The courageous journalist Amira Hass has set off an important dialogue in the Israeli press by stating that Palestinians have a duty to resist occupation by throwing stones. The defense of a form of violent resistance, published in Haaretz, has caused a furor– and prompted the courageous journalist Gideon Levy, also in Haaretz to explain that the use of violence to end oppression has a noble history, including on the part of Jews.
Levy specifically attacks Israeli exceptionalism, asking why is it that Jewish Israelis deny others a course they have followed? He cites the Passover service, when Jews tell “the story of a… freedom struggle… that included much more terrible calamities than rocks thrown at the deniers of liberty.” I.e., God brought plagues upon the Egyptians who enslaved Jews, including the killing of the first-born, that we celebrate.
And they are supposed to bow their heads for another 46 years of occupation? Levy asks. It is very difficult to imagine two such pieces appearing in the US press. Though Ben Ehrenreich’s superb report in the New York Times Magazine on Nabi Saleh made Hass’s argument implicitly, no one is having this dialogue here, a dialogue that shines a harsh light on the conditions of Palestinian life.
So here are excerpts of Hass’s piece, and Levy’s. (Thanks to Ilene Cohen and Vivienne Porszolt) Hass:
Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule. Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance. Persecution of stone-throwers, including 8-year-old children, is an inseparable part − though it’s not always spelled out − of the job requirements of the foreign ruler, no less than shooting, torture, land theft, restrictions on movement, and the unequal distribution of water sources.
The violence of 19-year-old soldiers, their 45-year-old commanders, and the bureaucrats, jurists and lawyers is dictated by reality. Their job is to protect the fruits of violence instilled in foreign occupation − resources, profits, power and privileges.
Steadfastness (Sumud) and resistance against the physical, and even more so the systemic, institutionalized violence, is the core sentence in the inner syntax of Palestinians in this land. This is reflected every day, every hour, every moment, without pause. Unfortunately, this is true not only in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, but also within Israel’s recognized borders, although the violence and the resistance to it are expressed differently. But on both sides of the Green Line, the levels of distress, suffocation, bitterness, anxiety and wrath are continually on the rise, as is the astonishment at Israelis’ blindness in believing that their violence can remain in control forever.
It would make sense for Palestinian schools to introduce basic classes in resistance: how to build multiple “tower and stockade” villages in Area C; how to behave when army troops enter your homes; comparing different struggles against colonialism in different countries; how to use a video camera to document the violence of the regime’s representatives; methods to exhaust the military system and its representatives etc.
So why are such classes absent from the Palestinian curriculum? Part of the explanation lies with the opposition of the donor states and Israel’s punitive measures. But it is also due to inertia, laziness, flawed reasoning, misunderstanding and the personal gains of some parts of society. In fact the rationale for the existence of the Palestinian Authority engendered one basic rule in the last two decades − adaptation to the existing situation. Thus, a contradiction and a clash have been created between the inner syntax of the Palestinian Authority and that of the Palestinian people.
Now here are excerpts of Levy’s piece:
The storm that was unleashed by Amira Hass’ important opinion piece, “The inner syntax of Palestinian stone-throwing,” was a welcome one. It laid bare at once the hypocrisy, or the ignorance, of large swaths of Israeli public opinion.
Hypocrisy, because the up-in-arms crowd ignores the original, fundamental, institutionalized and methodical violence of the very fact of the occupation and its mechanisms. Ignorance, because the implication is that the impassioned naysayers might not know just how cruel is the military tyranny in the territories.
In addition, those who accused Hass so furiously of “crossing lines” and “inciting murder” did not read her piece all the way through. It contains not incitement to murder, but rather a straight-on, fair and courageous apprehension of the Palestinian liberation struggle that is absent from the Israeli dialogue….
Rooted deep in the Israeli experience is the idea that what is permitted to the Jewish people is prohibited to others. But there is no need to go back as far as the time of Pharaoh. Ever since then, human history has been paved with freedom struggles against foreign rulers, struggles that earned the respect of history, and that were, in the main, violent, often more violent than the Palestinian struggle. The slogan “We’ve had enough of you, occupiers” is not exclusive to Arabic; it has been voiced down through history in nearly every language, including modern Hebrew.
Hass, like me, is against violence. I take the liberty to write that out of deep conviction. Who wants to see children killed by rocks, citizens torn apart by an improvised explosive device, or teenagers who have been shot?
But resistance to violence must be direct, comprehensive and fair. It must include the resistance to the occupier’s violence….
Now we must ask Hass’ detractors: What do you expect? What are you, patriots and supposed opposers of violence, offering the Palestinians? Do you honestly think they will bow their heads in submission and obedience for another 46 years? Is there an historical precedent for such behavior?