Israeli Supreme Court rules unconstitutional a law denying social benefits to Palestinian families whose children are convicted of stone-throwing

Adalah: The law is a discriminatory, vengeful tool that violates the basic principles of criminal law and the right to equality

On 8 July 2021, the Israeli Supreme Court accepted a petition against an amendment to a 2015 law 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 Defence of the Individual, Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, and Defense for Children International-Palestine.


The Court, in a sharply divided ruling of 5-4, held that the law disproportionately violates the constitutional right to equality. The Court froze the law for a year to allow 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. 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.


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."


CLICK HERE to read Adalah's joint petition [Hebrew]


CLICK HERE to read Israeli Supreme Court decision [Hebrew]


CLICK HERE to read: Summary of the Israeli Supreme Court Decision [English]


Case Citation: HCJ 3390/16 Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel et. al v. The Knesset (petition accepted 8 July 2021)


Related Press Releases:

State admits: Law denying social benefits to Palestinian parents of kids convicted of throwing stones is unclear, difficult to implement, 26/11/2018

Supreme Court to hear petition against cutting of social benefits to parents of Palestinian kids jailed for throwing stones, 25/01/2018

Supreme Court orders state to explain cutting of social benefits due to stone-throwing: 'No apparent equality' between Palestinian and Jewish minors, 30/01/2017

Human rights organizations petition Supreme Court to cancel new law revoking social welfare benefits for parents of Palestinian minors convicted of security offenses, 22/04/2016