In a proposal put to the Cabinet last Sunday, Likkud’s Minister for Culture and Sport, Miri Regev, has proposed that if anyone throws rocks at a demonstration, they and their family should lose their entitlement to National Insurance benefits, including pensions, unemployment benefit and industrial injury benefits. Parents would be held responsible for the acts of their children.
There are a few obvious objections to this.
- National Insurance is a benefit that people pay for through their contributions. Their entitlement is based on conditions, and changing the conditions after the contribution has been taken is unjust.
- Collective punishment is abhorrent.
- The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Throwing rocks should be discouraged – but stopping someone’s pension is a far more serious. It would breach civil rights, human rights and property rights.
- It’s not only demonstrators who throw stones in Jerusalem. Charedi Jews famously throw stones at drivers on the Sabbath. (I’ve never quite understood this one, religiously speaking. How can it be it okay to pick up a stone on a day when it’s not permissible to carry a bottle of water?) Many of those, admittedly, won’t be affected by National Insurance rules, because they don’t recognise the legitimacy of the Israeli state, something else they have in common with the demonstrators. It does seem to imply different laws for different citizens.
I’m a supporter of Israel, and I shouldn’t by now be surprised by anything that happens in Israeli politics, but this did raise my eyebrows and my hackles.