Laws Targeting East Jerusalem: Discriminatory Intent and Application

In 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and expanded the boundaries of East Jerusalem by annexing approximately 70 square kilometers to the municipal boundaries of West Jerusalem. It also extended Israeli civil law to East Jerusalem, thereby de facto annexing it to the state of Israel, a move considered illegal under international law.1

Since the de facto annexation of East Jerusalem, Israel has attempted to change the demographic and geographic makeup of the city in order to achieve a Jewish majority and has created and implemented discriminatory policies that favor the Jewish population. This began with Israel’s granting of “permanent residency” status to East Jerusalem residents, which relegates Palestinians who were born and raised in East Jerusalem to the status of foreigners in their own home and affords them very little in the way of rights.2 This system places Palestinians under constant threat of losing their Jerusalem residency, which, in addition to Israel’s implementation of other discriminatory policies and practices, seeks to force the Palestinian population out of the occupied city.

Over the last few months, Israel has used the recent rise in violence as a pretext to implement extreme measures in East Jerusalem aimed at expediting its goal of eradicating Palestinian presence from the occupied city.3 This has been achieved through a variety of new laws and amendments to existing laws that target and oppress the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, particularly children. Many of these new measures bring Israeli national law in line with Israeli military law, which is in force in the West Bank. There, Israel operates a dual legal system: military laws applicable to the Palestinian population and Israeli national laws applicable to the Israeli settler population.4 While there is no official dual legal system operating in East Jerusalem as in the rest of the West Bank, Israel’s creation of discriminatory laws and its biased application of otherwise facially neutral laws has created a de facto parallel legal system that applies to the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem and Palestinians who are citizens of Israel — although the latter are not the focus of this article.5

Current Situation and Recent Legislation

The recent unrest experienced across the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem, and beyond the Green Line, is the outcome of Israel’s oppressive occupation. While Israel’s violent responses to Palestinian resistance reverberate across the OPT, they have been especially felt in occupied East Jerusalem, specifically through recent legislation.

Israel has framed much of the recent legislation against the backdrop of a so-called “wave of terrorism.”6 During a cabinet meeting on October 13, 2015, Israel passed a series of measures including imposing arbitrary closures in “centers of friction and incitement in Jerusalem,” the demolition of alleged terrorists’ homes, the confiscation of their property and the revocation of their permanent residency status, among others.7 In light of various comments made by Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who stated that Israel was “waging a fight to the death against Palestinian terror,”8 it is clear that the measures are to directly target the Palestinian population generally, and those of East Jerusalem specifically.

With these measures in place, Israel also moved swiftly to introduce bills, pass new legislation and amend existing legislation. This includes amendments to open-fire regulations to allow for the use of live fire against unarmed demonstrators, which is inconsistent with international standards that only allow for the use of lethal weapons in extreme and very exceptional circumstances.9 In addition, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan proposed a stop and frisk bill, which has now been passed into law that allows for the police to conduct a physical search on any person without reasonable suspicion that the person is armed or dangerous, severely infringing on an individual’s rights.10 There were also amendments to both the Penal Code and Youth Law, aimed at imposing harsh punishments on children who throw stones, contradicting the spirit of the Youth Law, which seeks to protect the rights of minors and assist in their rehabilitation.11 Each piece of legislation was introduced and passed under the pretext of security, but this excuse proves hollow when the application of and legislative intent behind these laws are examined.

Youth Law

The Youth Law, enacted in 2008, seeks to guarantee that a child who is suspected or accused of committing a crime is treated in accordance with his or her rights as reflected in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.12 More specifically, the law establishes special safeguards for minors during the entire legal process, from arrest to detention and interrogation, to ensure that their welfare is protected, and that they are rehabilitated — the underlying objective of the law.13 Despite the existence of these safeguards, it has been well documented that the Israeli police regularly violate the Youth Law in East Jerusalem, improperly employ exceptions, and thereby deny Palestinian minors their rights under the law.14 For example, section 9f(a) of the law requires the police to issue a summons for interrogation and 10(a) outlines that detaining the minor must be a measure of last resort.15 However, in practice, the Israeli police often do not apply these rules in East Jerusalem.16 Instead, Palestinian children in East Jerusalem are routinely arrested during violent nighttime raids and subjected to interrogation without the issuance of a summons, often without the presence of a parent or attorney.17

Arresting a child during a nighttime raid solely for the purpose of interrogation strongly suggests that detention was not used as a last resort. Instead, Israeli police seek the use of the most extreme and exceptional measures in order to instill fear in and intimidate East Jerusalem youth.

Recent Amendments to Penal Code and Youth Law

Recent amendments to the Penal Code and the Youth Law reveal that they are intended to discriminatorily apply to and punish Palestinian minors of East Jerusalem.

In 2014, the Israeli government issued Decision Number 1776, entitled “Strengthening Enforcement in Offenses of Stone Throwing.”18 It required the Ministry of Justice to enact an amendment to the Penal Code in order to create a new, specific offense for stone throwing and instructed the State Prosecutor’s office to amend the State Prosecutor’s Guidelines of December 2009 relating to the enforcement policy for stone throwing. The committee responsible for the decision found that the Guidelines did not “provide an optimal response for the prevailing security reality in East Jerusalem.”19 A review of the amendments reveals that Decision 1776 is blatantly aimed at increasing the punishment for stone throwing to include actual imprisonment.20

In line with Decision 1776, on July 29, 2015, Amendment Number 119 of the Penal Code was published, adding new offenses: 1) the offense of throwing a stone or other object at a police officer or vehicle, punishable with a five year prison sentence; and 2) the offense of throwing a stone or other object at a moving vehicle that endangers the safety of a person or causes fear, punishable with a 10-year prison sentence, that can be doubled if intent to cause harm is found.21 The goal of Amendment 119 was to create a separate offense for stone throwing, as offenders were previously accused under the offense of “willfully endangering human life on a transportation route” and to ensure that stricter penalties could be imposed.22 It is worth noting that this new amendment brings Israeli national law in line with Israeli military law in force in the OPT. Military Order 1651 prescribes that a Palestinian minor convicted of stone throwing with the intent to harm can be imprisoned for up to 20 years.23

Discussions surrounding the law in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, confirm that these amendments were proposed to specifically target and punish the Palestinian youth of East Jerusalem for resisting the occupation.24 Chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky opened the discussion by referring to stone throwing as a “national plague.”25 Attorney Nurit Blobstein, director of the Criminal Department in the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office, expressed the need to deter minors from throwing stones with imprisonment because “there is a mass, a phenomenon, a plague,” of stone throwing by minors in Jerusalem.26 Knesset Member Osama Sa’adi pushed backed during discussions, asking the committee to admit that the only purpose of the amendments was to increase punishment for stone throwing.27 MK Sa’adi also reminded the members that East Jerusalem was considered occupied territory, where Palestinians were fighting for their liberation, and that a change in sentencing guidelines would not address what is ultimately a political matter.28

Amendment Number 20 to the Youth Law, also passed in early November of 2015,29 allows for the imposition of fines, legal expenses and payments of compensation on the parents of a minor convicted of any offense, and provides the offense of stone throwing as an example.30 This law allows for the parents of minor convicts to be punished for the actions of their children. This constitutes collective punishment and is in clear violation of international law and basic criminal law principles, as punishment for an offense may only be imposed on the individual convicted of the offense.31

In addition, a bill amending section 25(d) of the Youth Law to allow for minors under the age of 14 and as young as 12, convicted of “nationalistmotivated” or terror offenses to be sentenced to imprisonment, passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset on November 25, 2015.32 It was expanded to cover minors who are convicted of the offenses of manslaughter, murder and attempted murder.33 Once again, if passed, this amendment would bring Israeli national law in line with Israeli military law in force in the West Bank.34

When proposing the bill, Knesset Member Anat Berko stated, “Palestinians recruit minors while knowing that Israeli law does not have a real response” to Palestinian children accused of nationalist-motivated offences.35 The bill was introduced following Israeli prosecutors charging 13-year-old Ahmed Manasra with attempted murder on Oct. 30, 2015, for allegedly carrying out a stabbing attack in the settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev in Jerusalem. Video evidence shows the minor being subjected to a verbally abusive interrogation without the presence of his lawyer.36 If this bill is passed into law, it will negatively affect the Palestinian youth of East Jerusalem, especially within a criminal justice system that is already so heavily stacked against them.37

Amendments to National Insurance Act

As a part of Israel’s sweeping measures aimed at suppressing Palestinian resistance to the occupation, on November 5, 2015, the National Insurance Act was amended to allow for the denial of benefits to the parents of minors who were convicted of committing security offenses, including stone throwing, and were sentenced to prison time.38 The intent to collectively punish Palestinians is made clear by Knesset Member Oren Hazan, who stated the following during the first reading of the proposed amendment:

    [i]f you think we have done enough by stiffening the punishment, you are wrong. It’s time we realize that the Palestinians only understand force. No more returning the bodies of terrorists; no more demolishing homes two years after (a terror attack), but at the exact moment. We are doing you a big favor by only taking away your insurance stipends. I plan to submit a proposal that the families of terrorists will be banished to Gaza. It’s time we internalize the fact that terror cannot be fought with democratic tools.39

The effects of these amendments have already been strongly felt in East Jerusalem. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies, Israeli forces detained more than 1,900 Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem in 2015 — around two-thirds of whom were minors.40 Figures show that during a three month period — from Sept. 13, 2015 through December 15, 2015 — 398 Palestinians minors from East Jerusalem were arrested.41 According to police figures, 792 Palestinian minors from East Jerusalem were arrested in 2014.42 These figures once again suggest the presence of a separate and discriminatory legal system aimed at oppressing certain portions of the population.

Passage of Stop and Frisk Law

On February 1, 2016, the Knesset passed a law expanding police powers to stop and frisk individuals — Amendment Number 5 to the Power for Maintaining Public Security Law.43 Prior to the amendment, police could only search an individual if there was reasonable suspicion that the individual was armed.44 Amendment Number 5 significantly expands police power, allowing police to stop and frisk individuals when there is “reasonable suspicion that he is about to commit a violent offense, in order to check whether he is carrying an illegal weapon.”45 This provides police free rein to search individuals based on a more general suspicion. The amendment also allows police to search anyone that is present in an area that the regional police commander “declared temporarily as a location where such searches can be made … if he has reasonable suspicion that the peace could be disturbed by an act of violence in that place.”46 This effectively allows the police to deem any area, such as Palestinian neighborhoods, as prone to violence, and therefore justifies the search of any persons in that area.

Similar to other measures, the proponents of Amendment 5 claim that its purpose is security. This is undermined by the fact that the bill was originally proposed five years ago but did not pass into law and was re-tabled during the recent rise in violence.47 In support of the bill, Israel’s Minister of Public Security expressed that Israel was paying a high “blood price” due to limited police powers.48 During discussions surrounding the bill in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, several members expressed their concern that the law was an infringement on the human rights of individuals and minority groups.49

Taking into consideration the timing, substance and legislative intent gleaned from Knesset committee discussions on these new laws, the argument that Israel employs and seeks to broaden its de facto parallel legal system to oppress the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem becomes ever more apparent.

The discriminatory nature of the Israeli justice system has been well documented over the years. A study from Haifa University found that a Palestinian with no criminal record is twice as likely to be convicted and sentenced to jail time as compared with a Jewish Israeli in a similar situation.50 Juveniles were also discriminated against. A study from the Hebrew University showed that “the court used more lenient standards against Jewish youth but harsher standards against Arab citizens of Israel. Even for the same charge and for similar crimes, the punishment imposed on Arab youths was harsher than for Jews.”51 So while the full effect of these pieces of legislation is yet to be seen, history has revealed a pattern of Israeli oppression of and discrimination against Palestinians.

1In 2004, the International Court of Justice unambiguously declared the status of East Jerusalem as occupied territory. See International Court of Justice, “Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of a Wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory,” July 9, 2004, para. 78.
2See generally Al-Haq, Report, Jerusalem: Its Legal Status and the Possibility of a Durable Settlement, available at the-possibility-of-a-durable-settlement?category_id=6 (1995).
3For an overview of the current unrest with a focus on East Jerusalem, see Al-Haq, East Jerusalem: Exploiting Instability to Deepen the Occupation, available at field-updates-2015/1002-east-jerusalem-exploiting-instability-to-deepen-the-occupation (Dec. 3, 2015).
4See generally Al-Haq, Report, Institutionalized Impunity: Israel’s Failure to Combat Settler Violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, available at item/institutionalised-impunity-israel-s-failure-to-combat-settler-violence-in-the-oc cupiedpalestinian- territory?category_id=11 (2012).
5For more information on the discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel within the Israeli legal system, see Adalah The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah), Report, The Inequality Report: The Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel, available at http://www.adalah. org/uploads/oldfiles/upfiles/2011/Adalah_The_Inequality_Report_March_2011.pdf (2011).
6Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Security Cabinet approves anti-terror measures, available at 13-Oct-2015.aspx (Oct. 13, 2015).
8”PM orders new measures to combat terror wave,” Times of Israel, October 4, 2015, available at http://
9See Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Security Cabinet Statement on rock-throwing,” available at aspx (September 24, 2015). See also UN General Assembly, Code of conduct for law enforcement officials, February 5, 1980, A/RES/34/169, available at ProfessionalInterest/Pages/LawEnforcementOfficials.aspx.
10Israeli Knesset, Press Release: Knesset passes “stop-and-frisk law,” available at https://www.knesset. (February 20, 2016). See also Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), “Another Achievement in the fight against the Stop and Frisk Bill,” available at (December 20, 2015).
11Israeli Knesset, Press Release: “Approved in first reading: Harsher punishments for stone-throwers, fines on parents of minors who committed related offenses,” available at il/spokesman/eng/PR_eng.asp?PRID=11706 (13 October, 2015). See also Youth Law “to enshrine the minor’s rights as a suspect and defendant in criminal offenses … as well as the aspiration that underlines the Law to rehabilitate a young offender.” Cited in ACRI, Report, Arrested Childhood The Ramifications of Israel’s New Strict Policy toward Minors Suspected of Involvement of Stone Throwing, Security Offenses, and Disturbances (Arrested Childhood), available at http://www. (2016).
12Israel ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 3 October 1991 and in 2008, the Youth law was amended to reflect provisions consistent with the spirit of the Convention.
13ACRI, Report, Arrested Childhood, available at uploads/2016/02/Arrested-Childhood0216-en.pdf (2016).
14Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI), For Palestinian Children of East Jerusalem, the Exception is the Rule, available at east_jerusalem_the_exception_is_the_rule (29 July 2015). See also ACRI, Report, Violations of the “Youth Law (Adjudication, Punishment and Methods of Treatment) – 1971” by the Israeli Police in East Jerusalem, available at Youth-Law-Violation-in-East-Jerusalem_ACRI.doc (2011).
15For a discussion of the laws, see Adalah, Report, Silencing the Opposition, available at http://www. (2015).
16Several other sections of the Youth Law are also violated by Israeli police, including handcuffing the minors when the same goal could be achieved through other means and abuse during interrogation — as documented by DCI following a study of 30 cases of minor arrests in East Jerusalem from January-June 2015. See DCI, For Palestinian Children of East Jerusalem, the Exception is the Rule, available at exception_is_the_rule (29 July 2015). See also Rifat Odeh Kassis, Equal laws, discriminatory practice: the plight of Jerusalem children, Ma’an News Agency, 29 October 2013, available at
17See Id.
18See Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, “At the weekly Cabinet meeting 29.6.2014,” available at http:// (June 29, 2014). Decision available in Hebrew at: Pages/dec1776.aspx
20Id. The decision explicitly noted that the laws would require strict indictment “with the of goal of increasing customary punishment and with the intention of leading to the imposition of significant periods of actual imprisonment, suspended imprisonment, and considering the imposition of fines in appropriate cases, including the imposition of a fine or payment of compensation on the parents of a minor, when possible in accordance with the provisions of the law.” Cited in ACRI, Report, Arrested Childhood, available at Arrested-Childhood0216-en.pdf (2016).
21Text of the Amendment can be found in Hebrew here: pdf.
22See ACRI, Report,Arrested Childhood, available at uploads/2016/02/Arrested-Childhood0216-en.pdf (2016).
23B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Report, No Minor Matter Violations of the Rights of Palestinian Minors Arrested by Israel on Suspicion of Stone Throwing, available at pdf (2011).
24Statements made by various Israeli officials reinforce the discriminatory and strictly punitive nature of these amendments. For example, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has not shied away from associating stone-throwing with terrorism and expressing her intentions for the passage of such harsh legislation. In discussing stricter penalties on stone-throwers, the Minister stated, “The tolerance shown to terrorist ends today. A stone-thrower is a terrorist, and only a proper punishment can be a deterrent.” See “Israeli lawmakers approve tougher law against rock throwers,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 21, 2015, available at israel-middle-east/knesset-lawmakers-approve-law-against-rock-throwers.
25Minutes of Meeting Number 24 of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, available at https:// (July 15, 2015).
29Text of the law is available in Hebrew here:
30Id. and see Adalah, Israel: New Discriminatory and Anti-Democratic Legislation, available at http:// (March 1, 2016).
31Human Rights Committee, General Comment 29, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add. 11, para. 11 (2001).
32Israeli Knesset, Press Release: Approved in preliminary reading: Prison sentences for minors under 14 who were convicted of terrorism, available at PR_eng.asp?PRID=11782 (November 25, 2015). See also DCI, Child prisoners swell in numbers amid reports of poor jail conditions, available at swell_in_numbers_amid_reports_of_poor_jail_conditions (December 16, 2015).
33See Tamar Pileggi, “Ministers approve lowering minimum incarceration age to 12, Times of Israel, November 22, 2015, available at incarceration-age-to-12.
34Israeli Military Order 1651 permits imprisonment of minors as young as 12. See United Nations Children’s Fund, Report, Children in Israeli Military Detention Observations and Recommendations, available at Military_Detention_Observations_and_Recommendations_-_6_March_2013.pdf (2013).
35Lahav Harkov, “Ministers okay prison sentences for terrorist under age 14,” Jerusalem Post, November 22, 2015, available at
37The bill was approved after the first reading in the Knesset on November 25, 2015, a second and third reading remain.
38This was first proposed on Oct. 13, 2015, along with the a bill to increase minimum sentences for rock throwing. See Israeli Knesset, Press Release: “Approved in first reading: Harsher punishments for stone-throwers, fines on parents of minors who committed related offenses,” Oct, 13, 2015, available at See also ACRI, Report, Arrested Childhood, available at Arrested-Childhood0216-en.pdf (2016). See also Adalah, Press Release: “New Punitive Measures by Israel against stone throwers are unconstitutional,” available at content/view/8677 (November 2, 2015).
39Israeli Knesset, Press Release: “Approved in first reading: Harsher punishments for stone-throwers, fines on parents of minors who committed related offenses,” October 13 2015, available at https://
40“Group Majority of Jerusalem Palestinians detained in 2015 were minors,” Ma’an News Agency, January 10, 2016, available at
41ACRI, Report, Arrested Childhood, available at uploads/2016/02/Arrested-Childhood0216-en.pdf (2016).
43Text of the law available in Hebrew here: See also Israeli Knesset, Press Release: “Knesset passes ’stop-and-frisk law,’” available at https:// (Feb. 2, 2016). See also Adalah, Israel: New Discriminatory and Anti-Democratic Legislation, March 1, 2016, available at http://
45See Jonathan Lis, “Knesset Passes Controversial ‘Stop-and-frisk’ Law,” Haaretz, February 2, 2016, available at See also text of law in Hebrew, available at
46Israeli Knesset, Press Release: Knesset passes “stop-and-frisk law,” available at https://www.knesset. (February 2, 2016).
47See Jonathan Lis, “Knesset Passes Controversial ‘Stop-and-frisk’ Law,” Haaretz, February 2, 2016, available at
48ACRI, “Another Achievement in the fight against the Stop and Frisk Bill,” available at https://www. (December 20, 2015).
49Minutes of Meeting of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, Twentieth Knesset, available at (11 November 2015). Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka was quoted stating it was “clear the main people affected will be Arabs and people who look like Arabs”. See Jumada Al Thani, “Israel introduces new stop and frisk laws,” The National, February 2, 2016 available at and-frisk-laws.
50Arye Rattner and Gideon Fishman, Justice for All? Jews and Arabs in the Israeli Criminal Justice System, Praeger, August 20, 1998.
51See Yael Hassin, (1997) Hivra Urvaha (Social Work School, Hebrew University) and “Different Justice for the Two People,” Haaretz, July 28, 1997.