Stones break bones

Names such as those of Ahikam Simantov and Adele Biton may not be widely known and discussed about in the global media outlets; their personal dramas are at best addressed in a couple of lines.

Regardless of that both of these Israeli citizens have suffered tremendous stone attacks in a span of more than two decades. During the first intifada, second intifada and in the latest round of escalation, Israelis living in Judea and Samaria have been regularly targeted by ambush held by armed Palestinian stone-throwing youths.

These personal tragedies, as unique and heartbreaking they are, need to be understood as a key to the Palestinian strategy of violence in Judea and Samaria.

In the book of Samuel (17,49) the method David used to kill Goliath is described as follows: “Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead”. For many, the analogy between the young and blessed shepherd who stroked the evil champion to protect the armies of the Nation of Israel and the Palestinian stoning innocent residents of Judea and Samaria is easily made. For the politically-correct Palestinian sympathizers the action of throwing stones is in itself a self-justified and absolute right of those carrying out these attacks. Describing it as a “birthright duty” Haaretz journalist Amira Hass, joined the mass of commentators and thinkers who developed and entertains the idea that since the stone in itself is not an assault weapon per se the violent use of it should not be denounced as a coward act of terrorism against innocent civilians. These wishful thinkers consider this act in platonic terms. The attack is detached from the victims and is only seen as a symbol of socio-political protest. The truth could not be further from this vision.

By stating that Palestinians have the right to stage these ambushes, commentators defend random violence against unarmed civilians. The question that must be raised is if the same attitude would be verified if assault weapons and explosives were to be used. The international condemnation to suicide attacks and terrorist acts against Israeli citizens may at times be weak yet clear support for such actions is very difficult to sustain even by the most subjective pro-Palestinian organizations. In fact, the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria have understood a very important reality; stones provide them with two advantages: they are not regarded as weapons and they implicitly put them in a “David-like” situation.

The victimization of the Palestinian is a key to the propaganda efforts of the anti-Israel lobbies and organizations, thus a young man using supposedly non-lethal means against a stronger foe is the perfect marketing tool for those who want to convey the message of a helpless Palestinian society.

When addressing this comparison a number of key differences must be addressed.

The first one, and the most important one, is that young David was taking part in an overt, planned and loyal bout against an armed warrior. Goliath was in no ways an unarmed civilian or a young reservist conducting a routine police operation. The tool used may be the same but the action, the target and the result are of an absolutely different nature.

The second point is that the Palestinian actions are meant to put in great dangers those who perpetrate it. If one of the attackers is jailed or killed, a martyr is created and can be further used for propaganda reasons. The five stones David carried and the battle in itself were meant to limit Israeli casualties. The strategic and military objectives of the stone attacks are very weakly defendable, the core targets remain innocent civilians. Badly wounding or killing Israelis living and operating in Judea and Samaria is by no means an objective which may compared to the one of slaying an enemy warrior in the open field of battle to prevent the death of hundreds or thousands of fellow countrymen.

The third and last point concerns the legality of the action. In ancient warfare the combat between two men as a decisive battle to settle a dispute opposing two people was regarded as an honor-bound situation which was highly codified and thus accepted by all sides. On the other hand, the coward attack against civilians or military personnel unable to respond – due to the nature of the rules of engagements it is subject to – do in no way respond to any kind of military rule or combat code of honor.

To sum it up the stone attacks are to be objectively considered illegal, coward and irrational acts of violence against a relatively weaker target. The targets are de facto weaker due to the balance of power of the ambush. At no point in time did Goliath lose his martial superiority when on the other hand, IDF troops unable to return fire or Israeli civilians may be part of a stronger nation yet on the tactical level they are at a point of inferiority in regard to those leading the offensive.

It is essential to underline the key differences between the Palestinian stone throwers and their Israeli targets; this with the objective of depriving the former of a well-crafted and largely false “victim status”.

It is also necessary to highlight the fact that stones kill, stones and rocks are weapons in the hand of skilled fighters. For this, any person supporting the morality of these actions should be held accountable in front of the innocent victims and asked to justify its stance.

About the Author
Riccardo Dugulin is an independant international affairs analyst. He holds a Master in International Security from the Paris School of International Affairs (Sciences Po) and has worked in leading think tanks in Washington DC, Beirut and Dubai and has held the position of security coordinator for a security assistance firm.