A PALESTINIAN BOY uses a sling to throw stones at IDF soldiers during clashes following a protest near Nablus in 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The High Court of Justice on Monday heard oral arguments over whether a law penalizing Palestinian parents for their children’s rock-throwing is legal.
The law – which was brought forward in the fall of 2015 to confront an uptick in rock-throwing by Palestinians – permits the state to negate certain monetary benefits related to children for Palestinian parents whose minor children are convicted of certain ideological rock-throwing crimes.
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, petitioned the High Court along with other NGOs to strike the law on multiple grounds.
Adalah first attacked the idea, both legally and philosophically, that parents could be punished for their children’s conduct.
It also questioned whether it was realistic that parents were able return their children from rebellious actions like stone throwing in certain unstable family situations or with problematic children.
Adalah lawyer Sawsan Zaher then challenged the law as discriminatory against Arabs.
She asked how an Arab child on one side of a street could throw a rock and a Jewish child on the other side throw one and the two children and their families be treated differently by the law.
Preempting the state from later claiming that the volume of Palestinian rock-throwing was qualitatively different than Jewish rock-throwing, Zaher cited statistics that showed in the last two years, 118 Palestinians were convicted of rock-throwing and 85 Jews were convicted of the same offense.
The justices themselves asked why the law applied to Palestinian rock-throwing and not to more violent crimes.
Further, Zaher explained to The Jerusalem Post, the law “takes away discretion from judges and gives it to a low official at the National Insurance Institute... to decide if a stone-throwing incident was ideologically motivated or not.”
She said that contradicted the entire purpose of criminal law, which is to ensure a fair trial by a learned judge.
Multiple lawyers for the state defended the law.
They said that the law’s penalties against parents were not applied automatically and would only apply where the parents did not do all they could to prevent their children’s crimes. “We do not claim that every parent can influence their child,” said the state.
Moreover, the state referred to rock-throwing as a “blow to the state,” which needed to be deterred on a wider, society-level scale. That meant incentivizing parents and communities as a whole to act to stop their youths from rock-throwing.
The state did not fully address the range of arguments about discrimination.
But it did argue that security crimes with nationalistic motivations could be treated differently than other crimes. Further, the state added that the law was designed to combat the social phenomena of Palestinian rock-throwing, which has skyrocketed at certain junctures and which was a unique phenomenon unto itself.
Regarding the involvement of National Insurance Institute of Israel officials instead of judges in punishing the parents of rock-throwers, the state contended that judges were not required, since the penalties were administrative and monetary in nature and not a matter of sentencing jail time.
Later in the hearing, Zaher sought to corner the state with another statistic, presenting to the court that the state had only used the law seven times and only against Palestinians.
She said that proved beyond a doubt that the law was discriminatory.
When the state said that it might apply the law to Jews in the future, Zaher noted that the state had refused to apply the principle of using penalties for deterrence, even when three Jews perpetrated the nationalistic murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir.
There has been no indication as to when the court will decide the issue.