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August 11, 2015

Criminalizing resistance violates international law

Shawn Robinson

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The truth about stone throwing as a form of resistance is that it is not an equal encounter between the thrower and the thrower's quarry. Do not however minimize the power of stone throwing as stones can gravely injure or kill their intended targets. With that said in all of the almost thirty years that stone throwing has been officially utilized by Palestinians as an active form of resistance, fortunately to date very few Israelis have died from being hit with a stone (11 killed). It is estimated that each year there are 3,500 to 4,500 stone throwing incidents in the occupied territories.

Conversely, how many Palestinians have been injured, killed or imprisoned because of stone throwing? Tens of thousands in total. In fact the statistics vary as Israel does not document effectively these demographics, however organizations such as DCI-Palestine, B’tselem and Addameer work hard to record these crimes. The reality is that the statistics are so disproportionate because of the incredible power the Israeli military yields. Israeli soldiers are well-armed as well as protected not just with kevlar and helmets, but also armoured vehicles, tanks, air power etc.

Palestinians, with the majority being youth, throw stones at the Israeli military occupying the Palestinian territories and also at the illegal Israeli settlers who frequently attack the native Palestinian population with no consequences to their actions, do so out of frustration to their situation.

As stated previously this is not an equal encounter.

First the Israeli military and the settlers have the power of Israeli justice that protects them with impunity.

Never is a soldier or settler held accountable for their crimes against the unarmed Palestinian community. Israeli soldiers and illegal Israeli Settlers are armed and with the most advanced weaponry as well. Illegal Settlers are allowed to wander anywhere with sophisticated semi-automatic assault rifles while the Palestinians are not even allowed to carry a knife.

Stone-throwing by occupied Palestinian youth at uniformed Israeli military members or illegal Israeli settlers is a permissible form of legal resistance:

The 4th Geneva Convention states unequivocally that those under occupation have the right to resist their occupiers and are able to do so with force.

The reality in the occupied territories is that Palestinians live in punitive and claustrophobic conditions that frequently put the native Palestinian population of having to deal with persecutory behaviour from the illegal Settler communities and the Israeli military. This leaves the native Palestinians frustrated.

Each occupied territory experiences a different set of circumstances that makes it near impossible for the native Palestinian population to embrace basic rights such as family unification, ease of mobility, the ability to access adequate health care and education never mind basic security. This builds on the frustration of being occupied and unable to control one’s destiny.

When a state is occupied, under the Geneva Conventions, the legalities of occupation and obligations of the military occupiers for those living under the occupation are specified and made clear. These include public order, safety, provision of food and medical supplies, maintaining medical services and other matters that are applicable in everyday living.

With respect to the native population’s existing public administration including justice and governing of its people, the occupying power is to not interfere as also stipulated under IHL and the Geneva Conventions. But Israel does not allow the Palestinians to administrate themselves or effectively handle issues including adjudicating their own justice system..

On July 23, 2015, Israel announced the passing of a new law that mandates two levels of sentencing for Palestinians regarding stone throwing at the Israeli military or Israeli settlers:

  1. Defendants not accused of intending to cause harm can receive up to 10-years in prison.
  2. Defendants accused of intending to cause harm can receive up to 20-years in prison.
  3. The hidden third level is that anyone who interferes with the performance of the Israeli border police or other Israeli authority that prevent that authority from performing their “duties” could face up to five-years imprisonment.

So if a person is being targeted for stone throwing, such as a child which is a common situation, a parent or anyone who tries to interfere with the arrest of that child can also be punished with a punitive prison sentence.

Furthermore, if an Israeli settler throws stones at the occupied Palestinians, this law does not pertain to them.

Palestinian MK Hanin Zoabi, said “(w)e are not talking about a law. We are talking about the occupation. If the law is meant to protect the weak, it is also meant to protect those victims who are killed every week by soldiers. Imagine a soldier with a gun facing a teenager with a small stone. What symmetry is there?”

The bottom line is that this new law has no legal jurisdiction in the occupied territories. It is another tool to compress the Palestinian will and to make life even more untenable if that can even be possible.

Israel simply cannot inflict its version of justice on the occupied Palestinian population; however is able to do so as the world communities with their silence give way for Israel’s continued violations of international law…

It is illegal for an occupying party to criminalize resistance.

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