Rock-throwing attacks in Israel are making the news again as such an attack led to the death of Alexander Levlovitz over the weekend. Levlovitz and two passengers were traveling in a car in Jerusalem on Sunday night when the vehicle came under attack by rock-throwers. The car ran into a ditch, hit a pole, and Levlovitz died from his injuries.
The incident brought renewed vows by Israeli politicians to crack down on rock-throwers, and Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, will consider fast-tracking legislation that would introduce mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of throwing stones and firebombs.
A problem arises, however, in that several of these rock-throwers are children, and they often do not know the consequences of their actions.
Confrontations between Palestinian youths and Israeli police oftentimes degenerate into large, violent clashes. In fact, stone-throwing has been a symbol of Palestinian resistance since the first Palestinian uprising against Israel in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The issue was recently raised in late November 2014 when Netanyahu stated that, “Israel is taking vigorous action against terrorists and those who throw stones, firebombs and fireworks. We will also pass stronger legislation on the issue. All of this is in order to restore quiet and security throughout Jerusalem.I have ordered massive reinforcements be brought into Jerusalem and that additional means to used in order to ensure law and order in Israel’s capital.”
At that time, 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.” He stated that, “This law is hateful and contradicts the most basic rule that the punishment fit the offense.”
Barak Medina, professor of law at Hebrew University, said increased and harsher sentences imposed upon stone-throwers would be ineffective. “Many young people who throw stones are unaware of the law and are not often rational about their actions. I don’t think the justice system should be giving up on the rights of the accused just because of panic and concern.”
Despite these concerns, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid proclaimed that, “[Israel] must act forcefully against these rock-throwers and against any terror activity that threatens the citizens of the State of Israel. The government should do everything to fight terrorism and we will give full support to any action that will restore security for the residents of the State of Israel.”
Tzipi Livni, a justice minister in the previous Netanyahu government, also supported the anticipated legislation aimed at increasing punishments for those caught throwing stones at vehicles. She stated that attacks “must be stopped” and that “we must act against the stone terror, like against any terror, with a heavy and uncompromising hand.”
According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, “The prime minister sees incidents of rock-throwing and firebomb attacks against Israeli citizens as very severe and intends to fight this phenomenon with every available measure including stiffening punishments [for such crimes.]”
What the office did not state is how it would deal with young children who are unaware of such laws, a concern that continues to surface time and again for Israel.