JERUSALEM (IINA) – The Israeli parliament has approved a law that imposes up to 20 years in prison on people convicted of throwing rocks at moving vehicles, drawing condemnation from Palestinian activists and officials.
“This law is not about stone-throwing. It is about repressing any form of Palestinian resistance or protest to Israeli colonization and occupation,” Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website that runs articles and resources on Palestinian struggle, said in an interview on Tuesday. He said that while, Israel continues to target Palestinians, shooting deaths of Palestinian protesters were committed “with absolutely no consequences whatsoever”.
Late on Monday, Israeli lawmakers voted 69 to 17 to increase the punishments, approving legislation proposed after a wave of Palestinian protests last year in East Jerusalem. Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoner Club, an organization 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.
Arab lawmaker Jamal Zahalka accused the parliament of hypocrisy, saying stone throwing is an answer to abuses by Israeli security forces. He said: “You are picking on the person responding to major injustices.”
Under the law, stone throwers could face 10 years in prison, and up to 20 years if it is determined that they intended to seriously harm the occupants in a vehicle.
“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 were in. Abunimah, however, noted that Israeli settlers have also committed similar violations causing injuries among Palestinians, but were “never punished”.
Human rights groups have criticized Israel for using excessive force including live fire in suppressing Palestinian demonstrations, causing dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries. Prosecutors in stone-throwing cases have usually sought sentences of no more than three months in jail when the offence does not result in serious injury.
The law would cover territory, including East Jerusalem, but not the occupied West Bank, most of which is under the jurisdiction of the Israeli military. Israel hands down about 1,000 indictments a year for rock-throwing, according to the Israeli Knesset
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government faced growing calls to take action after the Palestinian protests in 2014 over the Gaza war, and the burning alive of a Palestinian teenager in a suspected revenge attack for the deaths of three Israeli teens.
The new legislation was originally promoted by Shaked’s predecessor, centrist Tzipi Livni. In his interview with Al Jazeera, Abunimah accused Netanyahu’s government of “appeasing the Israeli far-right” by passing the measure.
The Palestinians seek a state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down last year. Many residents have fled the part of the town where the deadly incident took place, locals said. This is not the first time, the troops have been involved with incidents like this one. Last year they were accused by residents and officials of firing on protesters in the town injuring at least six people and damaging dozens of properties.
Last year, Human Rights Watch, the US-based rights group, said the AU troops gang-raped Somali women and girls as young as 12 and traded food aid for sex. Currently 22,000 troops from Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti are in the horn of Africa country to battle the al-Qaeda linked armed group, Al-Shabab which calls for a strict version of Sharia law.
The rebel group often carries out deadly attacks in southern and central Somalia. Last month more than 50 soldiers from Burundi who are part of the AMISOM were killed in the small town of Lego in Lower Shabelle region when hundreds of fighters from Al-Shabab attacked their base at dawn