Amira Hass, stone-throwing, and when protracted occupation “strikes the match” of human nature

About the controversial piece by Amira Hass that said that stone-throwing was an understandable reaction to occupation.

Ten-year-olds throwing small stones in anger at occupation and oppression is “understandable” and needs not be legally punished.

But it is still dangerous and can be lethal and should be opposed and prevented and civil authorities should stop it.

And some pictures of stone-throwing I’ve seen involve men or man-sized teens with masks and the stones slung from powerful slingshots that are very dangerous weapons indeed. However awful the occupation & oppression, once you stray over the line into violence, it has a snowball effect and there is no end to it and no place to draw the line.

What would King or Gandhi or Mandela think?

Either this is going to be a nonviolent peaceful opposition to occupation that the whole world can support, or it is not.

On the other hand it makes me think:

One can’t both oppose all violence–which I do oppose–against the occupation and oppression, and yet at the same time oppose all completely peaceful strategies of resistance.

This would then allow the oppression against the Palestinians to continue forever.

Then the Palestinians are caught in a catch-22 bind. Completely peaceful and nonviolent resistance — including no stone-throwing — seems self-evidently to be the only tenable moral stance.

But at the same time, we need consider supporting — in fact — purely peaceful and purely nonviolent — but also at the same time actually effective and genuine — resistance.

My concern is this:

If the occupation and frustration goes on, and the government gets more right-wing and annexationist than ever, and never seems ready to relinquish anything, and if most of us do support strict non-violence which includes no stone-throwing — and I emphatically do too– then, as the years and decades go on interminably, what is going to happen?

What will happen in the foreseeable future? How can we expect the people — especially their young people– according to ordinary human nature, to eschew violence whether Intifadas or stones both for decades far into the future?

And how can this expression of real human nature among Palestinians not result in still more Rightist  excuse-making – either out of genuine security fears or expansionist hubris or both – to perpetuate it further?

Under this Catch-22, how can we expect the Palestinians to behave more nobly and creditably and admirably than anyone else who was stuck in such an occupation?

I hope the Palestinians learn a culture of strict Gandhian and Kingian nonviolence.  I want them to learn nonviolence. Peaceful “million person marches.”  I hope they overcome anger with acceptance and respect.

But is this a realistic expectation? Is it realistic to expect it?

To expect this population to have such a self-disciplined and elevated — so as to almost be a  “superhuman” —  elevation and height and nobility?

I suppose that I am in despair right now. Evoked by Amira Hass, because by her “understanding” of stone-throwing, she has forced me explicitly and in full consciousness to oppose it. And so then I am struck in full and clear consciousness of the Catch-22 the Palestinians are in:

The Rock of Occupier’s ultra-rightism and the Hard Place of the standard which is held up to them of Gandhian and Kingian pacifism.

Their only way they have — which I don’t say facetiously but in deep  sobriety– seems that they express superhuman character higher and beyond that of which customary human nature is ordinarily capable.

How much does human nature in society ordinarily realistically take?

And this doesn’t even consider other ingredients in the witch’s brew:

Such as renewed regional hostility fanned by Islamism and tilting to war, and the demographic tide toward a Palestinian majority making Jews a minority.

And then as the years and decades go by, not only a perpetually tragic situation but a recipe for a level of tension and “outbreak of human nature” that becomes tragically, explosively, unimaginably even worse.

Let us hope for Gandhis on both sides. Who will put long-term prudence and implacable nonviolence over politics and foolish mischievous Pride.

But what are the chances of that? Does math have so low a number?

And as the witch’s brew only gets hotter and hotter?

Meanwhile–yes, no immoral potentially lethal Palestinian stone-throwing.

But also: As I have noted before:

Whoever confuses liberalism with optimism needs to think again.


About the Author
James Adler was born in Kentucky, now works in university libraries, and feels especially and intensely bound up with the fate of the Jewish people in the last hundred years, especially the Shoah, the rise of Israel "out of the ashes," and the accidental and mutually tragic collision with the Palestinians in the early and middle of the 20th century, continuing through today. He is happily married and the father of two teenagers.