel identified by Adalah to be discriminatory against Palestinians.
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