Israel’s different responses to Jewish and Palestinian stone throwers

Jewish settlers who throw stones at Israeli forces hardly face serious consequences. For Palestinian stone throwers, the consequences can mean death. 

Israeli police forces clash with people in the Jewish settlement outpost of Netiv HaAvot in Gush Etzion, which the Supreme Court ruled was partially built on privately owned Palestinian land, and would be demolished therefore. June 12, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israeli police forces clash with religious nationalist youth in the Jewish settlement outpost of Netiv Ha’avot in Gush Etzion in the occupied West Bank. June 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the West Bank, the consequences for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers differ dramatically, depending on who’s doing the throwing. The same act, when carried out by Jews in the West Bank, is met — often literally — with a soft-gloved hand. When carried out by Palestinians, the punishment can be as severe as death.

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Israeli forces routinely raid Palestinian homes in the middle of the night to arrest children suspected of stone throwing. In many instances, Israeli soldiers have responded to stone throwing by Palestinians with tear gas, rubber bullets, and even live ammunition. “Stones kill,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett after Israeli forces shot and killed 17-year-old Mohammed al-Casbah for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers in 2015. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has said that “anyone who throws stones is a terrorist.”

When Jewish settlers throw stones at Israeli soldiers, however, a different set of rules apply. Two weeks in June show the deadly, gaping disparity between what Palestinians who throw rocks face — and what faces Jews who do the same.

When Israeli police, unarmed and dressed in special t-shirt uniforms, arrived at the illegal outpost of Tapuach West to evict 10 buildings on Sunday, they were met by hundreds of right-wing settler protesters who threw stones, bleach and other objects at them. Eleven officers were reportedly wounded, and police arrested just six right-wing activists.

Settler youth clash with Israeli police during the eviction of Netiv HaAvot. June 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Settler youth clash with Israeli police during the eviction of Netiv HaAvot. June 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Five days earlier, during the eviction of 15 houses in the illegal outpost of Netiv Ha’avot, hundreds of religious nationalist protesters similarly occupied the homes and threw stones and other objects at the police. Six police officers were reportedly injured during the eviction, including one officer who was hit in the head by a rock. Just three protesters were arrested; they were later released. The others returned to their homes safely after police dragged them out of the houses they had been occupying.

Six days before that and roughly 60 kilometers north, in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, 21-year-old Izz ad-Din Tamimi joined a group of Palestinian teenagers throwing rocks at heavily armed Israeli soldiers. According to the IDF, Tamimi approached the soldiers and threw a rock, hitting one of them, who opened fire. Tamimi was shot twice — in the neck and chest — from a distance of roughly 50 meters, witnesses said.

Two men hold Izz ad-Din's Tamimi bloody shoot in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. June 6, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Two men hold Izz ad-Din’s Tamimi bloody shoot in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. June 6, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The IDF reported that no soldiers were injured. Izz ad-Din’s body was transferred to the hospital in Ramallah later that day, in preparation for his funeral. However, Israeli forces blocked the funeral procession and reportedly deployed “skunk” water cannons along the road leading to the village. Izz ad-Din eventually returned home in a shroud, to be buried.

The settler youth who threw stones and bleach — and injured Israeli forces — mostly got off with a slap on the wrist, while Izz ad-Din lost his life. Izz ad-Din, like many other Palestinians, was not arrested, tried, or sentenced for stone-throwing — he was shot and killed on the spot.