Before June 1967, it was engraved in consciousness – including Arab consciousness – that David, who went into battle with Goliath with a stone in his hand, is an Israeli who stood valiantly against the Arab monster that threatened to destroy him. The struggle of the State of Israel was presented as the struggle of one little country against many big, evil countries. In the 1967 War, it became apparent that this presentation does not accurately reflect reality on the ground that Israel isn't necessarily the weak side, and the roles were quickly swapped.
The perfect expression of this role swap was the first intifada, when the Palestinians were the ones bearing stones against Israel's powerful forces. The stone the Palestinians held embarrassed first of all the Arab world, because the Arab world refused to admit that it was, all in all, little David without a stone.
The poet Nizar Qabbani found it difficult to believe when he saw a destitute Palestinian boy armed only with a stone defeat a fully-armed Israeli soldier: "The world's eyes have been blinded," he wrote, "and they have nothing in their hands except stones as tidings they appeared."
This is the reason the grudge we now see against stones is even greater than the bitterness at terrorist attacks. The bitterness is because of the swap of stone-users. Why is this important? Because the stone conceals moral strength. It signifies the small against the big, the weak against the strong. When one side is deprived of this weapon, no matter how strong it is, it is on the way to defeat, even if the road is long.
The stone is also faithful to its living space – the home, the courtyard, the olive grove. A stone doesn't wander from place to place. You won't find the stones thrown by Na'alin residents in Tel Aviv, and the stones of Haifa are not to be found in Ramallah. A stone is not an offensive weapon – it is only a defensive one. Throughout history, an army has yet to be unleashed onto the battlefield with pockets full of stones as it completes its conquest. Logically, if all you have in your hand is a stone, you are on the weak side of the equation. When the Arabs tried to play the role of the strong, they looked bad and lost out, and no one identified with their pain.
The weak Jews survived for generations in a Europe that was so cruel to them, because moral strength was on their side. The moral side usually wins. But the enormous moral credit afforded to the Jews after World War II following the terrible crimes inflicted on them has been detrimentally exploited by their leaders vis-a-vis the Palestinians. This exploitation does not fit the moral values that those who paid with their lives in that cursed world war strove for.
What a shame. Things could have been handled differently. Now there is no credit left for those who used to be the weak and moral, because a stone has an amazing inherent quality – it switches sides and hands effortlessly. It will rest in an Israeli hand with the same innocence that it rests in a Palestinian hand. As long as it's the hand of the just and weak in the struggle, the stone will be attracted to it. That is how the stone transferred from the Israeli hand to the Palestinian hand, which is why the worldwide anger against Israeli occupation is so strong – except in the United States.
The furor surrounding Amira Hass's article "The inner syntax of Palestinian stone-throwing" (Haaretz, April 3) is the broken cry of a child who has had the toy that made him stand out from the other children taken away. Now a besieged nation, whose land has been dissected and whose sons languish in prisons, receives the moral credit. But it is worth reminding ourselves that this credit is only temporary, and will not remain in the hands of those who use it immorally.