Sunday, April 16, 2017

Academically on Rocks and Stones

Like Jeremy Pressman, I, too, have kept rocks thrown at me and my family by rioting Arabs, although they were on on my window sill.

Pressman's research article, "Throwing stones in social science: Non-violence, unarmed violence, and the first intifada", was published on April 8, 2017 in Cooperation and Conflict and I will deal with it below.

An Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut, Pressman marshals almost 90 referenced books and article to deal with the claim that rock-throwing protests are actually non-violent.

He has previously published a book, Point of No Return: The Deadly Struggle for Middle East Peace, with Geoffrey Kemp (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997), which a critic noted had paid

altogether too little attention to terrorism and to Israeli objections that the Palestinian Authority is not living up to its side of the Oslo fundamental bargain...ideological developments are nearly ignored; the reader learns too little about the attitudes of the various Islamist groups, from where they draw their support, and how much cooperation they engage in across countries.

and several other articles (here and here) for example.

To return to stones and rocks, his most recent contribution to analyzing and presenting context contains this summary in the abstract:

Social scientists treat stone-throwing as a non-violent act or argue that protest movements may be primarily non-violent despite stone-throwing. However, this study of an iconic example, the first intifada (Palestinian uprising, 1987–1993), demonstrates that stone-throwing is better characterized as unarmed violence...The throwing of stones was central to the intifada and its identity and definition...These findings challenge important social science work and the mainstream Israeli and Palestinian narratives about the first intifada.

I highly recommend reading the research work, although his writing can be a bit restrained when he feels he is nearing too political an area such as the legitimacy of "Palestinian nationalism". Nevertheless, there are some problems.

Pressman avoids any reference to Islamic cultural underpinnings to the act of rock-throwing. There is the well-known ritual Stoning of the Devil, part of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca when pebbles are tossed at three walls (formerly pillars), called jamarāt, in the city of Mina.

And there is also the incident when Muhammed had rocks thrown at him which caused him to bleed and pray to Allah

I complain of my weakness, lack of support and the humiliation I am made to receive.

More importantly is the Hadith, quoted many times by Muslim preachers, including those in the Palestinian Authority:

The hour will not be established until you fight the Jews, and the stone and the tree behind which a Jew will be hiding will say: "O Muslim! O Servant of Allah, there is a Jew hiding behind me, so come and kill him."[Qur. 8:55-6 ; 98:6 - referring to "the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah"; Sahih Bukhari, 4:52:176-7; 4:56:791; Sahih Muslim, 41:6981-5.]
It has been reported that rock throwers, at least at the Temple Mount, get paid for their effort.

Incidentally, last month a Christian pastor in New Jersey, claimed he had his windows broken by rocks:

BAYONNE -- A local pastor's home was vandalized for the second time this year, shortly after the plan for a proposed Muslim community center was nixed at a special Zoning Board meeting earlier this week.Joseph Basile, a pastor at Grace Bible Fellowship who has been an opponent of the Muslim community center, told The Jersey Journal that rocks had been thrown through his window sometime after the special Zoning Board meeting Monday night.

To gloss over this aspect, of an ingrained religious/cultural practice, one intended to hurt, maim and even kill, is unfortunate on Pressman's part although, perhaps, the ability of scholars today in academia to even mention this character-trait is severely repressed, leading to self-censorship.

A second comment I have is that Pressman ignores the stone-throwing practices during the Mandate period.

For example, during the trial following the relatively minor riots in Jaffa in October 1933, we read this report from  February 02, 1934 in the Palestine Post:

On April 21, 1936 it reported

The first High Commissioner Herbert Samuel was stoned in April 1921 during a visit to Bet-Shean.  Jews had stones thrown at them while visiting the Western Wall, here in the Palestine Bulletin on November 21, 1928

And as reported on September 27, 1931, Arabs know well that stones thrown can kill:

My neighbor's infant son was killed when a rock, thrown at the vehicle he was in, crushed his skull.  Near Hebron, a father and his infant son were killed by a thrown rock that caused the father to lose control of the car and crash.

My last comment is Pressman fails, even in passing, to note the support for stone throwing from supposedly smart and intellectual people who should know that rocks are weapons and not a non-violent instrument of protest, like Edward Said in 2000, no matter how "symbolic" a value is assigned to the act:

An easy Wikipedia search will turn up this

mā fī khawf mā fī khawf

al-ḥajar ṣār klashnikūf,
('There is no fear, there is no fear
For the stone has become the Kalashnikov.')

which would intimate an acknowledged conscious realization that damage is to be done by the thrown rock.

Pressman could have done better and been more comprehensive.




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