Is The Telegraph correct? Is Israel’s proposed rock-throwing law “draconian”?

An Israeli ministerial committee recently approved a bill that would allow up to 10 years imprisonment for those found guilty of “throwing rocks at vehicles…in a manner that could endanger the passenger’s safety”.  Under the previous law, those convicted of such a crime typically only received a 2 year sentence.

The proposal – a law originally promoted by former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni – is a response to the near daily occurrence of Palestinians targeting Israeli cars in Jerusalem and West Bank with stones.

According to the IDF, in 2013 alone there were more than 2,400 Palestinian rock throwing attacks. Of these, 30 percent were reportedly directed at civilian vehicles. Recent fatalities from Palestinian rock-throwing include Asher Palmer and his infant son Jonathan, who were killed in 2011, and Adele Biton, who died this year at age four, two years after the car she was traveling in with her family was stoned by Palestinians.

Adele Biton
Adele Biton

On June 1st, The Telegraph published a report by Jerusalem correspondent Robert Tait on the proposed legislation titled ‘Israeli ministers approve 10 year jail term for stone-throwers‘.

Tait’s report begins by focusing on the supposed “draconian” nature of the new “right-wing” measure:

Draconian legislation that could see stone throwers jailed for 10 years has been unanimously approved by ministers in Israel’s new Right-wing government in a move intended to deter future Palestinian unrest.

The draft law – approved by the ministerial committee for legislation – amounts to the first significant contribution by Ayelet Shaked, the country’s hardline justice minister, since her appointment last month.

(The term “draconian” in this context refers to punishments which are “exceedingly severe”.)

As is typical with UK media reports critical of Israeli policy, no context or comparative analysis is provided. So, readers are unable to objectively assess whether or not the proposed Israeli law is indeed draconian.

So, we decided to review sentencing guidelines for rock-throwing in a few democratic countries, and here’s what we found:

Australia: Up to 5 years

49A Throwing rocks and other objects at vehicles and vessels

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if:

(a) the person intentionally throws an object at, or drops an object on or towards, a vehicle or vessel that is on any road, railway or navigable waters, and

(b) there is a person in the vehicle or vessel, and

(c) the conduct risks the safety of any person.

Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 5 years.

New Zealand: Up to 14 years

270 Endangering transport

(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years who, with intent to cause danger to persons or property or with reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property,—

(a) interferes with any transport facility; or

(b) does anything to any transport facility that is likely to cause danger to persons or property.

(2) For the purposes of this section, transport facility means any vehicle, ship, or aircraft, and any property used in connection with the transportation of persons or goods; and includes equipment of any kind used in navigation or for the guidance of any vehicle, ship, or aircraft.

(Throwing a rock at a vehicle is considered a form of “endangering transport”.)

United States: Up to 15 years

(Sentences vary per state. For instance, Florida imposes a 15 year sentence, while Virginia imposes ten years.)


Whoever, wantonly or maliciously, shoots at, within, or into, or throws any missile or hurls or projects a stone or other hard substance which would produce death or great bodily harm, at, within, or in … any … vehicle of any kind which is being used or occupied by any person, … shall be guilty of a felony of the second degree…

For a felony of the second degree, by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 15 years.

So, whilst reasonable people can of course still disagree with a 10-year sentence for throwing rocks at moving vehicles, it’s quite relevant to note that two Western democratic nations (the U.S. and New Zealand) actually impose harsher penalties for the same crime.

All of this makes us wonder: Did The Telegraph’s Robert Tait do any background research at all before concluding that Israel’s proposed rock-throwing law was “draconian”?

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