Reuters, July 21, 2015
JERUSALEM–Israel’s parliament imposed tougher penalties of
up to 20 years prison for people throwing stones at vehicles and roads, a move
one Palestinian official branded racist and excessive.
Lawmakers voted 69 to 17 to increase the punishments late on
Monday, approving legislation proposed after a wave of Palestinian protests
last year in East Jerusalem.
“Tolerance toward terrorists ends today. A stone-thrower is
a terrorist and only a fitting punishment can serve as a deterrent and just
punishment,” Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, of the far-right Jewish
Home party, said in a statement.
Confrontations between Palestinian youths and Israeli police
routinely degenerate into violent clashes, and stone-throwing has been a symbol
of Palestinian resistance since the first Palestinian uprising, or Intifada,
against Israel in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Since 2011 three Israelis, including a baby and a girl, have
been killed in the occupied West Bank after rocks were thrown at vehicles they
Human rights groups have criticised Israel for using
excessive force including live fire in suppressing Palestinian demonstrations,
causing dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.
The new law allows for a sentence of up to 20 years in jail
for throwing a rock at a vehicle with the intent of causing bodily harm and 10
years in prison if intent was not proven.
Prosecutors in such cases have usually sought sentences of
no more than three months in jail when the offence does not result in serious
Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoner Club, an
organisation that advocates on behalf of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli
jails, said the new law was “racist”.
“This law is hateful and contradicts the most basic rule
that the punishment fit the offence,” he said.
The law would cover territory including East Jerusalem, but
not the occupied West Bank, most of which is under the jurisdiction of the
Israel hands down about 1,000 indictments a year for
rock-throwing, according to the Israeli Knesset.