JERUSALEM, Tuesday, July 13, 2021 (WAFA) - On 8 July, the Israeli Supreme Court, in a sharply divided ruling of 5-4, accepted a petition against an amendment to a 2015 law considered as vengeful for denying social benefits to parents of Palestinian minors convicted of offenses classified as security or committed with "nationalist motivations", primarily stone-throwing.
The petition challenging the law was submitted in April 2016 by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, together with Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, and Defense for Children International-Palestine.
The Court held that the law disproportionately violates the constitutional right to equality. As a result, it froze the law for a year to allow the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to address its flaws, and to find alternative legislative measures that would not infringe on the right to equality.
Passed in November 2015, the amendment denied social welfare benefits to Palestinian families, mostly from East Jerusalem, whose children (under age 18) are convicted and incarcerated in Israeli prisons for certain security offenses with “nationalist motivations”. Under the amendment, the parents of such children, were stripped of benefits including child allowances, supplementary employment payments, and alimony payments for the duration of their children’s prison sentences. Most of these cases involved stone-throwing, a practice commonly used by Palestinian children and youth during protests.
The law had a clear discriminatory impact, effectively amounting to the establishment of two separate penal codes - one for Palestinian children and another for Israeli-Jewish children, said Adalah in a press release. Social welfare benefits for Palestinian families whose children were convicted of stone-throwing were revoked, while Israeli Jewish families whose children committed much more serious crimes maintained the same benefits.
Moreover, this arbitrary distinction not only equates to unlawful discrimination but constitutes collective punishment and even revenge on Palestinian families through the denial of these benefits, said the rights organization.
Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher, who represented the petitioners, stated in response to the ruling: “It is clear that there is no constitutional possibility to defend this vindictive law, which produces one legal code for imprisoned Palestinian children and another law for other minors in criminal proceedings. Social welfare benefits must not be used for deterrence or as punitive measures, as this is contrary to the most basic principles of criminal law, especially since the amendment was deliberately approved to discriminatorily apply to Palestinian minors. This ruling comes after repeated opportunities given to the State to cancel or amend the defects in the law. No more opportunities should be given to the state to exercise the same unacceptable reasoning."