Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Thoughts About Stone Throwing

A note on stone throwing. My sentiments might be as unpopular to Israelis as they are to Palestinians. But the potential to offend someone when discussing this conflict is limitless.

The latest news about the ill-fated village of Nil'in in the West Bank is about Ahmed Mousa, a 10 year old who was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier. When I originally read about this event, it was from the left-wing Israeli media, which basically expresses sorrow about the boy but also reminds us that he was throwing stones. Then they add a mention of an IDF soldier who was hit in the eye with a rock.

Non-Israeli media makes no mention of stone throwing, or any reason at all for the soldiers' actions.

I was not there and therefore cannot comment on the exact causes of this event, but I can comment on the phenomenon of stone throwing. Every day, and especially after protests, teenage boys throw stones at Israeli soldiers. They are filled with adolescent rage and frustration and their browbeaten parents can neither control them nor offer them a feasible alternative.

So they throw rocks.

Sometimes these rocks fall far from their intended targets and the effort goes ignored. Sometimes the rocks hit the soldiers, and there is retaliation. We must not forget that both the stone throwers and the soldiers are acting in response to the same emotions. They are limited by the same level of brain development.

My sentiment is: those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

But this sentiment is directed not at those who literally throw the stones but the puppeteers behind them: the international media.

It is no accident that every time a Palestinian suffers unduly, an outsider with big opinions is there to publicize it. Each protest in the West Bank villages of Nil'in and Bil'in ends with Palestinian teenagers throwing stones. And this often leads to injuries, sometimes fatal ones. But the international activists who organize these protests make no effort to stop the stone throwing. They stand by with their cameras, waiting for someone to get hurt so they can reinforce the image of the Palestinian as Victim.

The internationals who, with the best intentions, insert themselves into this conflict are as integral to the problem as the stone throwers and the IDF. They form a triangle that continuously feed the roles of victim, conquerer, and hungry audience. It's a gladiator show.

Without the violence, would anyone be watching?

With nobody watching, would there still be violence?

Many argue that these kids throw stones because it is the only option left to them. But what if it is just the only option anybody told them about? If it is considered fair by anti-Israelis to abduct IDF soldiers to leverage for ransom, why not to shoot teenage stone throwers? The abducted soldiers were combatants, legal targets, but they did not volunteer for service. The stone throwers, then, are also combatants, who by virtue of their perceived lack of options, didn't volunteer either.

The differences between them are weak. Take an IDF soldier, subtract four years and a uniform, and you get a kid with a rock.

Everyone who profits from this conflict, from the Canadian construction firms building settlements to the mainstream media, are doing so at the expense of the region's children.

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