Draconian punishments for throwing stones won’t help

The Israeli Parliament, the Knesset is now pushing a law that could see Palestinians who throw stones being punished with up to 20 years in prison. This draconian measure says a lot more about the way Israelis view this conflict than it does about the damage stone throwers actually cause.

Israeli lawmakers seem to look at Palestinians in the same way that they look at a natural disaster. When we’re not in the midst of one some of them are relaxed and calm, some are looking at the horizon and pointing out the disaster on the way and others are constantly crying out that the storm is already upon us and that the rest of us are all blind for not having seen it.

A natural disaster isn’t something that you try to prevent it’s something that you prepare for. In the Knesset they take measures in order to defend against Palestinian natural disasters before they hit and they take emergency measures to deal with the damage these Palestinian natural disasters cause. But they never seem to think they can stop them from happening altogether and they certainly never think that their own policies could be the cause of them.

The Israeli strategy up to this point is to give Palestinians a choice, either to be peaceful or to not to be peaceful. If they pick the former they get nothing, if they pick the latter they are faced with prison or death. Every time there is a Palestinian riot or demonstration or terrorist attack it’s dealt with in exactly the same way as a natural disaster. We call in the IDF,  pick up the pieces in the wake of the attack and then wait for the next one. We have come to accept these attacks in the same way that we accept the rain. An inevitability.

Making punishments as draconian as possible isn’t going to stop anyone throwing stones, they’re simply going to lead to the imprisonment of a greater percentage of the Palestinian populace. As long as the message remains the same; that Palestinians can either continue as they are or receive punishment we are going to be “showered” with riots and terror attacks. During some of these showers the IDF will serve as an umbrella ensuring that we don’t get all that wet, but what the IDF can’t do is stop the rain from falling. We need politicians and diplomats in order for that to happen.

The majority Arab East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan has really exposed the extent to which we are unwilling to look at the problems that exist between Arab and Jew and deal with them. The Arabs living there are living within Israel, we annexed them along with the land they live on. Yet investment in these areas is practically non existent. When there are riots in these areas lawmakers dismiss further investment in these areas as giving into terror. In fact the response of lawmakers has been to order more housing (for Jews) to be built in the area and to bring in new draconian powers of punishment for rioters.

Building houses is not a counter terror policy, it is not a policy of social justice nor is it a measure aimed at ensuring the relationship between the Arabs in Silwan and their Jewish neighbours improve. This is simply a method of showing the Arabs there the extent to which Israel dominates them. What’s really lacking here is any empathy. If we treat the Arabs of East Jerusalem like the enemy then they will behave that way.

There are too many politicians in the Knesset who find it too difficult to ask the tough questions and provide long term, social economic solutions to Arab strife in the city. The fact is it might well be raining because of the fact that Israel insisted on ignoring East Jerusalem Arabs when they weren’t rioting and is hell bent on punishing them now that they are. We have left them no options.

Our politicians use only the stick and forget the carrot. They will beat and beat and beat and they will still be confused when nothing changes.

About the Author
Marc Goldberg is the author of Beyond the Green Line, a story his service in the IDF fighting through the al Aqsa Intifada