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Israel Approves 20 Year Prison Terms For Stone Throwers

A Palestinian hurls a stone towards Israeli border police during clashes at a checkpoint between Shuafat refugee camp and Jerusalem November 6, 2014. For months, the streets of mainly Arab East Jerusalem, in the shadow of the Old City but where tourists seldom venture, have been ablaze, with daily clashes between armed Israeli police and Palestinians throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (JERUSALEM - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR4D4YO

The Israeli Knesset has overwhelmingly passed a new law that radically toughens punishments for people who throw stones a tactic that is predominantly used by Palestinian protesters.

Sixty-nine deputies voted for the bill, which was approved in the second and third reading, following hours of heated debate on Monday night, with 17 parliamentarians opposing it, the majority of whom were Muslim.

Tolerance toward terrorists ends today. A stone-thrower is a terrorist and only a fitting punishment can serve as a deterrent and just punishment, said the architect of the new legislation, Israels Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is a member of the ultra-Zionist and religious Jewish Home party.

Ayelet Shaked, Israel's new Justice Minister of the far-right Jewish Home party, attends a ceremony at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem May 17, 2015. Shaked said on Sunday she would seek a new balance that would rein in the powers of the Supreme Court over parliament and the government, a policy critics fear would restrict judicial oversight. REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool - RTX1DBE0

Ayelet Shaked

The law prescribes a sentence of 10 years if prosecutors are unable to prove harmful intent from the stone thrower, and 20 years, if it is clear that the attacker desired to cause bodily harm. Additionally, jail terms of up to five years will be handed down to those who obstruct police activity by throwing stones, and target law enforcement vehicles. It will only be effective within Israels official borders, and not in the occupied territories.

About 1,000 people are charged with stone-throwing by Israeli courts every year, with most facing punishments of between several months and two years. Shaked said the sentences were very soft and argued that the previous legislation placed the onus on the prosecutors to prove intent.

Anyone who throws stones at cars or people has to assume someone will get hurt, she previously explained, when giving a rationale for the new legislation, which was initially proposed by her predecessor Tzipi Livni last year.

The bloc of Arab MPs was incensed by the new law.

Imagine bringing before a truly just judge the stone thrower as well as those responsible for him throwing the stones. Who would the judge put in jail? The one destroying the stone throwers home, expropriating lands, killing his brother, or the boy who threw a stone? said Jamal Zahalka from the Arab Joint List, The Times of Israel reported.

Palestinians hurl stones during clashes with Israeli police during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi Joz September 7, 2014. Scores of Palestinians rioted in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday after news that a youth, Mohammed Sinokrot, had died of wounds suffered in a clash with Israeli police last week. There were no reports of serious injury in Sunday's unrest. Protesters in the neighbourhood of Wadi Joz close to the walled Old City, threw rocks, petrol bombs and flares at passing cars, and riot officers responded with rubber bullets during an afternoon of clashes that lasted hours. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (JERUSALEM - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR459KE

You are picking on the person who responded to the major injustices such hypocrisy. Those who demolish homes receive medals, but the boy whos anger is justified is imposed with punishments. There is no justice in this law.

Fellow Arab deputy Ahmad Tibi argued that the law was more likely to be applied to Palestinians than Israelis. Tibi also noted that Palestinian demonstrators were already vulnerable to disproportionate use of force from the authorities, which regularly open fire with live ammo at heated demonstrations.

Every single one of you knows that the punishment of a Palestinian, even if he throws a non-lethal stone, is a death sentence, said Tibi.

The law has been described racist by Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoner Club, an organization providing assistance to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

This law is hateful and contradicts the most basic rule that the punishment fit the offense, Fares said, as cited by Reuters.

Over the past decades, stone-throwing has become an iconic form of resistance and protest by Palestinians, with clashes between the IDF and stone-throwing youth in West Bank and east Jerusalem often making the headlines.

Rock-throwing also regularly occurs alongside West Bank roads. Israeli settlers in the disputed region have also used the tactic in their own clashes with the IDF. Three Israeli citizens, including a baby, have been killed by pelted rocks since 2011 in the West Bank.