Palestinians Won't Cooperate With the Intifada Netanyahu Is Preparing for Them

If the penalty for throwing a stone is not much different than the price for firing a gun then the nature of the civilian struggle is likely to change.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
Palestinians throwing rocks, a ubiquitous image of the intifada.
Palestinians throwing rocks, a ubiquitous image of the intifada.Credit: Emil Salman
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

If the law for a stone is the same as for a bullet, a stone-thrower will say — I might as well go for the bullet. If I get 10 years in prison for throwing a stone, I’ll fire a bullet, and end up with almost the same. And if the soldiers decide to shoot at a stone-thrower the way they do at a person firing live bullets, stone-throwers will prefer to use a firearm — and that’s how they will deal with the government's new decision.

But an Israeli who finds himself in a dangerous situation would rather have a stone thrown at him than be fired at by some sophisticated weapon of the type Israel supplies to war zones abroad. To persuade a Palestinian that he should “only” throw stones, he should be encouraged with tempting penalties.

I would like to make clear that I am only discussing the logical aspect of things here. After all, life proceeds according to the laws of physics: Every action engenders an equal and opposite reaction. And so humanity — and I say this for the benefit of the Knights of Harsh Penalties — was not, perish the thought, leftist when it decided on a graduated scale of punishment; it did so based on utilitarian considerations. And so it was decided that the law for a thief is not equal to the law for a murderer and the law for the murderer of a single individual is not the same as the law for a mass-murderer. And the law for a person who throws a stone next to his own house on his own property is not the same as the law for a person who places a bomb in the square of a distant town.

The price tag set by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the time for the abduction of soldiers was a day or two of deadly bombardments followed by meetings, mediators and exhausting negotiations that ended with prisoner exchanges. Nine years ago, Ehud Olmert, then a new prime minister, decided to reinvent the wheel with a price that skyrocketed: all-out war over the abduction of soldiers. As we know, at the end of the process a prisoner exchange took place, just as in Sharon’s time. The difference was the heavy price that Israeli society paid. And that is even before we consider the price paid by the Lebanese because the blood of neighbors does not count here.

A stone, even if it endangers life, is in the end part of the civilian struggle, albeit on the violent threshold of it. A stone has never been considered part of an armed struggle. And what about other forms of struggle? Is a call for boycott terror? Is the struggle against the occupation being waged in the United Nations institutions also terror? At the moment, according to the Israeli government, terror is raining down on the country: the terror of the boycott, diplomatic terror and the terror of the stones. And let’s not forget the demographic terror.

Given the draconian laws which make no distinction between live fire and the casting of stones, one might suspect that country's rulers here have had it with a Palestinian struggle that does not give in to the temptation to embrace armed action. The Israeli depression – because of the boycott, the diplomacy, the stones – hides the passion for something else, something clearer, that they can take their anger out on. The passion for an armed intifada.

The first intifada (that began in December, 1987) was entirely Palestinian. But people in lsrael learned precisely where the key to an intifada lies. On September 29, 2000, a day after Sharon’s provocative visit to the Temple Mount, the compound where the Al–Aqsa Mosque stands, seven Palestinians were killed at a demonstration that could have taken place without casualties, and thus the gates of the second intifada swung open.

What is more, the military expert, the late Reuven Pedatzur wrote: “The IDF checked and found that in the first two weeks of the intifada soldiers fired about a 1,200,000 bullets. About 100,000 bullets a day. The Palestinian dead in the first months of the events numbered in the several dozen, as opposed to a relatively small number of Israelis” (Haaretz, October 28, 2011). Indeed the fitting name for the second intifada is the Ehud Barak intifada against the Palestinians.

The Palestinians today have learned from their experience. They will not cooperate with the intifada that Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing for them.

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