To Throw or Not to Throw a Stone

A debate rages in Israel today on the truth of Amira Hass’s words “Throwing a stone is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule. Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance.”1

The day after Hass’ comment, Dr. Rosenberg offered these objections: a. throwing stones after all can result in death and Hass does not mention that consequence, b. justifying stone throwing “grants legitimacy to the activities of the government she condemns; and c. stone throwing is “a natural right of every human being is futile and invalid, certainly in ethical terms.” Conveniently, Rosenberg does not mention that the Palestinians have no army, no air-force, no navy, no comparable military ordinance of any kind to throw at the fourth largest state of the art military in the world, only stones; can the stone kill, yes, but so can $300,000 missiles and phosphorus bombs. Do we justify death by missiles and phosphorus but damn death by stoning? Does the throwing of a stone justify the carnage of the Israeli IDF against the defenseless Palestinians? Where is the argument here? Is throwing a stone a birthright as Amira states or is that “futile and invalid” as Rosenberg claims? Given the reality of the Israeli military power versus the feeble efforts of the Palestinians, children and teenagers hurling stones, the debate on birthright avoids the obvious: not to throw a stone.

“Listen to Cain as he walks beside his brother along the path of death: There is no judgment and no judge and no world to come! No reward will be given to the righteous nor any account given of the wicked. Such is the belief of those who would declare their independence of any responsibility for their brother, accept any blame for their deception as they accompany him to his death, or bear any guilt for the wickedness they inflict. Without judgment for behavior determined as good or bad, without reward for acts of love or compassion, without retribution for evil and wickedness against his brother, Cain is free to do what he wills to do. Ultimate freedom, a declaration indeed of independence. Abel responds to his brother in the only terms left to him as he walks to his death, a plea to conscience that binds all in mutual existence, a belief that ?There is indeed a judgment and a Judge and a world to come … and the wicked will be called to account. Without that understanding, those who will can, with impunity, plunder the poor, oppress the defenseless, act to pervert justice, and wreck violence and bloodshed on the world.”

Such is the moral dilemma Thoreau faced as he delivered his “A Plea for Captain John Brown,” (1859) as that “traitor” to the state faced hanging. Thoreau quotes Brown in his own defense: “No man sent me here; it was my own prompting and that of my maker. I acknowledge no master in human form… I think, my friends, you are guilty of a great wrong against God and humanity , and it would be perfectly right for anyone to interfere with you so far as to free those you willfully and wickedly hold in bondage.”

Such is the moral dilemma Mahatma Ghandi faced as he sought guidance from Hinduism and the importance of action in one’s life, without concern for success; the Hindu text Bhagavad-Gita says, “On action alone be thy interest, / Never on its fruits / Abiding in discipline perform actions, / Abandoning attachment / Being indifferent to success or failure” (Wolpert 71).

Such is the moral dilemma Martin Luther King faced as he sat in the Birmingham jail, a threat to the state’s legal system that legislated the segregated lives of the countries African Americans:

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

And such was the moral dilemma the Jews in Warsaw faced “Between July 22 and September 12, 1942, (as) the German authorities deported or murdered around 300,000 Jews in the Warsaw ghetto:

Armed with pistols, grenades (many of them homemade), and a few automatic weapons and rifles, the ZOB fighters (the Jewish Combat Organization, Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa; ZOB) stunned the Germans and their auxiliaries on the first day of fighting, forcing the German forces to retreat outside the ghetto wall. German commander SS General Jürgen Stroop reported losing 12 men, killed and wounded, during the first assault on the ghetto. On the third day of the uprising, Stroop’s SS and police forces began razing the ghetto to the ground, building by building, to force the remaining Jews out of hiding. Jewish resistance fighters made sporadic raids from their bunkers, but the Germans systematically reduced the ghetto to rubble. The German forces killed Anielewicz and those with him in an attack on the ZOB command bunker on 18 Mila Street, which they captured on May 8.2

Such is the need to act, even metaphorically, when loss of life, threatened by those willing and capable of inflicting imprisonment, torture, or death on a person or persons is imminent and obvious. The right to life, to assert that right in the face of certain death, as is the fate of Abel, supersedes all other action. To throw a stone at a tank, the symbol of absolute power of another over personal freedom, to assert, yea even to glorify that birthright to live in freedom and peace in the world, supersedes the illegal laws of the state that occupies and oppresses. Laws are only just when they protect the personal rights and dignity of all. That is the ultimate meaning resident in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that is the criteria Israel must abide by in its occupation of Palestine. Otherwise, one must condemn the Jews that took their birthright to act against their oppressors or find their action a “right” based on some superior testament that negates such a right for the rest of humanity. The world cannot avoid its responsibility to protect the helpless; it must intervene in Palestine.

Consider now the events of April 9-11, 1948, the eradication of the citizens of the town of Deir Yassin, a month before the Agency declared the existence of the Israeli state and the implementation of the UN Resolution to partition. This massacre became then and remains the signature example of the intent of the Zionist Consultancy and its agents to ethnically cleanse Palestine of its non-Jewish inhabitants. A plethora of documents abound that claim insight into the events that transpired during those three days, yet all attest to the extermination of the town’s citizens differing only as to numbers and agents responsible. Since Benny Morris relies on official documents released by the government and the military, I will use his summation as an example.

Deir Yassin is remembered… for the atrocities committed by the IZL and LHI troops during and immediately after the drawn-out battle: Whole families were riddled with bullets… men, women, and children were mowed down as they emerged from houses; individuals were taken aside and shot. Haganah intelligence reported “there were piles of dead. Some of the prisoners moved to places of incarceration, including women and children, were murdered viciously by their captors… LHI members… relate that the IZL men raped a number of Arab girls and murdered them afterward (we don’t know if this is true).’ Another intelligence operative (who visited the site hours after the event) reported the ‘adult males were taken to town Jerusalem in trucks and paraded in the city streets, then taken back to the site and killed… Before they were put on the trucks, the IZL and LHI men searched the women, men, and children [and] took from them all the jewelry and stole their money.’ Finally, the ‘Haganah made great efforts to hide its part in the operation.11

Despite Morris’ accounting, 50 years after the events at Deir Yassin, Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America, attempted to revise history by denying that a massacre took place in his work, Deir Yassin, History of a Lie. Why? Why go to such lengths to deny what is so thoroughly documented? The answer is simple. Deir Yassin is a symbol of ethnic cleansing, of the determination of the Jews in Israel, controlled by the Zionist Consultancy and its armed forces, to “transfer” or kill the indigenous people of Palestine.

The truth symbolized by Deir Yassin is the calculated Zionist strategy “to terrorize Arabs in order to expel them on the way to depopulating their villages in order to repopulate them with new Jewish immigrants or to erase them from the map” (Passages adapted from the Introduction of The Plight of the Palestinians, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, edited by W.A. Cook).

But let it be stated here on this 11th day of April as I pen this piece, a day of catastrophe that should never be forgotten, that the people of Deir Yassin did not go gently into that good night; they, like their Jewish brothers and sisters in Warsaw, fought valiantly against terrible odds, against a systematic brutality that has been described above. They fought for their birthright as Amira Hass has established was their right and duty to assert, if they were to proclaim to all the world that no one and no nation has the right to occupy a people’s land or to oppress them wantonly or to humiliate and subjugate them because they have the will and the means to imprison and enslave, to torture and brutalize, to deprive and destroy to accomplish their ends. Such a nation acts without rights and must be subject to international justice that all humans of good will can live in peace and dignity.

  1. Amira Hass, Haaretz, 4/3/13. []
  2. U.S. Holocaust Museum []

William A. Cook is a Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. He edited The Plight of the Palestinians: A Long History of Destruction (2010). He can be reached at: wcook@laverne.edu. Read other articles by William A., or visit William A.'s website.