Traitor for Truth: Amira Hass Highlights Double-Standard in Judgment of Palestine’s Right to Resist
“Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule. Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance. Persecution of stone-throwers, including 8-year-old children, is an inseparable part—though it’s not always spelled out—of the job requirements of the foreign ruler, no less than shooting, torture, land theft, restrictions on movement, and the unequal distribution of water sources.”
These are just some of the words that Amira Hass wrote in a piece for Haaretz that has many in Israel calling for her prosecution as a traitor. Hass is the only Israeli-Jewish journalist to live in the Occupied Territories, in West Bank and Gaza --- and has done so for about two decades.
Her lot is that of any truth-teller in a time of rampant, willful ignorance and injustice… outright disdain. Yet, she gives a compelling and accurate account of how Palestinian resistance against oppression and occupation is viewed as unreasonable, while Israeli building of settlements on Palestinian land, checkpoints and other acts of aggression is how things are supposed to be; a fact of a life that Palestinians should, and had better, accept.
The deception of power; the delusion of violence
Hass goes on to write: “Steadfastness (Sumud) and resistance against the physical, and even more so the systemic, institutionalized violence, is the core sentence in the inner syntax of Palestinians in this land. This is reflected every day, every hour, every moment, without pause. Unfortunately, this is true not only in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, but also within Israel’s recognized borders, although the violence and the resistance to it are expressed differently. But on both sides of the Green Line, the levels of distress, suffocation, bitterness, anxiety and wrath are continually on the rise, as is the astonishment at Israelis’ blindness in believing that their violence can remain in control forever.”
There is this cognitive dissonance in the dominant cultures in Israel, and America as well; that whatever they do to promote and forward their agenda (even through the often “untidy” avenue of violence) is somehow bathed in righteousness and should be viewed through the lens of their nation’s presumed exceptionalism.
This is an integral part of a strategy on the part Israel, a sinister conceptual framework if you will, that has worked tirelessly (as a colonizing/usurping power) to develop a national and international discourse that convinces the world that their State or government-based actions are always justifiable. In addition to acts of physical violence, the disenfranchisement of those within the “borders” of Israel occurs through symbolic violence such as the psychologically debilitating impact of segregation.
Unless one deems Palestinians as less than human and somehow less deserving of dignity and the inalienable rights of human beings and citizens in their own land, then this maddening Israeli dysconciousness (dysfunctional consciousness) is untenable.
And as a result of this, the show of force and the ability to decimate becomes, in the minds of some, the justification for oppression --- that an occupying power can oppress, is the reason why they oppress. So, in response to this injustice, each hurled stone represents a refusal to acquiesce to the planned purgatory of occupation. Amira Hass framed it as “the inner syntax of the relationship between the occupier and the occupied, stone-throwing is the adjective attached to the subject of We’ve had enough of you, occupiers.”
The fundamentally flawed Israeli approach
One would not know this by viewing the Western corporate media, but there is a loosening of the grip of Israel on the hearts and minds of college-aged Jews and Jewish young adults, especially in America. Over the past 20 or 30 years, in particular since the early 1990s, a lot more is now known about the conflict, in part, because of the research of Israeli and Jewish historians. A great deal more is now known about the human rights record, through the workings of Israeli and Jewish human rights groups like B’Tselem, Jewish Voices for Peace, as well as organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Peter Bienart wrote in the New York Review of Books, in 2010, that “there are a great many liberals, especially in the secular Jewish world, people deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead."
We now live in an inescapable 24-7, worldwide web reality. So, not only is the research readily at our fingertips but the video and audio documentation that supports its conclusions can be seen and heard as well. In the US, poll after poll has shown that no other group, other than Blacks, can be as consistently counted on to hold progressive ideals as the Jewish populace.
So, in 2006 when Israel drops, approximately, four million cluster bombs on South Lebanon after the UN resolution passed and the war was essentially over; or in 2008 or 2009, when Israel invades Gaza and drops white phosphorus, a substance that reaches 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, on two hospitals: al-Quds Hospital and al-Wafa Hospital, an idealistic, principled believer in human rights, in good conscience, can’t support those atrocities.
It’s impossible, for the young Jew, to reconcile those realities to their progressive ideals and their desire for peace. They understand the thrown stones; they, by and large, sympathize with the all-too human impulse of self-determination and resistance.
The making of a stone into a boulder
Hass further writes: “Even if it is a right and duty, various forms of steadfastness and resisting the foreign regime, as well as its rules and limitations, should be taught and developed. Limitations could include the distinction between civilians and those who carry arms, between children and those in uniform, as well as the failures and narrowness of using weapons.
It would make sense for Palestinian schools to introduce basic classes in resistance: how to build multiple “tower and stockade” villages in Area C; how to behave when army troops enter your homes; comparing different struggles against colonialism in different countries; how to use a video camera to document the violence of the regime’s representatives; methods to exhaust the military system and its representatives; a weekly day of work in the lands beyond the separation barrier; how to remember identifying details of soldiers who flung you handcuffed to the floor of the jeep, in order to submit a complaint; the rights of detainees and how to insist on them in real time; how to overcome fear of interrogators; and mass efforts to realize the right of movement. Come to think of it, Palestinian adults could also make use of these lessons, perhaps in place of their drills, training in dispersing protests, and practice in spying on Facebook posts.”
Oppression and violence carries a kind of incapacitating inertia. It has the potential of draining its victims of ambition and resolve; it creates the possibility of self-loathing and self-destruction --- in other words, occupation can create exactly the type of people that makes it easier for the occupier to, well, occupy.
Yet, when the survivor of such oppression remembers that the struggle is defined more by what is built than what is torn down; that a battle must encompass the entire human persona and is fought on several fronts, then that person becomes an unassailable force of change that no power can negate.
There has been this persistent drive to create some sort of moral equivalency, in terms of violence, between Palestine and Israel. This is laughable in the face of the mass arms and firepower advantage that Israel enjoys over Palestine.
How does that work exactly when Israel maintains control over 60 percent of the West Bank and continues to divide Gaza from the West Bank? How does that pass the smell test when the throwing of stones by Palestinian youth is contrasted with the sophisticated weaponry a young Israeli soldier?
The Israeli and the Jewish supporter of Israeli policy have said they too know the sting of oppression, annihilation and terror and yes, this is true. Nevertheless, knowing that pain, how can they be this seemingly indifferent in the face of Palestinian suffering?
The Holocaust was a tragedy of epic proportions, but it does not stand as the only tragedy in world history – past or present. In this writer’s veins flows the blood of those who have tasted the bitterness of slavery, occupation and genocide and yet it would be inconceivable to the staunchest supporters of Israel, for me, to use that as a pretext for the oppression of anyone or for the denial of anyone’s human rights.
To be sure, those stones in the hands of young Palestinians cannot be merely viewed as an end, in of itself, but as a means to a much broader and liberating end. Who knows, in a deliciously paradoxical sort of way, maybe the inner-syntax that Amira Hass articulated so beautifully, can become a Palestinian stone of David to the Goliath of Israeli occupation.
Yes, maybe; yes maybe, they’re just a stone’s throw away.
*This piece was originally written in October of 2013 for MintPress News.