The Inner Syntax of the Storm

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

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.

If there is any preaching in her commentary, it is mainly devoted to the nonviolent struggle against the occupation, in the form of calling for documentation, going out to work pilfered lands, and overcoming the fear of interrogations. Even the act of taking up the stone is justified only as an inevitable refuge.

The commentary was published a few days after Jews read from the Haggadah, which tells the story of a different people’s freedom struggle, a struggle that included much more terrible calamities than rocks thrown at the deniers of liberty. Generations of Jews read this text in awe and wonder, telling it to their children. But they are not willing to apply the same basic rule − the same internal justice, according to which resistance, including violent resistance, is the birthright and duty of every vanquished nation, as Hass wrote − to everyone, and not just the Jews.

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. There is no need to count the dead and wounded, the physically and mentally disabled − of both nations − to recognize that the greater, and inherent, violence is that of the occupier.

Palestinian rocks and IEDs have caused great losses to both peoples. The only way to end them is to end the occupation. Unfortunately, that will not happen on its own. In 46 years of occupation, Israel has proved it cannot be forced to stop its evil actions through acts of good.

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?

And even if they were to do so, what would happen? Their fight would only be further forgotten. That is the lesson Israel taught them − the hard way.

A stone can indeed be lethal. So can a rubber-tipped bullet, a tear gas grenade, live fire, bombs and shells. The fact that these latter weapons are used by Israel does not dull their violence. The claim that Israel uses them solely for self-defense is just as ridiculous as the claim, also voiced in the heat of emotion, that Israel is the victim of this entire bloody story and that the occupation was in fact imposed (!‏) on it.

Such is the way of self-righteousness, distorted morals and lies, elements of the inner syntax of the Hass storm.

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