A newspaper op-ed piece by an Israeli writer has revived an emotional debate surrounding Israel’s 45-year rule over the West Bank and east Jerusalem: Do Palestinians who throw rocks at Israelis exercise a “birthright” of resisting military occupation, as the author argued? Or is stone-throwing an indefensible act of violence?
The heated argument — along with a police complaint West Bank settlers filed against the author — was another sign of the deepening gulf between the two peoples after decades of conflict.
The debate comes at a time when Israelis are watching for any signs of a third Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising, against the occupation that began in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
Palestinians want the three territories for a state, but two decades of intermittent Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have come up empty and Israel — while withdrawing from Gaza in 2005 — has moved more than half a million of its civilians to the rest of the occupied lands during the four-decade occupation in what much of the world says is a violation of international law.
In the past 25 years, Palestinians have launched two uprisings. The first erupted in 1987 and was characterized by large demonstrations, often accompanied by stone-throwing. Israeli troops responded with tear gas, live fire and mass arrests. The revolt led to negotiations that produced interim peace deals.
The second broke out in 2000 after failed talks on a final deal and violence escalated on both sides. Palestinians used guns and bombs, including suicide attacks. Israel retook parts of the West Bank earlier partially handed over to Palestinian control and began targeting militant leaders in missile attacks from helicopters.
In an op-ed piece in the Haaretz daily on Wednesday last week, Israeli journalist Amira Hass wrote that Israel has engaged in systematic violence against the Palestinians as part of its well-oiled machinery of occupation.
“Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule,” wrote Hass, who covers the Palestinians and lives in the West Bank.
Limitations of that right could include “the distinction between civilians and those who carry arms,” she wrote.
Her words elicited a flood of angry reactions in Israel the following day, including from the mother of a three-year-old Israeli girl who was critically injured last month in a West Bank road accident triggered by stone-throwing. Another writer brought up the case of a one-year-old boy, who, along with his father, was killed in similar circumstances in 2011.
The Council of Settlements, the main umbrella group for Jewish settlers, filed a complaint with police against Hass and her employer, Haaretz, accusing them of incitement to violence against Israelis driving on West Bank roads.
Haaretz declined comment on Thursday last week.
Hass, a prize-winning journalist, has been fiercely critical of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians to an extent that places her far outside the Israeli political mainstream.
She said on Thursday that she believes those skewering her intentionally ignored her reference to the limitations of resistance.
“The choice not to read those very clear sentences is part of the Israeli culture of denial of its institutionalized violence against the Palestinians,” she said in an e-mailed response to questions.