Palestinian activists and officials are calling a new law passed by the Israeli Parliament that enables courts to jail people caught throwing rocks at moving vehicles a "repressive" and "racist' attempt at stamping out protests against Israeli occupation of disputed territories.
Earlier this week lawmakers in Israel voted 69 to 17 to increase punishments for rock throwers following an increase in Palestinian protests in East Jerusalem last year.
The co-founder of the Intifada website that publishes articles on the Palestinian struggle, Ali Abunimah, said "This law is not about stone-throwing. It is about repressing any form of Palestinian resistance or protest to Israeli colonization and occupation.”
Abunimah said while Israel continues to target Palestinians for throwing rocks, the shooting deaths of Palestinian protesters were treated “with absolutely no consequences whatsoever”.
The head of the Palestinian Prisoner Club (an organization which advocates on behalf of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails) Qadura Fares called the news laws "racist".
“This law is hateful and contradicts the most basic rule that the punishment fits the offense.” said Fares.
Israeli Parliament Arab lawmaker Jamal Zahalka called the new law a "hypocrisy" as the rock throwers were reacting to abuses by Israeli security forces.
“You are picking on the person responding to major injustices." he said.
Often those arrested are children and youths and the moving vehicles the law refers to are armoured military vehicles like troop carriers and even tanks.
Rock and stone-throwing has been a Palestinian resistance symbol since the Palestinian uprisings against Israel in the late 1980s.
Ayelet Shaked, Israeli Justice Minister hit back at the law's critics saying those who threw rocks at security force vehicles were committing an act of terrorism.
"Tolerance toward terrorists ends today. A stone-thrower is a terrorist and only a fitting punishment can serve as a deterrent and just punishment.” he said.