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

Adalah: Constitutional flaw nevertheless remains in place; cutting social benefits as punitive tool against parents of a minor convicted of throwing stones is fundamentally unjust.

Israeli state authorities announced Thursday, 22 November 2018, that they intend to amend the law allowing for the denial of social benefits from the parents of Palestinian minors convicted of throwing stones after admitting that the law is unclear and difficult to implement.


This lack of clarity was, in fact, one of the main arguments raised by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel in its petition against the amendment filed jointly in April 2016 with Hamoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, and Defense for Children International-Palestine.


Under the new law, passed in November 2015, the parents of children convicted of throwing stones, the overwhelming majority of whom are Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, are no longer able to receive child allowances, supplementary income payments, or alimony payments while their children are in prison. Stone-throwing is commonly used by Palestinian youth during protests.


One of the constitutional defects the law created was that it enabled the revocation of social benefits in circumstances that were not defined as a felony in the law and thus granted wide and arbitrary discretion to National Insurance Institute clerks to revoke benefits even when a judge in the criminal proceedings did not rule on the matter.


The Israeli Supreme Court, comprised of an expanded panel of seven justices, had leveled harsh remarks at the state during the July 2018 hearing that highlighted the vagueness and lack of clarity in the law, particularly regarding the denial of social benefits after a minor’s criminal conviction.


The state said today that the law will be amended in a way that would enable the denial of benefits only when a judge in the criminal case explicitly states that the minor committed a "terror offense". The state decided to advance an amendment of the law specifically in regards to two aspects: first, the practical application of the law given the sensitive nature of child allowance benefits; and second, achieving legislative harmony between the amendment and Israel's Anti-Terror Law, so that it will be clear according to which circumstances there would be grounds for denying such social benefits.


Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher responded to the new development in the case:


"Although the state admits that the constitutional flaw that we pointed out to the Supreme Court does indeed exist, this constitutional problem nevertheless remains in place. Even if the law is amended, it will still allow for the denial of social benefits from the parents of minors convicted of throwing stones or for an 'act of terror'. This is unjust, as social benefits are being used as a tool to punish not just the convicted minor but also his parents. In addition, if the law is amended as the state as announced, it would leave in place the absurd scenario in which it would be possible to withhold benefits from the parents of a minor who threw stones but not, for example, from the parents of a minor convicted of rape or murder. This is selective, targeted punishment of Palestinians, which is discriminatory and unconstitutional.”


Following a January 2017 Supreme Court hearing on the petition, Attorney Zaher said that the law establishes "one penal code for Arab children and another penal code for Jewish children."


Case Citation: HCJ 3390/16, Adalah et al v. The Knesset


CLICK HERE to read the state's response [Hebrew]


(Photo courtesy of CPT Palestine)