At False Dichotomies, Alex Stein describes a protest organised by Combatants for Peace (one of whose founders Bassam Aramin, I have had the pleasure of meeting), an ensuing Twitter argument, and comparisons with Nakba day.
“As Billy Bragg sang, “The only way to disarm is to disarm.” Non-violence means non-violence. Unarmed means unarmed. If you hurl stones, however pathetic and ineffective you claim them to be, you are armed. A protest where people throw stones is not an unarmed protest. This was my argument earlier this week in a Twitfight with Joseph Dana, an American-Israeli journalist who spends much of his time chronicling the protest movement in West Bank villages that have had their land stolen by the Separation Barrier. This is how Dana describes the protests at places like Bilin and Nabi Saleh: “I go to demos on a regular basis. Sometimes they are violent with stones and sometimes they are non-violent without stones. Always unarmed. To my suggestion that someone with a stone could be considered armed, he replied: “If you think a stone in the face of the world’s 4th strongest army is considered ‘armed’ having an honest discussion is out of the question.”
This is like saying that Accrington Stanley do not have an attack because their opponents are Barcelona. Yes, the IDF is much more powerful than the demonstrators it faces each Friday in the West Bank. And I have much sympathy for the predicament faced by the villagers of Nabi Saleh and Bilin, if not for the anti-Zionism of many of their supporters. But I object to the claim that these are non-violent or unarmed protests. After stressing this, Dana unwittingly conceded my point: “If an army invaded your village and arrested your children, Would you throw stones at their armoured jeeps or worse?
I have never been to Nabi Saleh (which I understand is the most dangerous of the West Bank protests), but I have been to Bilin and Sheikh Jarrah on a number of occasions. From what I saw, Sheikh Jarrah was scrupulously non-violent (and unarmed), and the response of the Border Police stationed there was excessive: I was pushed hard in the back for no apparent reason. I saw red, although luckily I managed to channel my anger towards a choice and little-known English swear-word, rather than a physical response. Each time I have visited Bilin, though, it has never been non-violent, and – contrary to what Dana always says in his tweets – the stones were often thrown before the IDF had fired tear-gas canisters.”